New statewide testing is coming for some Indiana babies and toddlers

Silverware and plates sit on a children’s dining table in the foreground, with children’s kitchen playware in the background.
Families tour the new Day Early Learning center in Indianapolis on Oct. 19, 2023. The center offers 79 seats for toddlers, infants, preschoolers, and prekindergarten students. Indiana is expanding access to statewide testing to identify more babies and toddlers who need interventions. (Amelia Pak-Harvey / Chalkbeat)

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More Indiana babies and toddlers may soon participate in state testing as education officials seek to assess whether children are ready for kindergarten.

The Indiana Department of Education announced Wednesday that it would expand access to two early learning assessments in an effort to measure students’ skills before kindergarten and provide interventions when necessary.

Beginning this year, all schools and public and private early learning providers will be invited to administer the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and the Indiana Student Performance of Readiness and Observation of Understanding Tool, or ISPROUT.

The purpose of the tests is not just to evaluate young children’s skills, but to provide support for those who might need intervention “when the windows of opportunity are wide open,” said Secretary of Education Katie Jenner.

The Kindergarten Readiness Assessment is given once in the first six weeks of kindergarten, and will form the basis of the Kindergarten Readiness metric on the Indiana GPS Dashboard, a tool that compiles various statistics about school and student performance. That metric has been marked as “coming soon” since the dashboard launched last year.

The ISPROUT, meanwhile, can be given to preschoolers ages 3-5 or babies and toddlers from birth to age 2. It’s already administered as part of federally required reporting for children ages 3-5 who have disabilities.

Servizzi said that while some may balk at the idea of testing for babies and toddlers, the ISPROUT assessment is based heavily on educator observations. And for older preschoolers, the test measures skills through ongoing observations of a child’s typical daily routine, according to a State Board of Education presentation Wednesday.

The assessments will be provided at no cost to the providers, and initially only on an opt-in basis, said Kelli Servizzi, director of kindergarten readiness at the state department of education.

Schools and providers can opt in to administer both tests to kindergarteners and preschool students in May 2024. For younger children, the assessment will be available in October 2024.

Kindergarten Readiness Assessment data will be available on the dashboard in early 2025, Servizzi said.

Aleksandra Appleton covers Indiana education policy and writes about K-12 schools across the state. Contact her at aappleton@chalkbeat.org.

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