Baltimore City kindergarteners who attended a city school in prekindergarten outperformed their peers on a statewide assessment, a bright spot for the school system which often trails the rest of the state on test scores.

Forty-six percent of city kindergarteners who attended a city school for pre-K passed the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, a test given to kindergarteners shortly after they arrive at public schools in the fall to determine whether they’re prepared to succeed in school. Statewide, 44% of all kindergarteners passed, regardless of whether they attended pre-K.

“Our students are coming to school more prepared than ever,” said Joan Dabrowski, the city school system’s chief academic officer.

The Maryland State Department of Education does not publish kindergarten readiness rates of public pre-K students statewide, but city pre-K students’ assessment results showed significant gains for groups that are usually below the state passing rate.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Dabrowski said the school system has poured resources into its young students. The district now offers 3,600 places in elementary school pre-K programs, which have been gradually growing in number since 1999. In addition, it has expanded to 14 Judy Centers, where children from birth to kindergarten are prepared for school and families get support that will help their children learn.

Thirty-nine percent of all the city’s kindergarteners passed the kindergarten readiness test. About 65% of them attended a city pre-K program for 4-year-olds. Others attended private preschools or day cares, or stayed home with their families.

In prekindergarten, students play, but they also learn some foundational math skills and begin early science of reading skills. Dabrowski said the hope is that those students will have higher academic achievement as they move through elementary schools.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Kindergarten teachers meet regularly with prekindergarten teachers so they know what will be expected of students in the next grade up. And the school system sends in early learning experts to walk through prekindergarten classrooms to help teachers build the best learning environment.

Judy Centers offer parent workshops, including tips for parents about how to talk to their children in a way that is good for their language development, and how to support an interest in math, Dabrowski said. Some also run a pre-K summer learning program.

The city, which has seen an enrollment decline in the past decade, has used the additional space in its elementary schools to expand prekindergarten. The expansion has meant a wealth of free prekindergarten spots in public schools in the city, which is not always the case in school systems without excess space.

The Kindergarten Readiness Assessment may change in subsequent years. A study showed the test had potential bias against multilingual students, so the Maryland State Department of Education has decided to get rid of the current assessment and will transition to another one.

More From The Banner