Data Digest: Kindergarten Readiness

On November 26, the Virginia Department of Education released the Fall 2018 PALS-K benchmarks.  

United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg has identified these benchmarks as a key indicator of our region’s progress in the Kindergarten Readiness component of our Steps to Success framework.  

View the data on our website, or keep reading for some quick analysis from United Way’s Community Impact team.  

Our Takeaways

  • Last year in our service area, one in six children started kindergarten without the skills necessary to learn and thrive in elementary school. 17.7% of children in our region did not meet the 2018 Falls Pals-K benchmarks. That’s 2,186 children, or approximately one in six.
  • The problem is getting worse. Every year in our region, more children are starting school without the literacy skills they need to be successful. The percentage of children not meeting Fall PALS-K Benchmarks in our region has been slowly increasing since 2013. This is not an isolated problem, either – the increase is reflected within most of the 11 localities we serve. 
  • The achievement gap persists. This year, the gap between low-income and not low-income student kindergarten readiness decreased slightly. However, this is not a sign of progress. The percentage of low-income students meeting PALS-K Fall Benchmarks is consistently lower than students who are not low-income.  

How United Way Helps

United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg is committed to helping more young children and their families in our region get the help they need to start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed. Here’s how we do it:  

  • Community Investment. We proudly invest nearly $1 million in eight programs at local nonprofits that support kindergarten readiness.
  • Direct Assistance Programs. In 2019, we launched Kindergarten Countdown Camp, a free summer learning program for rising kindergarten students with limited or no preschool experience. In its first year, this program led to a 40+% increase in student readiness. We are looking forward to expanding this program and helping more kids in 2020! 
  • Volunteer Initiatives. We bring together volunteers to boost school readiness. We have distributed thousands of books and supplies to young children through the United Way Literacy Kits volunteer program. Our volunteers build and install Steps to Success Early Learning Trails, which provide a fun and easy way to turn an everyday trip to the park into an early learning opportunity.  

Want to support our efforts to increase kindergarten readiness? Make a donation today. 

Closing Thoughts from our Leaders

Education is the key to prosperity, which is why our local United Way is taking specific steps to prepare young children for kindergarten. We invest in local nonprofits and run programs like Kindergarten Countdown Camp, but the new PALS-K benchmarks show that there is still a lot of work to do. We need to find more ways to help more kids – particularly in low-income communities – get the help they need so they are ready to learn when they begin elementary school.

James L.M. Taylor, President & CEO
United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg

Too many young children are falling behind their peers before they even set foot in an elementary school. This includes a lack of basic skills like identifying letters, numbers and shapes. The new PALS-K benchmarks underscore the importance of programs like United Way’s Kindergarten Countdown Camp. We must invest in and grow these solutions to reach more children and families across our region.

Audrey Trussell, Vice President of Community Impact
United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg