Students rush in to grab materials for their lesson during kindergarten class at University Elementary School in Greeley. (Joshua Polson, Special to The Colorado Sun)

By Anne Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado

In 2016, amid pervasive worries about data privacy and governmental intrusion, the State Board of Education put the brakes on a proposal for a detailed public report showing whether Colorado kindergarteners are ready for school.

In a move counter to its own staff recommendation, the board opted for a slim summary containing little of the information schools collect on their kindergarteners, and none on district-by-district differences.

For those who want to invest in young children, the board’s March 2016 decision led to a data dead end, sweeping a rich source of information about Colorado’s early childhood landscape under the rug. With hundreds of millions in public and private dollars devoted to early childhood programs each year, they say the dearth of data makes it harder to figure out whether these investments are paying off or falling short. 

But lately there’s growing momentum to change the state’s kindergarten readiness reporting system. It could happen through a new state board vote, legislation, or some other means. Colorado’s Early Childhood Leadership Commission is studying the issue and could make a recommendation later this year. 

Gov. Jared Polis, who successfully pushed for free statewide full-day kindergarten and pledged to expand state-funded preschool to all 4-year-olds, said through a spokesman that his office will work with state education officials, lawmakers, parents and advocates “to ensure we have a more holistic picture of kindergarten readiness.”

Until then, the people around the state who want to improve educational outcomes for children, especially those with the greatest needs, have to find other ways to get data they need — or simply do without.