Policy Brief/Analysis

Prepared for Kindergarten: What Does “Readiness” Mean?

By Debra J. Ackerman and W. Steven Barnett
NIEER Policy Report (March 2005)


What does school readiness mean? From age-eligibility requirements to readiness testing and from academics to social skills, it often depends on whom you ask. Studies have shown that teachers cite children’s ability to communicate and pay attention as important factors of readiness while parents often concentrate on academic skills, such as counting to 20 or knowing letters, as being necessary for school readiness. How can we know that children are truly ready for school? This brief examines key issues for public policy related to school readiness, the relationship between school readiness and other factors in young children’s lives, and challenges in readying children for kindergarten.

The Authors

W. Steven (Steve) Barnett is a Board of Governors Professor and the founder and Senior Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. Dr. Barnett’s work primarily focuses on public policies regarding early childhood education, child care, and child development.