A critical priority of our state's strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds, is Early Foundations and Literacy, where we are focused on building skills and competencies in early grades to contribute to future success. We have a long-term plan to improve early grades reading and writing, which includes implementing a new tool called the Kindergarten Entry Inventory (KEI). The KEI will help teachers, building and district leaders, and families know more about where students are academically and socially as they enter their K–12 educational journey.

Core Domains of School Readiness:

  • Approaches to Learning – Self-Regulation
  • Social and Personal Competency
  • Language and Literacy Development
  • Cognition: Math
  • Physical Development
  • English-Language Development (optional domain for English learners)

The KEI is an observation tool that kindergarten teachers will use at the beginning of the school year and again in the spring in order to learn students' strengths and opportunities for growth in five domains of school readiness, as well as an optional sixth domain for English learners. Additionally, kindergarten teacher may choose to use the KEI at other points in the school year to understand how each child is progressing along the developmental continuum.

The KEI can be used in lieu of the first universal screener at the beginning of the school year. It will also provide a benefit to teachers implementing the student growth portfolio because it helps to identify students at different performance levels and provides information to differentiate instruction.

Please note: The KEI is not used for placement in programs or services and is administered once students are already placed in a classroom.

  • Actionable feedback for teachers: The KEI provides teachers with critical information for use in planning high-quality, differentiated Tier I instruction that meets the diverse needs of their students. The information from the KEI also offers insight into opportunities for curricular/instructional improvements. Additionally, KEI data provides kindergarten teachers with a baseline for portfolio growth measures and other means of formative assessment.
  • Valuable information for parents: The KEI creates an individual developmental learning profile for each child that can be shared with parents.
  • Better support for students early in their academic career: The data collected through the KEI will help teachers and administrators ensure that all students have access to high-quality instruction and instructional support to close achievement gaps at the earliest opportunity.

The KEI is more comprehensive in nature, covering multiple measures within the five domains of school readiness; thus, the data that it provides is more extensive and descriptive than information obtained from other screeners, which typically only focus one or two areas of development. The tool itself provides teachers with clearly defined descriptors of performance along a developmental continuum which helps to clarify instructional goals for individual students and groups of students. Additionally, the KEI is aligned with Tennessee Early Learning and Development Standards (TN-ELDS) and Tennessee Academic Standards. It takes into consideration the specific cultural and linguistic characteristics of diverse student populations and incorporates principles of universal design.

  • Teachers familiarize themselves with the KEI tool, which is a detailed rubric for each domain.
  • Teachers observe students over time as they engage in typical classroom activities and routines.
  • Teachers collect evidence of students' knowledge and skills through observation, documentation, and collection of work samples.
  • Teachers review collected evidence to rate students' current status based on the developmental continuum.
  • Teachers use results from the KEI to inform curriculum and instruction.

The KEI creates an individual developmental learning profile for each child, which teachers can share with parents. The learning profile provides detailed information about student's current strengths and weaknesses as described by the developmental continuum.

The KEI is not administered like a traditional assessment. Teachers will observe students during the normal course of their classroom routines and activities; it is not an additional task for students to complete. Then, teachers will use the online KEI platform (DRDPTech) to record student ratings. This is a web-based platform that can be accessed from any device. Teacher class rosters will be populated automatically from the state's EIS. Once complete, reports can be generated for individual students and/or groups of students.

During the first six weeks of school, teachers will collect evidence for each student on each measure of the KEI. Teachers will fill out the KEI via the online platform during a two-week period between the 31st and 40th days of school. Districts will determine the specific two-week window for their schools.

The KEI is not administered like a traditional assessment. The classroom teacher, who has been trained on the KEI, observes, collects evidence, and makes the final decision for ratings and enters the data into the online platform. Teaching assistants, content-level coaches, volunteers, and others (e.g., reading specialists, social workers, special education teachers, speech/language specialists, EL teachers, physical therapists, PE instructors, or music and art teachers) can provide evidence to the teacher to be used in determining the rating.

Teachers will collect enough evidence to demonstrate a student's ability consistently over time and in different settings.

The KEI is for all students. The KEI is based on observations of the student in typical everyday classroom instruction. Any accommodations and/or modifications noted on the student's IEP should be used.

The ELD domain is optional and may be used for English learners. The four measures in the ELD domain are completed for students who speak another language or for whom a language other than English is spoken in the home, as indicated on the Home Language Survey. It is important for teachers to have this additional information to support English language development in the classroom.

Ratings should indicate the developmental level that the student has mastered at the time of the assessment. Mastery is shown when a student demonstrates his/her ability easily and confidently, consistently over time, and in different settings. If your observations indicate that the student  has demonstrated mastery for a developmental level and is also beginning to demonstrate knowledge, skills, or behaviors described for the next level (although not yet consistently across situations or settings), the student may be emerging to the next level:

  • First, mark the developmental level the student has mastered.
  • Next, mark "emerging" if the student also demonstrates behaviors described for the next level.

Teachers should rate any student who has been in their classroom for at least 10 instructional days. If a student has not been present for at least 10 days, the teacher should mark "unable to rate" and indicate the reason.