Dr. Ashaunta Tumblin completed her Pediatric Residency at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. Among her research experiences, she was a fellow in NIH’s Clinical Research Training Program during the 2005-2006 year, and a Schweitzer Fellow at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital during the summer of 2006. It was this experience that solidified her commitment to clinical and research training that inform policy decisions in order to better meet the medical needs of minority populations. Through her ongoing work with the Student National Medical Association, she became involved with the Girls Achieving in Life and Science (GALS) program. Along with a classmate, she partnered with a local community after-school program that offered a group called Girl Power and created a new GALS program for “tweens,” aged 8-10 years. Dr. Tumblin received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 2007. She graduated cum laude in a special field investigating acute painful episodes in patients with sickle cell disease.
Ashaunta Tumblin Anderson, MD, MPH, MSHS
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Policy Analysis of the Massachusetts School Readiness Assessment System
The objectives of this policy analysis are to: 1) Develop an understanding and summary of school readiness definitions in other states, 2) Develop an understanding and summary of state-level school readiness policy in Massachusetts, 3) Document district-level school assessment systems in Massachusetts, and 4) Research the potential role of the pediatric community in supporting school readiness.
A substantial body of work, especially in the field of brain development, supports the promotion of school readiness during the critical early childhood years. Appropriate early investments in a child’s cognitive, social, emotional, health, motor, and attitudinal capacities have long-lasting positive impacts on that child’s life outcomes. School readiness assessment is one way policymakers, educators, doctors, and families can discern if current interventions are having the desired effects. If such programs are effective, investments in school readiness can be expected to yield returns in both human and financial capital. The enabling statute of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care mandates a comprehensive system of evaluation for all early education, care programs and services. An explicit requirement is the development of a kindergarten readiness assessment system. The goal of such a system is to measure the extent to which every preschool-aged child has a fair and full opportunity to learn upon kindergarten entry. It is further mandated that the development of the kindergarten readiness assessment system be informed through the survey of all providers in the Commonwealth as practical and the review of assessment systems in other states.
Snowball sampling was used to conduct 24 semi-structured key informant interviews with 30 national-, state-, and district-level school readiness leaders as well as pediatricians actively engaged in the promotion of school readiness. Interview responses informed the development of a district-targeted electronic survey of kindergarten readiness assessment practices completed by 66 of 164 invited grantees of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) Program. Fifty-six districts of the FDK Program also participated in the webinar-based focus group designed according to key informant responses.
Common themes of all three instruments revealed the following results: 1) Social and emotional skills are highly valued by national, state, and local leaders in the promotion of school readiness, 2) Current assessment and screening tools do not prioritize the most important determinants of school readiness, 3) Providers require reassurance, support, and training on the priorities of statewide school readiness assessment, and 4) Pediatricians and educators can collaborate better to optimize school readiness and its assessment with the appropriate privacy safeguards in place.
Policy recommendations center around the need for transparent, active, ongoing communication with district-level leaders and the use of current state investments in inter-agency information technology to foster communication between teachers and physicians mutually engaged in the task of increasing child preparedness for school. Continuing ongoing work at the federal, state, and district levels to operationalize the consensus definition of school readiness into practice and incentivize its assessment is pivotal to the provision of high-quality early education for all children.
Preceptor and Sponsoring Agency:
Carolyn Lyons, Chief Operating Officer, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Strategies for Children, Inc.