Teachers completing the survey were asked how important each of 15 stated qualities was for a child to be ready for kindergarten (Table 2). After assigning a level of importance to each quality, teachers were asked to select the three qualities they felt were most essential for a child to be ready for kindergarten.

Most Important Qualities

The top three qualities public school kindergarten teachers consider essential for school readiness are that a child be physically healthy, rested and well-nourished; be able to communicate needs, wants, and thoughts verbally; and be enthusiastic and curious in approaching new activities (Figure 1).

These three qualities are the same qualities to which the highest proportion of teachers gave individual ratings of "very important" or "essential." According to teachers, the most important factor for kindergarten readiness is for a child to be physically healthy, rested, and well-nourished; 96 percent of public school kindergarten teachers rated this quality as very important or essential (Tables 2 and 3). This was followed by an ability to communicate needs, wants, and thoughts verbally (84 percent) and enthusiasm and curiosity in approaching new activities (76 percent).

More than half the teachers also place significant importance on the ability to follow directions (60 percent), not being disruptive in class (60 percent), being sensitive to other children's feelings (58 percent) and the ability to take turns and share (56 percent). Of less importance are knowing English (42 percent), the ability to sit still and pay attention (42 percent), and finishing tasks (40 percent).

Of least importance according to kindergarten teachers are good problem-solving skills (24 percent), the ability to identify primary colors and basic shapes (24 percent), the ability to use pencils and paint brushes (21 percent), knowledge of the alphabet ( 10 percent), and the ability to count to 20 (7 percent).

Differences in Teachers' Ratings of Qualities, by School and Teacher Characteristics

Differences in public school kindergarten teachers' perceptions of the importance of various qualities for school readiness were found by school poverty status, geographic region, minority enrollment, and the race/ethnicity of the teacher.

Teachers in schools with low levels of poverty are more concerned with a child's ability to take turns and share than teachers in schools with high levels of poverty (64 percent versus 52 percent; (Table 3). In classes with low minority enrollments, 84 percent of teachers consider enthusiasm and a curious approach to learning as very important or essential to school readiness, while fewer of their counterparts in classes with high (71 percent) and medium (73 percent) minority enrollments consider this characteristic very important or essential to kindergarten readiness.

Teachers' attitudes also differ somewhat by metropolitan status and region of the country in which they are teaching. In rural areas and in the Southeast region of the United States, about half (53 percent for each) of all kindergarten teachers consider knowledge of the English language to be necessary for a child to be ready for kindergarten. In other locales and in other regions of the country, knowledge of English is considered less important. Only 35 percent of teachers in urban fringe and 37 percent in city schools think knowledge of the English language is very important or essential. Thirty-eight percent of teachers in the Northeast and 31 percent in the West consider knowledge of English very important or essential.

The views expressed by teachers also differ by the race/ethnicity of the teachers. Black, non-Hispanic teachers are more likely than teachers of other racial/ethnic groups to place a higher value on a child's ability to count to 20 (23 percent compared with 6 percent for white, non-Hispanic teachers and 8 percent for teachers of other races) and the ability to use pencils or paint brushes (33 percent versus 20 percent for white, non- Hispanic and 15 percent for other races). That a child not be disruptive in class is also more important to black, non-Hispanic teachers (73 percent) than to white, non-Hispanic teachers (58 percent). Black, non- Hispanic and white, non-Hispanic teachers hold similar views regarding knowledge of the English language, with 43 percent of white teachers and 48 percent of black teachers considering this very important or essential compared with only 19 percent of teachers of other racial/ethnic groups.