The city's public schools are keeping closer tabs on its youngest students.
As part of the state Department of Education's push to secure a $50 million federal grant, school districts across Massachusetts must follow a more rigorous assessment program for preschool and kindergarten students.
Though it is not a form of standardized testing, such as the MCAS tests, education officials want to use the new method to ensure children will enter their formal schooling with basic language and math skills.
Superintendent James Scully and Superintendent of Curriculum Mary Malone announced the state's demands and organized the district's plan of action.
Malone said the state will require the district to create a system for kindergarten students which documents their progress in the classroom. Teachers will implement the system, which includes collecting samples of students' work.
These assessments won't become another form of standardized testing, both local and state education leaders stressed, but instead will allow the district to identify potential academic difficulties early and get help for students who need it.
School Committee member Paul Magliocchetti said he'd like to see the district expand its early schooling opportunities, especially as the district's non-English speaking and special needs populations continue to grow.
"We need to do more in that area," he said. "We don't even have all-day kindergarten (throughout the district). All the studies show the sooner you get the kids reading at grade level, they'll do better. We should know what kids at this age are doing and how they're progressing."
Students enrolling in Haverhill schools are not required to have attended kindergarten before entering the first grade. The district does offers kindergarten at several elementary and community schools, along with preschool at the Moody School.
Besides following the district's new early education requirements, the district tests first graders' development for federal grants and performs a test in the second grade to measure academic progress.
Preschool Director Maureen Gray, who assumed leadership of Moody School a year ago, said these new mandates follow the nationwide Common Core standards created by President Obama's administration.
The state will require young students, for example, to relay elements of a story read aloud and perform basic addition before leaving Moody School.
"We're always looking at the state curriculum to improve things," Gray said. "It's always a work in progress."
School Committee member Ray Serpina, a former principal of the Tilton Elementary School, said the district has always taken a proactive approach to assessing younger students and doesn't want these standards to become another daily burden on teachers or students.
"We need to have data on kids, but it can't be the be all, end all as far as the school day goes," he said. "It's not just teaching to the test."
Over the next few years, the Obama administration expects to award about $500 million in grants as part of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. In order to qualify for a share, states must develop kindergarten assessment programs by the start of the 2015 school year.