Tests? In the First Weeks of Kindergarten?!
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As the parent of a child entering kindergarten, you're sure to be shocked and amazed by what's changed since your days on the story rug. Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be. Good news though: while many of the changes you observe make kindergarten a more challenging and potentially pressuring stage, it’s all in the name of teaching your child more effectively.
If the buzzword assessment has popped up as you and your child prepare for school, you are not alone. Schools across the nation administer all types of assessments to students of all ages. Simply put, an assessment is a tool that teachers use to guide the way they teach. Yes, they come in the form of “tests,” but for kindergarteners, they're not the kind of pencil and paper examinations you may be anxiously picturing.
The types of assessments that teachers use vary depending on the school in question. Some states have standardized tests (tests that are the same for every student in a certain population, and are scored and compared to a standard or norm) which are given to students as young as kindergarten. More commonly used for younger students though, are observational or performance-based assessments. Observational assessment is based on what a teacher observes a child to know or be capable of doing. For example, if a teacher wants to know whether or not a child knows her colors, she may ask the entire class to take out a red crayon and hold it up high. The teacher can then observe who was able to complete the task successfully.
Because kindergarten is usually the first time students enter into a formal school system, teachers have virtually no information about the skills they have. So as scary as they may seem, assessments are important. It makes sense for teachers to want to find out as soon as possible, in some cases before school even starts, what your child’s capabilities are. Once a teacher gets a snapshot of what each student can do, she can plan her lessons accordingly.
The skill set that kids bring to kindergarten varies from child to child, class to class, and year to year, making assessments top priority for teachers at the beginning of kindergarten. Some teachers will do all the assessment they need during class time, in group settings or one-on-one. Other teachers find it easier to work on assessing students individually, before and after school while the classroom is quiet.
What kinds of skills are assessed in kindergarten classrooms across the nation? Here's a list of some commonly assessed skills, that are key to informing teachers and parents of a child’s capability level. Keep in mind that most children will not have all of these skills in place on Day 1-- this list can also be used as a guide for what your child should be able to do by the end of the year. Teachers commonly assess where kids are with these sets of skills at the beginning of kindergarten, so they can guide their improvement, at the appropriate pace and level, throughout the year:
• Name writing: Can your child write her first and last name?