My daughter, who is almost four years old, will be attending a new preschool next year if all goes according to plan. Her school requires that all new students undergo basic academic assessments before attending the school. Although the school's superintendent explained that academic assessments for preschoolers are "not the ACT" and nothing to fret about, I was still curious about what the tests entail for kids in such a young age group. I got in touch with my sister, who is a teacher for preschoolers and kindergartners, to find out the skinny.
Here's what you can expect during an academic assessment for a preschool-age child 3-5 years old.
During the test, the teacher will ask very simple, basic questions to gauge your child's language comprehension and ability to communicate. The teacher may ask questions such as, "What's your name?" and "How old are you?" Later, she may move on to instructions such as "Pick up the block and place it on the table," to see if your child can follow simple directions. She may ask your child to identify objects or concepts, with questions such as, "Which ball is bigger?" and "How are the two pictures different?" During this time, the teacher will note the length of your child's sentences, her basic grammar, and the clarity of her speech.
In general, preschool-age children are not expected to read. However, during an academic assessment, a teacher will find out if, and how well, your child can read. She will ask your child spell her name, identify letters, and name the phonetical sounds associated with words. The teacher is also likely to show your child a few Dolch or "sight words" to see if your child can identify words on sight. Depending on your preschooler's skill level, the teacher may also ask your child to sound out simple phonetic words like "hat" and "stop."
Fine Motor Evaluation
Solid fine motor skills are necessary for success in preschool. A teacher will want to ensure that your child knows how to hold a pencil or crayon correctly. She may ask your child to draw certain shapes, trace lines, cut across a page, cut a specific figure, write her name, and color a simple picture. The teacher will note whether your child's motor skills are advanced, average, or lagging compared to his peers.
Don't worry-- your child isn't expected to solve a quadratic equation. Instead, the teacher will evaluate her mathematical skills by asking her to count objects, identify numbers, and possibly solve simple addition and subtraction problems. Common questions might include, "How many apples do you see?," "How many apples would I have if I took away two?," and "What number is this?" The teacher may also ask your child to count to one hundred, although the question is really intended to see how far the child can get. Often, questions asked during the evaluation are expected to be answered incorrectly or incompletely.
Social and Behavioral Evaluation
In your child's earliest school years, education is about socialization and behavior more than reading or math. During an assessment of a preschool-age child, the teacher will look for signs of severe behavioral problems or social problems. If the child consistently ignores the teacher or acts defiant, it may be a sign that he doesn't have the behavioral maturity to attend preschool. While some degree of shyness or apprehension is fairly normal, the teacher will want to make sure that your child is interested in learning and willing to cooperate with teachers and peers.
There is no reason for parents or children to worry about a preschool academic assessment or to study in preparation. The tests are generally given in a low-stress, calm environment with few distractions. Make sure that your child gets plenty of sleep the night before and a healthy breakfast the morning-of, and your preschooler will likely to well on her assessment.