Every child is unique. From the moment they’re born, kids are showing off their own personalities, preferences, and skills. For parents, educators, and care workers, it’s important to keep track of a child’s development. This includes meeting certain physical, emotional, and mental benchmarks at certain stages of their lives.
But it can be hard to follow a child’s progress—especially if you’re around them every day. That’s why tracking their development throughout the year using early childhood assessments is important. Preschool assessments will provide lots of helpful information about how a child is growing up and if they’re hitting the right developmental milestones.
What is a preschool assessment?
Preschool assessments are a great way to keep track of how quickly a child is developing in key skills and determine their school readiness. Tracking their progress throughout the year can give parents and teachers helpful information on the types of topics and skills they should focus on so the children are on track for developmental progress.
These assessments are also a great tool to check in on curriculum effectiveness. Without these regular check-ins, teachers and parents may have a difficult time figuring out if their kids are developing the right skills for their age.
Don’t worry—these assessments aren’t like the ones you take in high school. Administrators should get their results from observing the children instead of testing them directly. This gives the parents and teachers helpful insights about the child’s skills while also keeping the kids far away from any performance-related anxiety.
Why are assessments important?
There are a few developmental milestones parents and professionals look for to see if their child is learning essential skills at the right pace. Since pre-K children are too young for tests in a traditional testing environment, teachers rely on observation during assessments. The information learned during these assessments can help adults:
- Figure out all the different learning strengths and preferences the children in their classroom have. This will help guide them on what teaching techniques to use so the kids can learn in their preferred style.
- Measure how each child is progressing academically and in other key developmental skill areas. The previous observations will provide helpful information on what skills a child may need some extra TLC with going forward.
- Provide educators with examples for parents on how their child is doing in the classroom. These assessments are great items for educators to hand out during check-ins with parents. Having regular check-ins with a child’s caregivers can help you gain their trust and keep everyone in the loop about their child’s progress and needs.
- Provide early identification of children who may benefit from special needs assistance. Keep in mind these informal assessments do not replace a professional diagnosis from a medical specialist. Catching certain learning disabilities like ADD/ADHD, hearing loss, or speech impediments early on is essential.
- Get helpful feedback about a teacher’s classroom performance. These assessments can help teachers and child care administrators see how they can better support their students in the classroom and where there may be room for improvement.
How to administer assessments
Preschool assessments should be administered several times throughout the year. Ideally, there should be one at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. Having previous assessments of a child’s skill development will give teachers and caregivers a better understanding of their class’s progress and show areas they may need to focus more on in the future.
It’s also important to carefully choose the people who will be assessing the children. For smaller centers, the director will be the one to administer the assessment, observe the children, and make curriculum changes based on the results. If your center has a team of teachers, it’s good practice to partner junior teachers with more experienced ones until they feel comfortable they can assess the children accurately.
Most pre-K assessments are made to be completed in 10-15 minutes. Keep in mind each child will complete it at their own pace since they’re just observational tests. Make sure to keep the environment positive, relaxed, and stress-free for the kids as you observe their progress to get the best results.
Types of skills you should assess at your center
There are different types of assessments you can administer depending on the skills you want to observe and track. The most common skills educators and child care professionals want to keep an eye on throughout the year include:
- Social and emotional skills. Assessments of a child’s social and emotional development will look at things like their ability to make friends, if they take care of their own emotional needs when upset, and how persistent they are when learning new tasks.
- Physical well-being and motor development. These assessments will look at a child’s ability to use fine and gross motor skills to fulfill various physical tasks. These tasks should be simple and could include drawing and painting, playing on playground equipment, or playing with blocks.
- Reading and writing skills. These assessments will look at skills like a child’s ability to follow and tell a story and how developed their fine motor skills are when drawing.
- Speaking and listening skills. Preschool assessments can help track a child’s language comprehension and auditory development. These observations may look at how well a child can follow a conversation, express their own thoughts, and respond in various situations.
- Math skills. Some assessments may observe a child’s basic number comprehension and even simple mathematics such as addition and subtraction.
It’s crucial for educators to administer these assessments in the right environment and communicate with parents about what a preschool assessment is for. Few adults look back fondly on their own experiences with standardized testing during school. They might be a little uneasy about centers giving “tests” to their own young children since tests are often associated with stress and anxiety.
You can reassure those family members that your assessments won’t be a stressful experience for their children. Instead of giving the children grades or making an assessment pass/fail, these assessments simply observe a child’s skills.
How preschool assessments can improve your business
When you start integrating preschool assessments into your child care program, you’ll quickly start to see areas of your business improve. Even though you’re observing the children during the assessments, you’re also getting feedback about your teaching style and its effectiveness. This information can help guide you as you make new lesson plans, add new curriculums, or use different teaching techniques.
Putting together a formal assessment process at your school or child care center will make sure your observations are helpful for everyone involved. There are four stages to successfully integrating preschool assessments into your program:
- Stage 1: Creating a preschool assessment form
- Stage 2: Filling out your assessments
- Stage 3: Using forms to enrich the curriculum
- Stage 4: Talking to parents about their child’s development
Preschool assessment tools and resources
There are tons of ready-to-use preschool assessment templates you can download and modify to your own program. Your state may have its own rules and regulations around child assessments you’ll need to follow, so make sure to check those out before you start. Download our template here, and check out these resources on how to develop your own assessment program:
- National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) Early Learning Scale
- Massachusetts Department of Early Education's Guide to Early Childhood Assessment
- California's Preschool Learning Foundations
- Georgia Early Learning and Development Standards
The bottom line
Always remember every child develops and learns at their own speed. Different skills come easier to some children than others—and that’s completely normal. If you’re concerned a child is falling too far behind their peers, there are various tests and programs to help them catch up. And don’t forget: many kids don’t master all of the skills covered in assessments before starting kindergarten. Overall, preschool assessments are a great addition to programs that want to ensure every child gets the attention and care they need to succeed.
Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at www.mybrightwheel.com.