Thursday, September 13, 2007

kindergarten assessment

My oldest has started school. The first week of school the newbies stay home. Instead of regularly scheduled class they have one-on-one appointments with their teacher to evaluate how carefully their parents have prepped them for this all-important day. How many years has your child been doing phonics exercises guaranteed to have them reading Plato in 48 hours? For my daughter, none. But I can proudly report she does know her alphabet, lower and upper case, can give most of their sounds when prompted (she knows them all, just gets nervous) and had to be stopped by her teacher when asked to count as high as she could. Ahem.

While he drilled her on her colors and shapes etc., etc., I got to fill out a form about her. Did I have any concerns? What was I expecting for this year? What were my daughter's fears? Were there special circumstances I wanted to share regarding my child? I read through the questions. I read through them again. Just who was being evaluated? I began to feel inadequate.

I am a low-key, laid-back person. I usually am not one to jump to an over-emotional response. I don’t get worked up. But put into this context, I began to worry. Maybe I am simply a slacker. Or worse. A slacker parent. Yikes!

My expectations for kindergarten are…that my daughter discover her deepest hidden talents and arrive home singing an aria she has composed with minimal help from the music teacher? Well, my expectations are that she be taught what you teach kindergartners, you know?

What are her fears? Honestly, I don’t think she has any great fears. I mean, it’s not that she’s never afraid, but she’s also melodramatic, so negotiating between “fears” and “fears”, well…have I been neglecting the emotional well-being of my daughter? My, I mean, Her teacher is going to discover some obvious emotional disturbance that I haven’t dealt with appropriately, and what will that say about my parenting skills?

I had the same feeling when she went for her 5 year check-up with the pediatrician. Did I have any concerns? Um…no. Should I? Is this another test I’m failing? I mean, she likes ice cream more than broccoli, but that’s normal. Right? Am I missing signs that she’s growing inadequately? Am I over-confident in her health and well-being? But back to the school form, I could put down that she’s afraid of shots for immunizations.

We’ve survived two weeks of school now and this includes riding the bus to and from school. No real issues. She can be a little over-emotional when she gets home. But everyone seems to be doing alright. I mean, whew! This starting kindergarten thing. It’s a bit more stressful that I thought!


  1. Starting kindergarten these days is like applying for college.

  2. I remember just after I had my fourth child. People kept on askng me if I was alright. If I could handle the stress of four kids. Did I need any help. Was I doing alright emotionally. And was I sure I didn't need any help.

    I began to wonder what was wrong with me.

    I felt great. I felt fine. Still do. Four was waaay easier than three. I wish people had been asking me then.

    I know people are trying to help, but I do occasionally wonder if some don't make situations worse by all their concern.

  3. Starting can't believe the days will actually fly by so entirely that this day will come for us too...

  4. Kindergarten assessments (IMO) are so stooopid. Here, they gave us a list "what your child should know before kindergarten." It had things like "count to 20" and "know your full name & address" and "know the abc's"

    Then at Back to School night, they gave us another list, of what they would be teaching our kids this year, "count to 30" and "full name & address" and "abc's and the sounds that go with them."

    Um, so they are going to teach them the numbers from 20-30, and the ABC sounds this year? Because that would only take, like 2 weeks. And what about the kids who start already knowing how to count to 100, and who are already reading?

    Bah, humbug!

  5. I have been a Kindergarten teacher for 8 years. I wanted to comment on this post to clear up some concerns and to answer some of your questions.
    The reason the teacher wanted to know the personal information, such as fears, and dislikes is to better adapt her lessons and discussions based on those. Example, if a child had a fear of snakes, maybe when choosing a book to read during science about snakes might ease that fear. Maybe if the child was afraid to go outside for PE--it may steam from the fear that snakes might be outside etc.
    When asking the parent what his or her expectations for the year are--
    A teacher wants to see if the parent has high expectaions like that his or her child learn to read simple words, write his or her first and last name and maybe put together a sentence or string a few simple words together, or be able to add simple numbers like 3+3 by the end of year, OR does this parent expect that their child be reading small books, writing a small paragraph, or add 2 digit numbers together. Many teachers did not know exactly what to expect from Kinders when they began teaching, so we know that many parents of Kinders may not be aware of what is possible from a kinder as well. When we look over these, if we see that a parent may have higher expectations than possible, we may meet with the parents in private and discuss what is taught in Kindergarten and give them a clearer picture of what might be the outcome. SOMETIMES we find that there was a reason for these expectations, maybe the child was already beginning to read or was already adding numbers together. If this is the case then a teacher can understand, and can make modifications in his or her lessons and activities to make them appropriate for that particular student. Every child needs to have opportunities to grow during the school year and by having more information at the very beginning, this will save time from just having the teacher discover it over several weeks. Teachers can begin giving the children what they need from the very start.
    The reason that students have assessments at the beginning of the year is also for this reason. I can honestly tell you that each year is different. I have never used the same lesson plans 2 years in a row. Some years the students ALL know the colors and shapes--why would I spend 2 weeks teaching and assessing that. Instead I would do a review for one or two days and then move on to things that they really need. Some years the students know most of the letters and numbers, and I can build on that. Other years the students begin fresh with little or no preschool background. I know that I will need to make sure in my lessons that I give them plenty of time for learning this.
    I am so glad that parents care enough to question what goes on in the classroom, this means that they are taking an active role in their child's education and life! The sad thing is that this is not always the case. A very small number of parents just throw them in a school and could care less about what their child learns, at what pace, or how they can help them. I will be glad to answer any further questions that all you great parents have about Kindergarten!

  6. Thanks for that, anonymous. I do understand the reason for why kids get assessed. This was mostly written tongue-in-cheek about my experience sending my oldest off to school!