The Best Assessments for Kindergarten and Early Education
As you may know, I spend weeks and weeks each year talking to kindergarten teachers about assessments. I am at times a bit timid when I say I LOVE KINDERGARTEN ASSESSMENT. When I broach this subject, I can feel the stress levels of early childhood teachers rise around me.
Tell me if any of this rings true for you:
- You spend weeks and weeks assessing only to turn around and start assessing again.
- You feel like you can’t get to instruction because all you are doing is assessing.
- By October you can’t find your desk because you have mountains of assessments.
- You have so much data, but you can’t seem to turn data into a teaching plan.
- Your administrators ask for assessments, so you hand them in, say a prayer, and move on.
- When someone says you need to “Progress Monitor” a student and gather all your self-control, you suppress the urge to throat punch them.
If that is you above, I don’t blame you. I would not like assessment either.
Why do school districts assess?
If the answer is because we are required to hand in data, then we need to look at a few things…
1) What academic skills are you assessing?
2) What do you do with the data.
When we make instructional decisions in our classroom, they should be centered around the evidence we collect. In a nutshell, what do the students know and what do they still need to learn… right?
Kindergarten Readiness Assessments
What is a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment?
What is a kindergarten readiness assessment? It is a series of school readiness tests that helps determine students’ needs. This kindergarten screening is a great way for local school districts to anticipate some of the individual needs and gain general knowledge about the incoming young children. This “kindergarten entry assessment” also helps administrators balance classroom roosters.
What Types of Questions are on a Kindergarten Readiness Test?
The questions on a kindergarten readiness test often vary by district, but most tests are looking for emotional development, motor development, math and literacy development, as well as language development. Understanding a student’s cognitive development before the start of kindergarten helps schools plan for additional classroom support and interventions if needed. Additionally, schools may use this data to help balance class rosters.
That being said, most kindergarten teachers understand that students develop at different rates. I always have a few students each year that do not appear to score well on the readiness assessments but once they are in the classroom, they take off!
These developmental screenings should not be used as a way for students to test into or out of eans of screening children into or out of kindergarten. That would be an inappropriate use of kindergarten assessments according to the NAEYC and National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education. In other words, this test is not intended to be a “kindergarten entrance test,” but rather a way to collect additional information about incoming kindergarten students.
The Best Academic Readiness Tests
What are the best academic readiness tests? I will say the best tests are the ones you can use. So you will want an assessment system that follows the students throughout their primary grade years. You are looking for short-term progress and long-term student progress. ESGI is one of the best systems out there for progress monitoring. And guess what? They have a kindergarten readiness assessment! WIN! Take a look!
Assessments guide instruction. It provides evidence of student learning and most importantly, it informs the teacher. It tells the teacher:
- Which skills have my students mastered?
- Which skills do I need to reteach?
- Which students need more time with a skill?
- What are my next instructional steps?
Early Prevention Is Important
Historically, I always thought of tests as end-of-term assessments. In high school and college, we had “mid-terms” and “finals” right? Even in my kindergarten classroom, we had to hand in quarterly data to our administration. I would love to challenge you to look at data collection (assessment) in a different way.
The research is clear, 15% – 20% of the population has an identified learning difference, yet 40% of the population struggles to read at a proficient level by the 4th grade. Many of these learning deficits can be prevented through a structured literacy approach to instruction. You can read more about what a lesson plan looks like by clicking:
One critical component of a structured literacy approach is ongoing assessments.
What is involved in gathering these assessments?
- Collecting Data
- Analyzing Data
- Interpreting Data and Establish a Goal
- Creating an Action Plan
I always tell teachers that ESGI is “bake-sale” worthy.
Beyond Knowing Their ABCs and Sight Words
One big shift I have taken since embarking on a structured literacy approach is the idea of mastery. When we teach to mastery, students should be able to recognize letters and sight words with accuracy and speed. When students have learned a skill to mastery, their mental energy can be focused on more complex skills such as blending, segmenting, or composing.
Accuracy in early learning is absolutely important, but so is speed or automaticity. Just think about the instructional needs of a student who can name the letters of the alphabet in 2 minutes vs. a student who can name them in 47 seconds.
ESGI has so many preloaded tests. Dolch word lists, Fry word lists, or custom word lists.
It is easy to assess the students quickly! You can use a laptop or tablet! It really is simple!
There are also math assessments that are preloaded to the system!
These assessments align to our and Guiding First Graders Math Curriculum.
Literally, every assessment we do in kindergarten is one-on-one. Right? This can take a ton of time… but it does not have to. I started using ESGI a many years ago and it changed my teacher-life! I can not say enough about this powerful assessment tool.
It is still a one-on-one assessment, but it is FAST! As I said, you can use a tablet or a computer to assess your kindergarteners.
You can also try it out before you commit with a 2 month free trial (no credit card needed). You will have access to all of the assessements and the parent letters!
Did I mention flash cards?
Science of Reading Whole Group Classroom Instruction
Each day, time is spent decoding and encoding during our whole group science of reading lesson plans. This is one of the easy ways to gather real-time student data. As I am providing dictation, I can watch 4-5 students closely to see how quickly they are able to go from speech to print. I may note how well they write lowercase letters or which letters a student might benefit from additional support.
Observe StudentsDuring Small Groups
When students are working with you in a small group, it is a perfect time to gather a formative assessment. When students read to us, this is an opportunity to document our observations. Early literacy skills to look for are letter recognition, sight word fluency, or blending and segmenting skills.
If you incorporate writing in your reading groups (and research states that you should) you can also look at their writing fluency and sentence fluency.
Observing a student’s decoding and encoding provides a mirror that reflects not only that child’s learning but also that child’s needs.
Writing Rubrics and Assessments
How do you assess writing? With rubrics. I like to start each writing unit with a rubric. This helps me make instructional decisions for the individual student and the class.
Then at the close of the unit, I repeat the rubric to look for growth and next steps.
Assessing Kindergarten Students
Assessing students feels like a huge time commitment and it can be. However, it informs our instruction! I would never want to see a doctor for a stomach ache and end up on the operating table if I didn’t have tests first.
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