What Are Kindergarten Readiness Screenings Actually For?

Observing children in group activities may be part of a kindergarten readiness assessment. CaiaIamge/Robert Daly via Getty Image

Q.  What is a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment?  Why is the school or preschool giving my child this test?  Aren't Kindergarteners a little young to be doing testing?  What will happen with the test results? Do I need to prepare my child for this exam?

A.  Kindergarten Readiness Assessments or Testing are given when a  child is between the ages of four to six.  The tests are given before or within the first few weeks of a child starting kindergarten.

 When your child takes a readiness assessment usually depends on the school district or state that you live in.  

These tests are used to measure how academically, socially, and developmentally ready a child is for kindergarten.  Kindergarten Readiness Assessments are not like the standardized testing school children take in grades three through eight and once in high school.  Kindergarten Readiness Assessments do not have fill in the bubble type questions and often do not have the kindergartner write anything down.  Instead, assessments are given either by asking them a  question or observing the child complete a task. Examples of tasks include using a crayon or how long they can sit for a short story. 

What will be on an assessment and how the results will be used depends on a lot on who is giving the assessment and when. 

If your four-year-old's preschool is giving your child the kindergarten readiness assessment, then the purpose of the assessment will be to see how well your child is prepared for kindergarten after being involved in the preschool program.

 The results of the assessment can help preschool teachers to work on any skills that might help your child in kindergarten that your child may not know yet.  The preschool may also share the information with you to let you know how ready your child is for kindergarten.  

Some school districts or states have a screening or round-up time well before kindergarten begins.

 In this situation, the screening may cover a basic vision check, a quick developmental screening to check for possible developmental delays or disabilities as well as  checking for the same social, developmental, and pre-academic skills your child has.  These screenings are usually offered to help give parents the chance to address any physical or cognitive related issues that could make school challenging for a kindergartener while also checking what the incoming group of kindergarteners already knows.  

If your kindergartener is given an assessment in the first few weeks of kindergarten the results will probably be used by your child's teacher for lesson planning for the remainder of the year.  A classroom of kindergarteners can vary in age from an older four-year-old to a young six-year-old.  As a parent, you already know how different young children between those ages can be.  The backgrounds and experiences of kindergartners can also be very different. Some children will have attended a preschool in a setting very similar to their new kindergarten.

 Other children will have spent time at home or with relatives and have little experience being away from their families.  

How much each of these children have been read to, what pre-academic skills they have been taught, how much time they have spent around other children can vary widely.  By giving a beginning of the year assessment, the kindergarten teacher can meet the children where they are currently at in their learning and guide them through the kindergarten curriculum.  

Some state departments of education have also begun using kindergarten readiness assessments to help shape state early education policy and programs.  States like Idaho and Oregon are assessing all incoming kindergarteners to find communities of children that may need access to better quality preschool programs to help prepare them for kindergarten.  

Your child cannot fail a kindergarten readiness assessment.  I hope I have already set any fears you may have aside that these assessments are anything like finals in high school or regular standardized tests.  These tests are given to help teachers and schools understand what your child knows when they begin kindergarten, or by preschools to help prepare children.  

Because kindergarten readiness assessments are not like the rigorous testing that your child will see in higher grades of school, don't worry about having your child study for these tests.  Instead, make sure your child gets a good nights sleep, eats a healthy breakfast and ​lunch, and arrives on time to school to be present for any assessment.  This way, your child's teacher can see what your child can do instead of how the perform when they are hungry or tired.

If you are concerned that your child really is not ready for kindergarten and should wait another year to begin k-12 schooling, the results of a kindergarten readiness assessment can help you make that decision,but it should be the only factor you consider.  Waiting a year before beginning kindergarten is known as ''red-shirting."

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