Here are a few common questions we get asked regarding School Readiness
Is there a difference between Testing and Evaluating?
Yes! Testing normally involves a score. It is sometimes also set against time and provides an indication of the child’s performance at that stage of his her life. Scores also mean that the child will be compared to other children of the same age. Some parents want to know exactly what their child’s performance is. A note of caution as there is certain danger attached to this, especially when the young child is then labelled as “highly intelligent’ or the converse thereof. Children vary greatly in the maturity and development so scores that are determined at early ages do not necessarily predict potential or indicate future school success. Much depends on how the child develops and is supported to access new and more content either by parents and/or by teachers and how the child themselves manage their academics. One must be most careful not to “judge” a child by a series of tests given at a particular stage. A test is just a picture captured of a child’s development at a specific moment in time. Things can and do change!
Evaluating a child is more of an identifying process taking into consideration the multitude of factors that may be influencing a child’s readiness and levels of functioning. No matter what the level of readiness is it is important to note that the school you have chosen must also be ready to meet your child’s particular needs. This readiness of the institution and the child’s initial introduction into school is most important for future academic success.
Must we Test and/or Evaluate?
Yes! Using information eliciting tools will professionally and ethically indicate to us whether there could be gaps in the child’s development that might hinder them from doing the activities that are related to schooling i.e. visual perception, background , foreground, analysis and synthesis and socially integrating.
Sometimes parents forgo testing and opt for a basic screening or tick list to determine school readiness. Developmental screening sometimes undertaken by non-professionals involves a “brief, formal evaluation of developmental skills, which attempts to identify children who may be potentially at risk for developmental difficulties”. They are more general in nature more detailed and specific areas do not give a numerical score. (Foxcroft, C & Roodt,G . 2009. Introduction to psychological assessment in the South African context. Cape Town: Oxford University Press. Pp. 77-89).
This must not be confused with a professional psychological assessment that embraces assessing or evaluating the child in a holistic manner.
Why a psychological assessment?
A psychological assessment of a young child’s readiness takes into consideration as many factors as possible that could impact on the child’s formative years and initial experiences of school. It is followed by a detailed background record, pre-school reports, parent interviews, and other collateral evidence which might assist the psychologist to get a full profile of the child. A psychological assessment is able to determine the deeper emotional issues that are not captured in discussions i.e. the child’s drawings and give details about specific areas of development. Other forms of media can also be used to access the various domains of development. This is done at the discretion of the psychologist and the parents.
What does a full individual assessment entail?
Please note: An evaluation of a child is highly individualised, all the sessions below might not be needed. This will be negotiated with parents on a one-by-one basis and the needs of the child.
Session 1 (1 hr): Biography of child and daily routine preferably with both parents via structured questionnaires. Filling in of forms e.g. consent form. May be sent via email prior to meeting to facilitate discussion.
Session 2 (1 hr): Discussion with parents and outline of types of assessment tools that might be used on the child to elicit information. Developing a relationship with child and some psychometric testing (normally drawings)
Session 3 (3hrs): School Readiness Tests (if requested)
Report Writing: Comprehensive report on findings (if requested)
Session 4 (1hr): Parent Feedback
So what do we as parents do with the information from the assessment?
Firstly, Keep it!! You now have a baseline that you can use to track your child’s future academic development and accomplishments at school.
Secondly, you as parent/s would have gained further insight into your child’s emotional well-being at an early stage of their life when they don’t have sufficient word power to express themselves. This allows for corrective measures to be put in place if the results have shown areas of concern.
Thirdly, the assessment might point out gaps in development that can be rectified as they have been identified early.
Fourthly, you have some concrete information to pass on to your child’s receiving teacher which should assist her to monitor your child’s progress and gain insight into your child’s life world.