Sooo… you know that feeling when things aren’t fitting together right? It is like a feeling of disorder and it brings an uneasy feeling… like you can’t wrap your brain around how it all is supposed to connect. Please tell me it isn’t just me! That is exactly how I felt when it came to preschool assessments.
I remember the time at the beginning of the school year, years ago when I felt this feeling. I was struggling to map out how my preschool assessments pieces would fit together. Like, I knew I needed some sort of sheet to record data and I also knew I wanted to have student portfolios. But, how they connected and the pieces that were missing were bring me that ‘disorderly feeling’.
Unfortunately for me, I drive myself completely crazy until I find a ‘map’ to the problem that makes sense for me. So, that school year, at the beginning of the year, I was driving myself crazy!
Good news is…I got it done and I feel so.much.better. But, the story doesn’t stop there.
Fast forward 5+ years and I again am finding myself having this feeling. This time it is in relation to how much TIME I was spending on assessing.
It just didn’t feel right – I would spend weeks assessing all.the.things, three times a year – but then lacked the actual time to TEACH the skills I saw were missing when doing the assessments.
Why spend so much time and energy assessing if the results aren’t being used?!
So, once again – I worked through the problem until it made sense. I want to share it with you, because chances are you’ve felt this way too. Keep reading!
Process to Get your Preschool Assessments Streamlined
Let’s break this process down into 3 parts:
- Collecting and Recording
- Using and Communicating Results
In each section, I want to take you through what works for me and leave you with some reflection questions so you can get a process that works best for you and your classroom.
SECTION 1: Your Goals and Standards
Learning Goals or your State’s Standards are at the center of the assessment process. These goals are what you are working towards helping your students learn by the end of the year. These standards are the EXACT skills you should be assessing and reporting on.
In my state, the number of standards was a bit overwhelming, so I had to narrow them down to make my data collection realistic (here are the goals I use).
Think it Out:
- What Goals/Standards do you use? Do you use your State’s Early Learning Standard? Or do you use a set of goals given to you by your administration?
- Do you have more goals than you actually collect and report data for?
- Are you able to do any additions/deletions of which skills you assess?
- Would simplifying your assessment skills lessen the load of you and your students without jeopardizing the overall learning experience and end-of-year goals?
SECTION 2: Collecting and Recording Data
This is where you will take the Goals/Standards you are using and decide which skills you are going to collect data on.
But, to be honest, even after narrowing them down – I was assessing A LOT of things, three times a year. This is what lead me to the recent wonderings of it all being worth the time. Again, why spend so much time and energy assessing if you don’t have time to use the results?!
This is where I decided to get laser-focused on the skills I wanted to assess and to teach for each testing period (we test beginning, middle and end of the school year). I actually created a whole guide to walk you through simplifying your assessments called ‘Cutting Down on Assessment Time in the Preschool Classroom’. You can grab it for free!
Now that you have a handle on WHAT to assess – you will need to decide how you plan on collecting data for the goals that you have established. This is where you find out from students what they know in relation to the standards. Because we are a play-based classroom, I like to make assessment time as engaging as possible (I find I get more accurate results). You can learn more about how I make assessment engaging at this blogpost.
Think it Out:
- Do you plan on assessing all.the.things every testing period or getting more focused?
- Will you complete some whole class assessments? Will you do individual assessments?
- Will you try to make your assessments as play-based as possible?
- How will you record the data that you gained during your testing?
- Will you have individual student recording sheets? Or, a class recording sheet?
SECTION 3: Using and Communicating Results
This last section (I feel) is the most important. Now that you have data on your students, it is time to use it! Finding discrepancies of a certain skill in all or most of your students may mean that the skill needs to be brought to light again (and probably several more times) in whole group.
If you are finding just a couple of students struggling with a particular skill, it may mean that a small group time with those students, focusing on that skill, may be in order. You may also find that one student is struggling with multiple skills. Choosing one skill to focus on and working with that child one-on-one may be the best route.
The last step is to decide how you plan on communicating the results with parents and caregivers. Our preschool uses portfolio-based reporting, so the decision was easy for me. Perhaps you have a certain way to report to parents as well. But if not, go through the ‘think it out’ questions below.
Think it Out:
- How do you plan on using the results from your assessments?
- Will you use results to guide whole group instruction?
- Will you create small groups or work with students one on one? When do you plan on working with the groups?
- How do you want to communicate results with parents?
- Will you use a report card style info sheet? Will you use portfolios to show progression? Or will you just report to parents during a conference?
I hope this walk through the process I took to streamline my preschool assessments has helped you get your head around the how of implementing assessments!
P.S. Have you listened to the Lovely Preschool Teachers Podcast yet? If not, what are you waiting for?!