Assessment is an essential part of education. It allows parents, teachers and students to know how the student has met learning objectives and plan for future instruction. Assessment testing can identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. However, assessing and interpreting assessments of young children in Kindergarten is not without pitfalls.

Unreliability

Close up of a mathematics test and pencil

Kindergarten children are highly distractible and easily influenced by internal states such as hunger and sleepiness. Young children may also not understand the instructions given during an assessment. Consequently, the results of assessment tests may be unreliable. If the assessment is not a true measure of what a child knows and is capable of, it does not provide useful information to teachers or parents, doing more harm than good. For this reason, the Center for Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning cautions against using tests alone to track students.

Influence on Teacher Perceptions

Teacher reading to students

When teachers rely on assessment testing scores for Kindergarten students, it affects their perceptions of the students. For poorly-performing students, teachers may have lower expectations for the student or decide the student is in need of remediation. This can result in the teacher spending more time going over the basics with the student rather than providing enrichment opportunities. These expectations influence children’s own self-perceptions, how they see themselves as learners and how engaged they are in the classroom.

Stress on Child

Girl sitting at the table in classroom

Kindergarten children can feel stress and pressure to do well on assessment tests. Children this age are new to school, and are just forming concepts of themselves as students. If they perform poorly on tests, it can negatively affect their self-concept and they may perceive themselves as someone who does not do well in school. At the same time, Kindergartners are often not sure what they need to do to succeed. This combination makes them come to the conclusion that success is out of their control, thus decreasing their motivation for succeeding on subsequent tests.

Time Lost

Close up of a children's board game

Assessment testing also takes time away from learning. Not only is time spent taking the test, but your child's teacher often spends significant time preparing for or prepping for the test. Unreliable results means time spent analyzing performance on assessments is wasted and instruction is not properly planned. Time in the classroom can be better spent on observational assessments and informal performance assessments, which can give a more accurate picture of a student’s strengths and weaknesses.