May 4, 2023 7 min read

How to Do Preschool Assessments

Procare By: Procare
Preschool teacher conducts preschool assessment.

A preschool assessment is nothing to fear! It’s important to remember that preschool assessments will give you a lot of valuable information about children you are teaching. Let’s take a look at how a preschool evaluation can help children and improve the quality of education that you provide!

What is a Preschool Assessment?

A preschool assessment is a process by which teachers, early childhood education providers and/or families gather information about a child’s strengths and weaknesses. The assessments rely on informal observations of a child’s demonstration of learning rather than on a formal paper and pencil test, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

Early childhood educators make notes about what they see a child doing in daily instructional routines and determine how a child is progressing through the curriculum. This information can then be used to create relevant educational plans that suit the child’s state of development.

While the practice of assessing young children may feel uncomfortable, preschool assessments are crucial. They allow you to understand how a child learns best and the optimal ways to support their mental growth.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the different preschool assessment methods.

Various Preschool Assessment Methods

Different preschools, daycares and child care centers use different methods when assessing preschool children. Here are a few of the more common assessment methodologies used today:

  • Observations: You can learn a lot about a child by just watching them. When this methodology is used, preschool teachers simply observe the way a child behaves in different scenarios, taking note of their mental, physical and emotional development.
  • Portfolios: The portfolios method is somewhat similar to the observations method because both are not intrusive. But instead of watching a child’s behavior, teachers and parents view their work over a period of time. Doing so will show a child’s progress (or lack thereof) toward specific developmental milestones.
  • Standard Tests: Of course, standardized testing methods can be used for preschool assessment purposes, too. This method resembles the tests you were given in grade school: questions are asked, answers are given and results are graded.

How Assessments Relate to Various Standards

State standards are learning and developmental goals for what children should know or be able to do by a specified age. Milestones or learning standards allow centers to track the development of a child in a specific area.

If your preschool program uses Procare, you get preloaded state standards for all 50 states and Montessori learning. Procare sources the most up-to-date standards by state so ECEs can apply state early learning standards to lesson plans to ensure each domain that is covered in the classroom can be recorded as observations, enabling early learning providers to track specific events that contribute to a child’s development against a standard. 

If your center has proprietary learning standards that aren’t included in your state’s guidelines, Procare’s customizable learning frameworks to input your domains, sub-domains and milestones – all of which can be assigned to ages or categories.

And if you run a Montessori program, Procare offers pre-loaded the Montessori standards which focuses on all areas of child development – cognitive, emotional, social and physical.  To learn more about Montessori standards, visit the Montessori Foundation.

It’s also important to remember that Montessori programs standard can use integrated lesson plans to ensure each domain that is covered in the classroom can be recorded as observations, enabling early learning providers to track specific events that contribute to a child’s development against a standard.

What to Expect in a Child’s Preschool Assessment

Preschool teacher conducts preschool assessment.

In general, preschool evaluations assess children in the following areas:

1. Motor Skills

Motor skills can be defined as the movement of muscles. Most preschool assessments will check to make sure your child’s fine and gross motor skills are effectively developed for their age. Here are a few things teachers generally look for in preschool students:

  • Fine Motor Skills: Referring to coordination between small muscles such as those in one’s hand, fine motor skills allow children to eat, write and get dressed. Most preschool kids can draw basic shapes, eat with utensils and dress themselves.
  • Gross Motor Skills: Referring to coordination between large muscles such as those in one’s arms and legs, gross motor skills allow children to perform physical activities like running and jumping. Most preschoolers can balance on one foot and climb stairs.

It’s important to remember that every child is unique and develops at different speeds!

2. Personal Information

Preschoolers should also have a solid grasp of personal information such as the names and genders of immediate family members, the town they live in and the month they were born in. As such, a preschool assessment should cover these things.

Advanced preschoolers may be able to recite their family’s home phone number, full street address and the day, month and year in which they were born.

If a child doesn’t know these things yet, don’t worry. Work with them every day so that they can learn the personal information items listed above. Some kids fall behind in this area because they don’t get enough practice and repetition.

3. Academic Knowledge

Just about every preschool assessment will evaluate a child’s academic knowledge. Do they know their colors? How about their letters and numbers? Children at this age should be able to identify basic shapes like circles, squares, diamonds and triangles, too.

Depending on the age of a preschooler, his or her teacher might also gauge their ability to count, identify animals and use descriptive words (think hot, cold, tall).

Once again, just because a preschooler doesn’t know these things yet, doesn’t mean they’re having developmental issues. They might just need more practice. Work with them on a daily basis so they score better on their progress report.

4. Social Skills

A child’s ability to cooperate, share with other kids and make friends will also be evaluated during his or her preschool assessment. While we don’t always think of these things as “skills,” they’re essential to the future success of your child.

For example, attending a job interview, interacting with customer service representatives and successfully engaging with colleagues all require social skills.

Some children are naturally more social than others. They’re extroverted; they might enjoy the spotlight; they make interacting with other kids look easy. Some children are the opposite: quiet, shy, introverted. One is not better than the other.

Preschool assessments evaluate social skills to make sure children are developing properly, not to shame them or change them into something they’re not.

5. Speaking Ability

Finally, a child’s preschool assessment should cover speech and language skills such as articulation and the ability to express him or herself. The average preschooler can:

  • Generally make themselves understood with words
  • Ask for most basic objects by their correct names
  • Answer simple who, what, where and why questions
  • Form sentences of four or more words
  • Listen when they are called from another room

Older and/or more advanced preschoolers may be able to use rhyming words, use description words in sentences, tell a coherent story and more.

How Vine Assessments Can Help!

Vine Assessments 
gives early childhood educators a way to clearly articulate the growth and development of children in their care.

Want to learn more about preschool assessments? Check out our blog that answers five key questions about early childhood assessments!

Software can track a child’s developmental growth, which makes a big difference in how preschool assessments are carried out

Procare Solutions is the only provider of child care management software to offer integrated proprietary early childhood assessments for children from birth to 5 years old at no additional cost with Vine Assessments. 

Vine Assessments is an integrated framework that gives early childhood educators a way to clearly articulate the growth and development of children in their care. Its assessments align with standards in all 50 states. Teachers using Procare can tie their lessons and observations directly to the appropriate Vine Assessments indicator from the web-based software and Procare child care mobile app.   

Download “Why Assessments Matter in Early Education,” a free eBook that will answer more of your questions about ECE assessments!

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