I have a question about kindergarten screening that I don't recall seeing you answer in the past (I'll give you an early start on the typical late summer, early fall rush of school questions!).
My 5-year-old daughter will be starting kindergarten in the fall. She just had her kindergarten screening using DIAL-4. Based on her performance, she scored borderline in the concepts section (mostly numbers, shapes etc) and based on my responses to a survey, she scored borderline on self-help. By borderline, I mean her score was the lowest in the range of "ok", 1 point lower and she would have been in the potential for delay category. The things that caused her to score borderline in concepts are things that I know she can do (count to more than 10, recognize a square, etc). In fact, as we were leaving the school and without any prompting from me, she counted to 20 (missing, as usual, 15). Her preschool (which she has attended for 2 years, 3 full days a week) has documented that she can recognize shapes.
The items that resulted in a borderline score for self-help included brushing her own hair and teeth, pouring milk into a cereal bowl on her own, picking up her own toys, etc. My rationale for my answers in self-help include that her hair is long and if she brushed it, it would either never get done or I would be cutting out the hair brush. I interpreted the teeth question as she is responsible for her own brushing so I answered rarely or never. Our approach is that she does "her part" and then mommy or daddy does "their part". We buy gallons of milk so they are too big for her to pour without spilling and unless prompted, she never picks up her toys on her own. If we declare it is clean up time or I tell her that to move onto the next activity, we have to pick up game or puzzle pieces, then she will clean up, but she doesn't do it on her own. There weren't any questions on getting herself dressed, putting on her own coat, washing hands, eating with utensils, etc. All of which she can do and the large majority of the time does on her own. Of course, taking into account the occasional day when she just feels like being obstinate or we are running late...
We had been away for the weekend and she was not her usual self that morning. The environment and the people were new to her. Parents had to sit out in the hallway. I don't mention these things as excuses, but wonder if/how the testing takes factors like these into account.
I question the validity of the borderline scores, especially the self-help category. What is the intent of these screening tools? What do these tests really predict? How do schools use these scores? Are borderline scores something that should concern me? What, if anything, should I do based on these results? What should I do, if anything, about these results when she actually starts kindergarten this fall?
Thanks for any insight you can provide. I value your advice and read your blog daily.
From: MMR, Medford, MA
Tests like these are tools, a way to assess large numbers of children in a quick and efficient manner. Independent research shows Dial-4 tests have "high predictive validity." In other words, when screening a lot of children, they are reliable enough in predicting success. That doesn't mean they are always right. In fact, I think it's helpful to know what DIAL stands for: Developmental Indicators for the Assessment of Learning. Those are my italics. The publisher's website says the scores are meant to "help predict academic success." Again, my italics.
It sounds like when you answered the questions, you were conservative, bending over backwards, perhaps, in an effort to be truthful. What's more, children have good days and bad days and, no, I don't think that gets factored in to the scores. I can speak from personal anecdotal experience about kindergarten screening results that have surprised parents and preschool teachers; about parents getting their child home to discover he or she was running a slight fever or had a tummy ache, or was intimidated by the process. I can tell you that some of those same kids graduated from top-notch universities.
Should you be concerned about "borderline" scores? Sure, meaning that you're going to keep an eye on your child and how she does, whether she struggles socially or emotionally or academically. But something tells me, you're a parent who would be doing that no matter what.
Should you be doing something about the "borderline" scores? Absolutely. Talk to your child's preschool teachers. As I've said in this space many times, I place a whole lot more value on their opinions than I do on screening test results. Are they worried about your daughter going to kindergarten? Ask them, and take it from there.
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