Monday, May 14, 2012

Who needs Kindergarten Readiness Testing? An opinion...

Heather Gillum, PhD, CCC-SLP
Have you ever wondered why physicians make screening test recommendations such as mammograms after age 40 and colonoscopies after age 50?

Individuals younger than the recommended age who present with symptoms of a disease (or are at heightened risk) should receive the appropriate screening tests, but younger individuals without symptoms who have such tests unnecessarily are more likely to have a “false positive.” 

A false positive happens when a person fails a screening (an initial test), leading to a more invasive procedure (such as a biopsy), but turns out not to have the disease.  False positives lead to both the medical risk and the financial cost of unnecessary procedures.

False positives are a statistical truth; the more people you screen for something, the more times you are going to be wrong.  And false positives are more likely for people who volunteer for a screening (without symptoms) than for people who have a symptom and pursue a screening as part of the diagnostic process.

Common sense, right?

So what about “Kindergarten Readiness Testing”? 

This service is heavily advertised this time of year.  Not to be confused with admissions testing for private kindergartens, or placement testing conducted in public schools, this testing is offered by tutoring centers to determine if children are ready for kindergarten and, if not, what tutoring services they can provide to meet the needs.

My doctorate is in both child language and the psychometrics (statistics and theory) of assessment practices.  I have an appreciation for assessment as part of a problem-solving process, a respect for valid and reliable tests, and an understanding of what testing can, and cannot, reveal about a person and their strengths and weaknesses.

But as a Tennessean, I also appreciate common sense axioms such as “If you go looking for a problem you’ll find it” and the wise, if not eloquent, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

So my opinion on this topic is based on knowledge of testing and a dose of common sense.

If you or your child’s preschool teacher has specific concerns, and you don’t feel confident addressing these needs at home on your own, such an assessment may be helpful.  

If you are truly on the fence regarding whether or not to send your child to kindergarten and want an outside opinion, such an assessment may be helpful. 

As with all assessment services, do your homework and get a referral from a trusted friend or teacher so that your time and money are well spent. 

Do you think your child is pretty much ready, see a whole summer ahead of you, and think that you can brush up on the weaknesses between now and opening day?  Then this may be something you can handle on your own if you are up for it.  Know that if you pursue such an assessment, your child is at a higher risk for a false positive.

All summer long we will be offering a countdown to kindergarten and daily tips to get your aspiring kindergartener ready for the first day.  Be sure to sign up to follow us on the blog or follow us on Twitter @ahandsonmom or our Facebook Page “Hands on Mom” for the daily tips!

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