Admissions Testing: Preschoolers

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Admissions Testing: Preschoolers
The pressure to get your child into the right school starts at a very early age. We look at some of the assessment hurdles your child might face depending on which school you are considering.
When our daughters went to preschool back in the '70s, we took them in for an interview and that was about it. The children were toilet-trained and pretty well socialized. But as I recall, there were no formal assessments of their cognitive skills and so on. As far as their mother and I were concerned, our daughters were gifted children. But we never had any formal assessment of our suspicions until the girls were much older.

That's all changed in the 21st century. Preschools want to know what your child knows and is capable of. At age 2 and 1/2. So, against that backdrop let's look at some of the more common ways preschools assess applicants. And, perhaps even more important from our point of view as parents, let's try to understand why such testing is necessary.

Common Assessment Tools

Otis-Lennon School Ability Test?, Eighth Edition
Commonly known as Olsat, this test is popular in New York City where it is a requirement for admission into programs for gifted children.

Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence™-Third Edition (WPPSI™-III)
At some point in the preschool admissions process or perhaps later, you will encounter the ouevre of David Wechsler. Dr. Wechsler was a psychologist perhaps most famous for his tests which measured IQ or Intelligence Quotient. He also developed the assessment test known as WISC. The latest versions of WISC are published by Pearson, one of the leaders in the testing/assessment field.

Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales 
About the same time as Dr. Wechsler was developing his IQ tests, a French psychologist, Alfred Binet was developing his own tests. What he was looking for was a way of determining if the subjects being tested were intellectually deficient.

Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities and Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children  are two other tests which you might encounter.

What are they looking for?
When you are asked if your child can be tested, you probably are wondering why and what could they be looking for. These tests can help determine two things: they can help predict future educational success and they can identify special needs. Particularly in those crucial first five years of a child's life and development, testing can quantify what you probably already know, as well as suggesting areas of concern.

Not every school uses these assessments as part of their admissions testing. Many schools will rely on an interview and years of experience to decide if a child is ready for preschool. You need to be ready for some sort of screening as part of the admissions process. Equally important for most schools is your acceptance of the school's educational philosophy. This is particularly true if you want to get your child into a Montessori or Waldorf school.

Is Tutoring Necessary?
What about tutoring your son or daughter for the test? Personally I would advise making sure that your child understands that there will be a test, though I probably wouldn't call it a test. It never hurts for her to know generally what to expect. I personally think that age 4 is a little early to be tutoring. If your child is brilliant and gifted and well-socialized, she will more than likely make the grade without tutoring.

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