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The Bracken Basic Concept Scale
This scale assesses 258 concepts in 11 categorical areas (color, letter identification, numbers/counting, comparison, shapes, direction/position, social-emotional, size, textural/material, quantity, and time/sequence. The screening test, which can be administered individually or in small groups, consists of 30 items to identify children who might benefit from more intensive assessment. The primary use of the screening test is with kindergarten and first grade children. Thus, relational concepts, along with concepts in other skill areas such as color knowledge and letter identification, are included
This test was developed to provide prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers with comprehensive assessment information to help them diagnose children's instructional needs and evaluation programs. Circus consists of 17 instruments. Six of these assess basic concepts along with other concepts and areas of understanding.
The Cognitive Skills Assessment Battery, Second Edition
The CSAB was developed to provide a profile of strengths and weaknesses of the prekindergarten and kindergarten child in the cognitive skills area and simultaneously a profile for the class as a whole. The skills areas included cover orientation to one's environment; large muscle and visual motor coordination; discrimination of similarities and differences; auditory, visual, picture, and story memory; comprehension; and concept formation. Each task area is divided by levels of difficulty, providing teachers important information for program planning. Some relational concepts are included in the multiple directions task.
Tests of Basic Experiences-2
The purpose of this group-administered test is to assess the child's conceptual understanding to plan curricular experiences. It has two overlapping levels, one appropriate for preschool and kindergarten, and the other for kindergarten or grade 1. Each level consists of a battery of four tests: Mathematics, Language, Science, and Social Studies. Each of the four area tests includes a breakdown of concepts and skills. Throughout the focus is on the child's conceptual understanding gained through experience rather than on facts.
Developmental Tasks for Kindergarten Readiness II
The test was developed to screen children for purposes of instructional planning. It consists of 15 subtests that cover four skill areas (Oral Language, Visual-Motor Skills, Cognitive Skills, and Social Development).
Source: Bracken, 2004, pp. 194-195.
Although each of the foregoing instruments can provide educators with some valuable feedback concerning the extent to which children are prepared to make the transition into kindergarten, Boehm (1991) advises that a multiple-step approach may be more appropriate for gauging basic concepts; this multi-step approach includes the follow:
1. Standardized testing that covers the broad range of relational concepts and is used as a starting point for interpretation including those concepts the child knows and may not know.
2. Review of errors to identify patterns.
3. Observation over time of the child's use of concepts in everyday activities of the classroom environment.
4. A brief post-test interview to identify the strategies children use to arrive at answers.
5. A mini-teach to help determine how ready the child is to acquire the concept.
6. Observation of children's use of concepts as tools of thinking such as combining concepts and using them for comparing, classifying, and problem solving (p. 658).
While the construct of "school readiness" remains relatively recent in the relevant literature, there is a growing body of evidence that points to certain individual characteristics, the family as well as the community environment in which young children are raised that relates to their readiness for school. Ceteris paribus, the following indicators have been shown to be relevant to children's readiness levels for the transition into kindergarten:
1. Children living in poor families are likely to be less 'ready' than children living in non-poor families;
2. Children who have had experience prior to kindergarten in formal, group care (child care center, family day care home, Head Start, etc.), assuming it was of good quality, are likely to be more 'ready' than those who had not had such experience;
3. Children who have significant learning-related disabilities are likely to be less 'ready' than those who do not (Murphey, p. 37).
A population-based, school readiness study conducted by Weiss and Fantuzzo (2001) examined the impact of multiple environmental and social risk factors on the academic and social development of children initially entering public elementary school in a large urban center. These researchers determined that almost 80% of the children who were entering first grade had experienced at least one major factor that placed them at higher risk of failure (Weiss & Fantuzzo). According to Fantuzzo, Rouse, Mcdermott, Sekino, Childs and Weiss (2005), "Many of these risk factors were evident from birth, such as exposure to lead, low birth weight, birth to a teen parent, poor prenatal care, and out of home placements. Findings indicated that controlling for poverty and age, both environmental and social factors significantly increased children's risk for academic and behavioral problems as well as high absenteeism and grade retention" (p. 571).
Across-the-board generalizations concerning the above factors, though, are difficult at best and spurious at worst because of the vast differences that exist in the provision of early childhood development programs such as Head Start. For example, Entwistle, Alexander and Steffel (1999) report that these early childhood development programs are extremely varied in curricular content and delivery methods. In this regard, a Head Start program provided in Philadelphia enrolled socioeconomically disadvantaged 3 and 4-year-old children, primarily African-Americans, who received a series of nursery, kindergarten, and first grade programs that were well staffed and "child-centered"; the Philadelphia Head Start initiative also enjoyed the services of a social worker and so-called "home-school coordinators" who established close relationships between families and schools (Entwistle et al.).
Early childhood development programs also tend to differ in curricular offerings. For instance, a 1-year program provided by Louisville, Kentucky schools involved kindergartners in four different kinds of curricula: two of these programs used small groups and emphasized direct instruction; two others (Montessori and Traditional) were geared toward "long-term development" and did not include group instruction (Entwistle et al.). Yet another program was comprised of two or three summer sessions that lasted 10 weeks each; these sessions were then supplemented by weekly or bi-weekly sessions with a trained educator who visited children's homes throughout the school year, with pupils remaining in the program for 2 or 3 academic years (Entwistle et al.).
Finally, another early childhood development program was comprised of a preschool group that attended preschool during the morning for five weekdays for approximately 30 weeks over two successive years; this program also included weekly visits with mothers at the home (Entwistle et al.). According to Entwistle and her associates, "These Head Start programs varied so widely in content, enrolled students in so many different sections of the country, and enrolled students so varied in age that to identify which elements of the Head Start programs are responsible for positive effects is impossible" (p. 19).
Complicating the analysis of the impact of these programs on kindergarten readiness and kindergarten -- and later -- academic achievement was the fact that the enrollments in each of the programs studied was fairly small, ranging from a few to a maximum of 100 pupils; as a result, the positive impact of these early childhood initiatives on academic success only became apparent when the data was aggregated at the national level. In this regard, Entwistle et al. note that, "The conclusion is now secure that high quality preschools can have significant long-term positive effects on children's life chances. The early Head Start children were almost all disadvantaged and African-American, yet they were more likely than their counterparts who did not attend Head Start to graduate from high school and to graduate on time. It took many years to be sure about benefits from preschools, but it is now clear that they do help children who are socially and economically disadvantaged to profit more from their subsequent schooling" (p. 20). Moreover, participation in Head Start programs was also shown to minimize social inequality in the provision of kindergarten services to the extent that socioeconomically disadvantaged children performed at a level that was comparable to their more affluent counterparts (Entwistle et al.).
In spite of the gains that the majority of poor children make during their enrollment in kindergarten, their more affluent counterparts are progressing academically and behaviorally as well. This suggests that children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families will be required to constantly attempt to overcome any preexisting gap in academic proficiency. Moreover, as Feldman (2003) emphasizes, "Unlike their more advantaged peers, poor children fall back academically during the summer because they usually do not have access to the academically enriching vacation experiences that middle-class children take for granted -- museum visits, organized sports, camping, etc." (p. 21). This educator recommends that the provision of kindergarten should be expanded to include summer months and be universally accessible by lower socioeconomic families. In this regard, Feldman notes that, "It is necessary to accelerate dramatically the pace of learning for poor children who are behind or they will never catch up, even though they…[continue]
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