Assessing Young Children for Admissions Lydia Spinelli, Ed.D. Director, The Brick Church School email@example.com NYSAIS Admissions Directors Conference Thursday, April 27, 2006
When dealing with three, four and five year olds, how can we predict what kind of students they will be in the long term?
The Risks Of Assessing Young Children (Lilian Katz- ERIC ED 407172) Young children are notoriously poor test-takers: perhaps because they are sometimes confused by being asked questions that they think the tester must already know the answers to! There is reason to suggest that the younger the child being evaluated, assessed, or tested, the more errors are made (Shepard, 1994; Ratcliff, 1995)
All methods of assessment make errors: the errors made by formal tests are different from those made by informal or anecdotal records and documentation notes; the errors made by specific checklists of behavioral items are different from those made by holistic impressionistic assessments. Awareness of the potential errors of each evaluation or assessment strategy can help minimize errors in interpretation. It is a good idea to strive for a balance between global or holistic evaluation and detailed specific assessments of young children. (Katz)
Betty Baxter studied the predictive validity of the WPPSI for the SAT and examined 58 variables which might influence the relationship between the test scores. The sample consisted of 222 students who attended Episcopal between 1968 and 1976 and were tested on the WPPSI between the ages of 48 and 75 months and on the SAT 11 to 12 years later (1988).
She found that early WPPSI scores do have long-term predictive validity for the SAT, but the correlation is relatively modest. WPPSI scores account for between 7% and 24% of variance in later SAT scores, leaving at least 76% unaccounted for. In other words, over three-fourths of the variance in the SAT total score was traceable to factors other than early intelligence, as measured by the WPPSI (Baxter 1988).
One can look at WPPSI scores as an indication of the pace at which the child’s cognitive abilities are developing and try to match that with a school . . . but there are many reasons why these scores might not be an accurate indicator.
One thing we cannot do from looking at the WPPSI is determine whether or not the child has a learning disability. There are children with very high scores who have learning disabilities and children with big verbal- performance gaps who do not.
The WPPSI also does not measure emotional and social intelligence which is so important for success in school.
It is wrong to convert the WPPSI-III as ISAAGNY is using it into IQ scores.
The WPPSI -III that yields an IQ score has 3 core verbal subtests and 3 core performance subtests: Verbal: Information Vocabulary Word Reasoning Performance: Block Design Matrix Reasoning Picture Concepts and a processing speed index: Coding Symbol Search with supplemental subtests: Comprehension Similarities Picture Completion Object Assembly and optional subtests: Receptive Vocabulary Picture Naming ISAAGNY is using Verbal: Vocabulary Word Reasoning Comprehension Similarities Performance: Block Design Matrix Reasoning Picture Concepts Coding
In her dissertation, “The Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence – Third Edition: Changes in language demands and the relationship between recent versions of the WPPSI and the PLS, Elissa P. Cozassus (Pace University, 2005) found that the WPPSI III and WPPSI-R differed significantly with regard to receptive and expressive language demands, with the new WPPSI III having reduced language demands which in turn impacted IQ scores. Children in the at risk population that she studied had significantly higher IQ scores than those assessed with the WPPSI-R. Her conclusion is, “Psychologists can not necessarily give equal weight to IQ scores from the old and new versions of a test.”
More children have a verbal- performance gap in the WPPSI-III than in the old WPPSI-R.
The data regarding the relationship between a verbal-performance score gap and learning disabilities is derived from the adult literature, not the child literature. • The incidence of learning disabilities in children with a verbal-performance gap and in children without a verbal performance gap is the same.(Dr. Barbara Novick)
This makes sense because • When testing a young child you are testing a brain that is still developing and may “look” quite different over time in terms of stronger and weak functions, and • One child may have a gap because one subtest score may assess functions that are not critical to academic success whereas a second child may not have a gap, but over time, as the brain develops, have significantly weak development in brain areas that are not tested by the WPPSI III because they are not expected to be developed before age 8 or 9 years and these brain functions are key to mastery of some academic skills. (Dr. Barbara Novick)
How many of you have gone on a job interview and been judged by how good your penmanship is and how well you draw?
Children’s fine motor skills have to do with development of a specific area in the frontal lobe of the brain. This area is not expected to be able to support graphomotor skills until age 6 to 7. For some children, this area is well developed by age 4 or 5. This does not mean that they are more intelligent or that they will not have a learning problem. If a child’s frontal lobe and fine motor skills are less strong at age 4-5 years, it does not mean that he is less intelligent or more likely to have a learning problem. (Dr. Barbara Novick)
The most important thing is to do everything you can to make the child feel comfortable.
When parents tour, explain to them what to expect during the child interview so they can prepare their children.
Get down on the children’s level and look them in the eyes when they are first entering.
Some suggestions from the group: • If the parent wrote an essay with the application, talk to the child about something you know interests him/her. • If you have a pet or something of high interest in the classroom, talk to the child about going to see it. • Have the child choose the color marker he/she would like to do a nametag. • Have the parent leave the child rather than vice versa.
What is important to look for when observing a child in his or her own classroom?
Since early childhood schools vary in their approaches and expectations, children must be judged as to how they handle the classroom context they are in, which may be very different from your school’s approach.
DISPOSITIONS Dispositions can be thought of as habits of mind or tendencies to respond to certain situations in certain ways. Curiosity, friendliness or unfriendliness, bossiness, generosity, meanness, and creativity are examples of dispositions or sets of dispositions, rather than of skills or items of knowledge. Accordingly, it is useful to keep in mind the difference between having writing skills and having the disposition to be a writer, or having reading skills and having the disposition to be a reader (Katz, 1995).
Some teachers are better writers and some are more straightforward than others. Examples always help. • Terms such as “learning to,” “working on,” and “emerging” mean that the child can’t do whatever the task is.
When children have not had the economic advantages of most of our candidates, how can we judge their potential?
“The results of IQ tests are influenced by a person’s cultural background and emotional response to testing situations.” (Fadem, B. Behavioral Science (Board Review Series). Lippncott, Williams & Williams, 2004)
In a thesis study, graduate students in clinical and counseling psychology Ph.D. programs (81.9% of them were Caucasian) with an average of 28.61 months of experience with the WISC III were given identical protocols of WISC III testing with details fabricated about the children. For each protocol, they were given exactly the same description of the child except for race. They scored African American protocols lower than Caucasian American protocols in both high and average I.Q. conditions. African American protocols were rated lower on full scale and verbal I.Q. than Caucasian protocols whether they were in the gifted or normal range of intelligence. Information and Arithmetic showed the biggest differences. (Fields, S. Assessor Effects on the Evaluation of the WISC-III. Thesis, University of South Florida, February 11, 2004)
ERB results must be looked at in terms of languages spoken in the house, educational background of the parents, and how much time the child has spent with adults who teach him/her things.
How can Admissions Directors work effectively with Early Childhood Directors to make the admissions process as positive as possible for families and schools?
Dateand write down exactly what you say to an early childhood director. We hang on your every word.
“Yield” has become the most artificial, deceptive statistic in NYC admissions.
Of course, you want families who like your schools but pressuring families to declare a first choice is causing an undue amount of stress in NYC.
My suggestion is that ongoing schools not pressure parents or early childhood directors to declare a first choice. I think it is fine to ask an e.c. director if the family is really interested and would be happy to have their child attend but not to pressure for first choice.