We’re moving on in our look at the process of admission to a Charlotte area independent school.
The Open House season has ended and, hopefully, your family is set up to tour several of your favorites so that you can get an up-close and personal sense of the schools on your list.
You’ve thought carefully about whether your child is ready to move into Kindergarten and are ready to apply. You are right on time. In general, application time runs between December and mid-January at Charlotte’s independent schools.
One likely part of the application process for your child at an independent school in Charlotte is a formal admissions assessment of his or her developmental readiness in pre-academic and independent skills.
This is one of the steps in lower school admission that parents may not be aware of and often find intimidating. We reached out to PROVIDENCE DAY SCHOOL Upper School Guidance Counselor Amy Scharf to learn about what to expect in your child’s admissions assessment at Charlotte private schools. We talked with Amy about the assessment process at all three levels – Lower, Middle and Upper school.
Kindergarten And Lower School Assessment
For kindergarten and lower school, you can expect some level of standardized testing required as part of the assessment. Each school will let you know what types of testing they like to see, and there can be different assessments accepted at different schools. But in general, your child will visit an education specialist or psychologist who will administer a set of standardized activities. This standardized testing will assess how your child compares to other children of their age in pre-academic and independent skills. Most of the schools can provide a list of these specialists for you to contact.
The testing administrator will send you the results, which you will then share with schools as part of your application.
This testing does worry some parents. After all, you might see it as the first official read on your child’s intellect, or the first report card you face on your parenting skills. It is neither! It’s just one tool used to assess readiness and development by the admissions staff, and they are fully aware that it is just a one day, one time snapshot of your child’s skills.
The last thing you want to do is to stress or scare your child about this or any part of the admissions assessment. More on that later, but needless to say, a comfortable, confident child excited about the process will put their best foot forward.
The next assessment for TK and Kindergarten at most schools will be a group observational assessment. Your child will join others so that teachers may observe and get to know the children in a group setting through activities. This is not a one-on-one interview; it is a chance for the school to observe your child in a TK or K classroom setting.
For Lower School grades after Kindergarten, most schools require both the assessment testing and a visit with a grade level teacher to assess reading, math, listening, writing, and fine motor skills.
Middle and Upper School Assessment
For both middle and upper school, your child comes to the application process with an academic record, their transcript. While some schools do not require additional cognitive assessment beyond the transcript, many do. The schools will tell you which tests are required, and most have this information on their admission pages as well as links to the testing websites.
Middle and Upper School students are usually also required, or strongly encouraged, to do a day visit to the schools to which they are applying. Here they will walk through a typical day’s schedule, be assigned a student buddy to shadow, and check out campus life.
In addition, most schools will require a one-on-one interview between the child and a member of the school’s admissions staff, an administrator or a faculty member. Again, this is not something for you or your child to stress about; these are generally informal conversations so that the school can learn about your child beyond the transcript.
How important are assessment results during the admissions process?
Assessments are important, as schools are genuinely interested in your child thriving in school. But admissions professionals know there are multiple factors making up the whole student. They look at several facets of your child’s readiness: through standardized testing and transcripts, with observation and interview assessments, through teacher recommendations, and by understanding your child’s interests and extra curricular activities.
Schools are ultimately looking for a healthy fit for your child, and their assessment process is their best method to achieve this.
What should I be doing to prepare my child for admission assessments?
No matter what age, your child’s best preparation will be a good night’s rest, a healthy breakfast, and comfortable clothing.
And your best prep for him or her is to keep things relaxed and positive, watching your own non-verbal communications about your expectations. Your child does not want to disappoint you, and may already be feeling “judged” as part of the assessment. Try to communicate that schools really do want to get to know your child better, and learn all about him or her. Focus on building your child’s confidence about what he/she as a student can bring to the school.
For your TK or Kindergartener, studying for the “test” is not recommended. In fact, Ms. Scharf suggests you avoid using the word “test”. Just position it as “going do some activities so this school and teachers can get to know you.”
For your MS and US student, make admissions a child-centered process, listen closely to their reactions, and make them feel a part of the decision. Ms. Scharf tells us that children will dig deep for success if they own the process, and will be excited and invested in the final outcome.
How transparent should parents be about their child’s learning needs?
Parents of a TK or K child may already know that their child has specific learning needs, or they may find this out through the admissions assessment and standardized testing process. This happens. Parents wonder how transparent should they be with school admissions about their concerns.
Ms. Scharf suggests you be as open as possible, as both you and the school ultimately want the best for your child. The schools often have significant knowledge and information to share with you about learning needs like your child’s. Plan to ask questions about what they can do to accommodate these needs – and be open minded in the admissions process to the advice and honest feedback from the schools, as it will help you find the best fit for your child.
How do I know if I am making the right school choice for my child?
Ms. Scharf advises parents not to feel that they must find a “perfect” school fit for their child. The best fit possible at this time in your child’s long educational journey should be your goal. As a parent you may feel you are making a 13 year decision, a monumental commitment for your family. But it’s good to remember, you are not. Families move, people change. Middle School and High School are obvious times for transition, and parents and students should re-evaluate their fit within their school on an ongoing basis.
You are looking for a partner in raising your child, and you will want to take in how you and your child feel when you are on campus, interacting with the administration and your peers at the school. Check in with yourselves and your child frequently, as it’s easy to get lost in the due dates and the process.
While it may not always be top-of-mind, it’s good to take a step back and remember the big picture. Everyone involved in the school admissions process ~ you the parents, your child, the school staff, even the other families at the schools ~ want the same outcome: a good fit for your child and your family in the school you choose. That’s the best foundation for a life of learning.
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