Ready for First-Grade?

What tests or evaluations should be performed to decide whether a child is ready for first grade?
Our five-year-old son has a tendency to be extremely shy when he's away from home. His teacher told us that he's not performing up to his level academically. The school suggested he repeat kindergarten. This evaluation was based solely on his classroom performance environment and his teacher's opinion. She said he was deficient because he doesn't know his phone number or address, number skills, letter skills, or motor skills. We believe our son's abilities are very typical of his age group when he's outside the classroom. He seems competent in all the areas she said he was lacking.

I'd like to have his skills evaluated professionally, but have no idea where I can find those services. Can you suggest where I might obtain such an evaluation?

Based on your personal knowledge of your son's competencies in the aforementioned skill areas, I would conclude that you assume these academic "deficiencies" his teacher observed are a product of his social and emotional development, rather than his academic abilities. Instead of just focusing on determining your son's age-appropriate cognitive and motor-skill development, I would recommend that he spend some time with an educational psychologist who sees many children your son's age. A professional with this background could evaluate not only your son's academic and motor skills, but also his emotional and social development as it pertains to his abilities to navigate the demands of kindergarten and first-grade environments.

You can call the American Psychological Association's chapter in your area, or their central office, to find the names of such professionals. I would also recommend networking with your pediatrician, as well as the psychology and social work departments of local children's hospitals. Again, your goal should not be just to have your son tested on his first-grade readiness; it should be to evaluate his overall intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development as predictors of which grade environment would be appropriate for him next year.

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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