One of the most important ways we can help parents understand the role of assessment in their children’s education is to include them as much as possible before, during and after assessments take place. That means, if you conduct regular assessments as a part of your daily routines, parents should be made aware of that. If a “special” assessment is taking place, then informing parents beforehand about what kind of assessment it is, the goal of the assessment, and how and when the assessment results will be communicated to them is critical in helping them get on board.
Listen to what the family has to say about concerns about their children’s learning. Understand that their hopes and dreams for their children are deeply rooted in their own personal cultural context. Because of this they may be more focused on one area of development than you are. This is to be expected. Try and communicate with them about their children in their language of origin. Help them understand that children are a “work in progress” and although some assessments may reveal information that is a cause for a pause, most children under 5 will excel in some ways and lag behind in others.
Two weeks ago I wrote about “looking for progress in children’s development.” Help parents understand that they can do this as well. Encourage them to see the small steps their children are taking as small and consistent successes. Rather than focusing on the speed of skill attainment, help them focus on skill development. Remind them how one word answers become two words answers. Two words answers become complete sentences. Walking turns into running. Running is the precursor to jumping. Jumping later becomes hopping and hopping turns into a full game of “Hopscotch” and Skipping Rope.
Try using language like, “We are a strengths-based program.” Rather than focusing on deficiencies, focus on strengths. All children have them- sometimes we have to look a little harder to see them, but they are there. Once parents are sure that you have their children’s best interests at heart, they will better be able to handle negative information when it comes along.