Two months after Charlie started public Pre-K last year, we attended our first parent-teacher conference. Charlie had some issues with not listening in class around that time, so Mr. Bee and I arrived at the conference with some trepidation. Since he is a December baby, I've always worried a bit about whether it would affect him academically, emotionally and socially these first few years. Would the teacher tell us that he was very poorly behaved? That he was behind the other kids academically? And what were they grading 3 and 4 year olds on anyway?

Much to our relief, Charlie's teachers told us that he was doing great. They gave us a sheet listing certain skills that the kids had been tested on: Colors, Shapes, Numbers, Letters, and the ability to write one's own name. Charlie was able to identify all the colors and write his own name. He needed to review the cylinder shape, identifying and writing his numbers from 7-20, and writing the letter K.

We also received our first of three New York City Department of Education Report Cards for this school year, and I thought it would be interesting to share what parameters they're using for the Pre-K and K report card. Their grading scale is as follows:

4 - Exceeds grade-level standards
3 - Meets grade-level standards
2 - Does not meet grade-level standards
1 - Far below grade-level standards

Charlie's teacher told us that they do not give out 4's to anyone, and Charlie received 3's across the board on the following criteria:

E N G L I S H  L A N G U A G E  A R T S

Reading

Shows an interest in reading and understanding fiction and nonfiction stories

  • Actively engages in group reading experiences and contributes to discussions about texts (3)
  • With prompting and support, retells familiar stories and talks about stories to read to them usng details from the text (3)

Identifies letters by letter name and sound and uses letter sounds to read familiar and/or new words

  • Recognizes and names some upper and lower-case letters, especially letters in own name, and produces sounds for some consonants (3)

Recognizes basic features of print

  • follows words from left to right, top to bottom, and page by page (3)

Writing

Uses a combination of writing, drawing, and/or dictating for a variety of purposes

  • With prompting and support, uses a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to describe and event, including their reaction to what happened (3)
  • With prompting and support, states an opinion or preference about a topic or book in writing (3)

Uses knowledge of letters and sounds in writing

  • Understands that letters are grouped to form words (3)
  • Recognizes own name and common words and symbols in the environment (3)

Listening, Speaking and Language

- During collaborative discussions, expresses ideas with clarity and relevant, descriptive detail

  • With guidance and support, takes part in classroom conversations and follows rules for discussion (eg learning to listen to others and taking turns when speaking) (3)
  • Speaks clearly to express thoughts, feelings, and ideas, including descriptions of familiar people, places, things and events (3)

Asks and answers questions with appropriate detail

  • With guidance and support, asks and answers questions in order to get help, information, or clarification (3)

M A T H E M A T I C S

Demonstrates an understanding of content and concepts

  • Counts in order (3)
  • Counts to tell the number of objects in a group (3)
  • Identifies and describes shapes (squares, circles, triangles, rectangles) (3)
  • Sorts objects based on characteristics, and describes their similarities, differences, and qualities (eg color, size, shape) (3)

Solves problems in multiple ways and explains solutions

  • Makes sense of problems and perseveres in solving them (3)
  • Models with mathematics (3)
  • Uses appropriate tools strategically (3)
  • Attends to precision (3)
  • Looks for and makes use of structure (3)

S C I E N C E  ,  S O C I A L  S T U D I E S  A N D  H I S T O R Y

  • Demonstrates understanding of content and concepts (of each aforementioned subject) (3)

V I S U A L  A R T S  ,  D A N C E  , T H E A T E R  ,  A N D  / O R  M U S I C

  • Dance - Explores and creates dance to convey images, ideas, and feelings; uses age-appropriate dance skills and techniques when performing dances (3)
  • Dance - Understands, responds to, and uses dance vocabulary and concepts when speaking, writing, and dancing (3)
  • Music - Expresses musical creativity through speech, performance, movement, and visual imagery (3)
  • Theater - Demonstrates techniques and understands the process required to make theater (3)
  • Visual Arts - Explores art materials and techniques; clearly and expressively communicates ideas and shows imagination and creativity working in two and three dimensional art forms (3)
  • Visual Arts - Demonstrates ability to plan, create, and write about own artwork (3)
  • Visual Arts - Reflects upon and refines own artwork; examines and responds to the artwork of classmates and professional artists (3)

P H Y S I C A L  E D U C A T I O N

  • Participates in physical activity and demonstrates ability in age-appropriate movement, control, and fitness skills (3)
  • Understands basic parts of health-related fitness and the connection between physical activity and wellness (3)

T E C H N O L O G Y

  • Demonstrates ability to understand and use technology (the school uses ipads) (3)

A C A D E M I C  A N D  P E R S O N A L  B E H A V I O R S

  • Manages time and consistently demonstrates effort to independently achieve goals (3)
  • Works in an organized manner  (4)
  • Persists through challenges to complete a task by trying different strategies (3)
  • Asks for help when needed (3)
  • Respects school rules and works well in the school community  (2)

.  .  .  .  .

You can see that his behavior needs some work (listening isn't his strong suit at home either), but he is doing much better. Overall we were happy to hear how well he was doing in class. When he first started, I could see a big difference between him and the older kids in the class, particularly the girls. Some of the girls could write their names, color within the lines, and had more advanced drawing skills. I asked Charlie's teachers if they could tell a big difference between the January kids and the December kids, and when they said that they couldn't, it was a big surprise to me. But after a couple of months in pre-k, I could see that the disparity between the younger and older kids mostly disappeared, judging from the kids' work that covers the classroom walls. It's pretty amazing how quickly they learn and catch up!

When Charlie first started pre-k, writing his name was a great source of frustration for him. We knew he could do it because he had done it in his daycare months earlier. But because he couldn't do it perfectly, he would often get frustrated and not even want to try in the first place. Pre-K has done an excellent job of turning his fear of writing into a love for writing! Now he loves practicing writing daily, is very interested in learning how to read, and constantly asks us how things are spelled. Charlie's writing, drawing and coloring skills have improved... exponentially! He's also working on pattern recognition, basic math skills, and the most fun part -- acting! Charlie has already been in 3 plays, 2 of which were huge productions in the main auditorium. There really is nothing cuter than seeing your little one in a play!

H O M E W O R K

I'm not sure I agree with how much homework they receive. It's usually just one home work assignment a day, but over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks we received huge homework packets and big holiday projects. It just seems like an awful lot for kids so young, and the projects are so hard that I ended up making most of them anyway. We mentioned the quantity of homework to Charlie's teachers, and they agreed it was too much... but they said that they were required to assign it. But in the big scheme of things, we've been pretty happy with the quality of education he's receiving. He also loves his teachers, his classmates and he loves going to class.

It's a big month for Charlie as we're applying to kindergarten and he's taking the gifted and talented test!

How has the first year of school been going for your little one?