Mom Life

Preschool Pressure: When Your Child Scores Below Expectations

I was a nerdy, book-loving, honor roll student, and I always imagined if I had kids, they would be too. So the day my son’s first preschool assessment arrived in the mail and that crummy little chart revealed he scored “Below Expectations” in Every Single Area, it came as such a crushing blow that I just sat down and cried.

I cried because I was sure he was the smartest kid ever, and now I had this paper telling me my son wasn’t meeting the minimum expectations of a preschooler.

I quickly tried to wipe away my tears when my son came into the room and asked what was wrong. I wanted to shout that these tests were obviously wrong! The school is wrong! And I was ready to shove that assessment right up the butt of whoever did this so-called “assessing.”

Instead I threw the offending paper in the trash and decided to take my son to the library so we could get a few new ABC books. I wasn’t going to let him fall behind. I know he’s smart and clever, and everything will eventually click.


So today when I dropped my son off at school, I stayed to watch him through the window, to see how he did on his sign-in sheet. He smiled and waved and blew me a kiss as he walked toward the paper. There was a big T at the top of the sheet and a lot of T’s all over the page from other kids signing in.

So then my son very carefully drew a big “K” and then what I think might be a circle with legs.

He turned around with a big smile and looked so proud that I gave him a big thumbs up.

We’ve been working on this sign-in sheet thing for a little while. Working on letters and spelling. For example, I’ll ask him to spell CAT, C-A-T, CAT. He’ll then answer, “B-5-7-A.”

That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works! Some of those aren’t even letters!

I don’t know if he is just being silly, not good at following directions, or really can’t comprehend what it means to use letters to spell. It’s frustrating, but I don’t want him to know I’m frustrated about this whole scoring below expectations thing.

And then sometimes I suspect he’s just messing with me.

spelling kid funny

He was supposed to be spelling C-A-T

I am going to be interested in seeing his second assessment results and hoping he does better. I didn’t know we’d already be feeling school pressure in preschool! It’s ridiculous really. Anyone else go through the dreaded “Below Expectations” assessment experience?

2/22/20 – Update after 2nd assessment: We just got the latest results and he is now Meeting or Exceeding expectations across the board! He scored highest in vocabulary and phonological awareness, but doubled his scores on everything. I’ve been making a big effort to try and turn things he loves into a learning experience, because he refuses my efforts at teaching him in any kind of typical manner. I’ve had the best experience using gaming as a learning tool, because he understands the more he learns, the better he gets at his games. I am so happy to see that it is working!

14 replies »

  1. Yes! Absolutely same experience with us! I felt like the teachers didn’t see what I knew- that Zoe was so smart and creative in our interactions. It try working with her and was convinced she was playing around with me when she kept getting things wrong or claiming she forgot what we just talked about. I did end up holding her back after talking with teachers and don’t know what happened but something really clicked this year. I agree- everyone advances at their own pace! I’m trying to not stress it anymore and just do the best we can ❤️ I’m sorry you are going through it! I hope it gets easier


    • That’s what I keep hearing too…that it will suddenly click. And I don’t want to get pushy and have him not like school stuff! So I’ve just been trying to keep it light but add a little more learning type activities. Or try and turn things he likes into a learning experience. But not enough so he suspects something lol.


  2. Don’t stress you are doing all of the right things and he’s gonna get it – who knows maybe the numbers he uses are something more than what the teacher wants ? Maybe he’s gifted –


    • I think he’s come a long way from the first assessment. I’ll be interested to see what the second says and if improvement is shown.
      He just does these things that surprise me all the time how smart he can be. But he’d rather stomp on a book and than open it up and read it 🙄. I think it’s a case of just being a typical boy as well.


  3. I haven’t had this experience with Maeve but my brother’s oldest daughter was similar. She was talking in 5 word sentences before 2, has always been an incredible little artist, memorized books after one read – wow! she’s can read already!? – was super goofy to the point of driving you mad but it was soooooo cute. She was, and still is, so smart. It’s just on a different level than 123, ABC. But now in grade 3 she’s really struggling to read. They practice all the time and it’s not clicking. She’s not grasping maths for her age. She’s using that fun toddler goofiness that she learned to use to mask her anxiety. I don’t want to make you worry but it’s just a different view point from the other comments. I would say keep an eye on it. It doesn’t hurt to start some strategies now. My brother didn’t and now she’s 8 now and it’s a struggle because she understands and she’s embarrassed.


    • I am definitely keeping an eye on it but trying not to stress over it. We are still practicing and trying to build on what he learns at school but sometimes it seems to make him so mad and upset. Like he’s angry about learning, or angry that he’s not learning. I try to be so patient but sometimes it’s like, I know you know this! Why can’t you just answer the question?? I fear that if I try too hard to help him, it will push him away from wanting to learn at all. It’s going to be a looooong process. And a learning process for both of us.


  4. I teach elementary students who are 1+ years behind in multiple grade levels and am very passionate about this subject. Not scoring well does not mean a child isn’t smart. Smart can be about resourcefulness, curiosity, creativity, and problem solving — it isn’t just about a score. It’s important to help children see their brains as constantly growing and flexible, and make learning fun and desirable!

    In conclusion, don’t give up and have fun with your son!


    • This is great, thank you for commenting. This is the kind of stuff I need to hear 🙂 Our second assessment is coming up soon and I’m hoping to see some improvement but also trying not to stress about it!


  5. I teach UPK and am always floored when parents ask when will I start teaching reading. I explain that I read aloud. I chart for the letter of the week and add their children’s input as to what begins with letter Ss for example. I write a full sentence ex. Emilia said snake. I then put in my best effort to sketch a snake. We play snatch; where I call out a letter or sound to a group of four so children can snatch it if they know it. Play builds awareness. Reading and modeling how we read left to write. Turning pages front to back. I label everything. By June I see everyone can write and recognize not only their name but those of every friend. Every year I have at least two children who arrive reading or ready to use the phonemic code to read. I don’t push this process for them either way. I just give them different challenges . I loved this article though. Pat yourself on your back for caring, just know it’s way too early to worry. I love his spelling.


    • Thank you! “Way too early to worry” is very good advice. His second assessment is arriving this week and his teacher said he will probably still score “below expectations” but that he definitely has improved. To me, I feel he has met all my expectations when he goes to school happy and ready to learn. And they should be expecting everyone to learn on different levels!


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