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STEPS

Screening Test for Educational Prerequisite Skills (STEPS)

by Frances Smith, Ph.D.

Purpose: Provides a clear picture of the needs and skills of beginning kindergartners, identifying those at risk
Ages / Grade: 4 and 5 years
Administration Time: 8 to 10 minutes per child
Format: Brief tasks completed by the child and scored by the examiner
Scores: Generates school and parent reports in letter format, with no numbers or labels used to communicate results


STEPS is the kindergarten screener that prepares schools to meet the needs of high-risk children. Based on years of research with thousands of children, STEPS provides a clear picture of the needs and skills of beginning kindergartners. Yet it has none of the problems associated with readiness tests and other early childhood screeners.
  • It identifies children at risk--without using labels, normative comparisons, cutoff scores, or developmental age scores.
  • It requires only 8 to 10 minutes per child.
  • It's truly easy to administer--it does not use the cumbersome station format that makes other early childhood screeners so inconvenient.
  • It focuses on kindergarten-related skills--STEPS doesn't waste time measuring tasks that have no relationship to kindergarten functioning.
  • It offers an optional Home Questionnaire for parental input.
  • It provides summary reports to school and parents--in letter form, with no numbers or labels used to communicate test results.
  • It's economical
Designed for 4- and 5-year-olds, STEPS screens five areas: Intellectual Skills, Verbal Information Skills, Cognitive Strategies, Motor Skills, and Attitudes in Learning Situations.

The child performs several tasks--copying shapes and words, identifying colors, classifying objects, following directions, remembering digits. Most children enjoy these activities, and, because STEPS can be completed in as little as 8 minutes, they don't become tired or inattentive.

STEPS is scored as it's given, and the unique test form automatically transfers the results onto two summary reports--one for the school and one for the parents. Both reports are written in letter form and neither uses numbers or labels to communicate test results. The school report indicates skills mastered and areas that may require attention. When appropriate, it recommends monitoring or additional testing. Children who need support are identified but not labeled.

The parent report explains the child's performance in terms that parents can understand and accept. It notes the child's strengths and weaknesses, but does not present numerical scores or make normative comparisons. Teachers find it especially useful at parent conferences.

STEPS is a true screening tool--it's brief, uncomplicated, and economical. Research with more than 1,500 4- and 5-year-olds has shown STEPS to be trouble-free. It's easy to use, it's nonthreatening, and it does not over- or underscreen. And because STEPS measures skills that are directly related to successful classroom functioning, test results are educationally relevant. STEPS shows the kindergarten teacher where to begin with each child.