The Lollipop Test
In the actual Lollipop test, a child is asked to identify items from a set of “stimulus cards.” First, he or she is asked to look at colored lollipops (hence the test's name) and identify the colors. On the next page they identify different shapes (triangle, rectangle, square, circle, etc.).
The child is then asked to look at and identify a picture of a momma cat and her kittens. Identifying more items in the picture, such as a bowl or mentioning the position or size of the different kittens, earns the child more points.
The next section involves lollipops again. This time they are asked to identify the smaller and larger ones in comparison to each other. Continuing on, the child is shown two pages: one with numbers 1 through 10; and one with 15 different letters on them
Here the tester does two things: First, they ask the child to show them five particular letters; then, they point to five other letters and ask the child ” What letter is this?”
Finally, each child is asked to then write their name. Points are given for each letter identified or used.
Dr. Alexander Chew first started thinking about the importance of lollipops to education in the 1960s.
With his academic and professional career focused on education, Chew sought to develop a tool that would help determine how prepared young children were to begin formal schooling.
“I became interested in early education while working as a school psychologist,” Chew said. “I wanted to develop a non-threatening or intimidating test that wouldn't require professional psychologists but rather could be administered by the teachers themselves.”
Born and raised in Richmond and Jefferson Counties, Chew began his career working in public schools as a classroom teacher, as well as school counselor, psychologist and administrator in Richmond.
He earned degrees in education at Armstrong College, Georgia Southern College, and then received two Doctorates from the University of Mississippi in 1977 and 1979. In 1979, Chew returned to Georgia Southern to begin teaching graduate courses in Educational Psychology and Counseling.
Upon his return to Georgia Southern, Chew put lollipops and his years of experience to work for him in researching, writing and publishing in 1981 “The Lollipop Test: A Diagnostic Screening Test of School Readiness.”
Now in its third edition, “The Lollipop Test” is considered a ground-breaking work in the field of education. In short, it examines the learning abilities of kindergarten-aged children and has become a widely-used test used across North and South America.
Chew said the Lollipop Test “was made less expensive, easier to give in a much shorter period of time, and able to be corrected on-site, something many of the more expensive tests do not allow.”
Dr. Steve Lang, a professor of Measurement and Research at the University of South Florida, has worked with Chew during the past few years to further develop and revise the test.
Lang said that Dr. Chew’s study and research helped him determine that each child's first experience in a school setting could affect how that student performed all throughout his or her elementary, middle and high school experience. Therefore, he said, Chew went to great lengths to make it quick and painless for the kids.
Lang said Dr. Chew made sure the test uses only those cultural and social examples that students of all socioeconomic backgrounds would be able to readily identify, something many of the more expensive tests do not take into account.
Chew also said he tried to eliminate the unnecessary questions, stating that “Some of the other tests tested for things that didn't necessarily have anything to do with school readiness.”
Chang said comparisons of available pre-school tests have shown that the Lollipop Test is the most reliable and the most effective way to identify any student's developmental areas that need to be strengthened.
As part of his research, Chew said: “I went into the schools and tested the children with two tests. Using what we call 'longitudinal predictive studies', I compared the scores of the same students in the first, second, and third grades using both sets of tests. My study, when published, was the first that covered the first four years of test scores of the children for school readiness.”
Chew said the Lollipop test proved more effective.
Dr. Lang said a national study released recently examined five different ways to improve high school graduation levels, including reducing class size, requiring more parental involvement, and providing community mentors in high school.
To the surprise of many, the best results achieved in improving graduation percentages were accomplished in the earliest years by ensuring that a student had a strong pre-school education.
Bulloch County schools currently use the “Dial Test” for pre-K and kindergarten students, according to Jody Woodrum, assistant superintendent for K-5 programs, Teaching and Learning. Similar to the Lollipop Test, Dial is an individually administered developmental screening test that helps identify young children in need of further diagnostic assessment.
A large school system in Florida recently switched to using the Lollipop Test.
Dr. Carol Crownover is the lead resource teacher for the Seminole County pre-school kindergarten program and an adjunct professor in Early Childhood Education at Nova Southeaster. University.
Seminole County has 540 pre-school children in 24 classrooms in 20 schools. A classroom teacher of third-grade and under children for more than 10 years, Dr. Crownover first heard of Chew's test from a professor at Nova when she was finishing her master's thesis.
Crownover soon convinced the Seminole School System to adopt the Lollipop Test. While the state of Florida mandates that all public schools use other specific tests that focus solely on early reading and math skills, the Lollipop Test is given to all the children as well.
She said many of the more expensive tests don't include as a part of their test “pencil and paper” sections that examine a child’s ability to actually draw and write. The Lollipop Test does, she said.
Crownover said it is the only way to accurately test their fine motor skills. In addition, she said, the Lollipop Test examines the student's expressive language skills, by requiring them to put together sentences instead of just identifying single words. Many tests focus on single words only.
What makes the test really exceptional, she said, is the use of simple pictures that are very familiar to children and always evoke a measurable response.
Crownover said that hundreds, perhaps thousands of pre-K children in Seminole County owe the Lollipop Test credit for their later successes in school. Dr. Chew's test, she said, is simply amazing.
Chew taught at Georgia Southern for 21 years and retired in 2000. He currently is Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology and Counseling.
Right now, Chew and Lang are working on a book that identifies resources for developmentally appropriate activities for young children. Also, the Lollipop test recently was translated into French and Spanish.