Dear Joan, The idea of using a preassessment is really great. We've been using Investigations in Watertown for quite some time so we all know what units should have been covered each year. But, given that knowledge, we still have the need to figure out where the kids are along the learning continuum. I haven't heard of anyone using a "pretest" type of assessment, but I'll bet there are teachers out there who have developed such things. In the meantime, knowing what units were covered in previous years can at least indicate the presence of major gaps. The first year I taught fifth grade I had to teach "Different Shapes, Equal Pieces" before I could begin "Name That Portion".
Let me know if you turn up anything. You've really hit on a good idea.