What Is The Purpose Of Assessment In Early Childhood Education

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What Is The Purpose Of Assessment In Early Childhood Education

What Is The Purpose Of Assessment In Early Childhood Education

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Early Years Educator (l3)

Summary Assessment of young children’s development and learning has recently taken on new importance. Private and governmental organizations are developing programs to improve the school readiness of all young children, especially children from economically disadvantaged homes and communities and children with special needs. These programs are designed to improve social, language and academic skills through responsive early care and education. In addition, they are a place where children with developmental problems can be identified and receive appropriate interventions. Social and government initiatives have also promoted accountability for these educational programs, especially those that are publicly funded. These initiatives focus on promoting learning standards and monitoring children’s progress in meeting those standards. In this atmosphere, Congress passed legislation such as the Government Performance and Results Act and the No Child Left Behind Act. School systems and government agencies are required to set goals, monitor progress, analyze program strengths and weaknesses, and report on their achievements, with consequences for unmet goals. Similarly, early childhood education and intervention programs are increasingly being asked to prove their value.

EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT In 2006, Congress directed the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a study on the developmental outcomes and appropriate assessment of young children. With funding from the Office of Head Start at the US Department of Health and Human Services, the specific charge for this committee was the identification of important outcomes for children from birth to 5 years of age and the quality and purpose of various developmental assessment techniques and instruments. The commission’s review highlights two key principles. First, the purpose of assessment should guide assessment decisions. Second, assessment activity should be conducted within a coherent system of medical, educational, and family support services that promote optimal development for all children. Our focus on the need for intentionality and systematicity is particularly important at this point, as young children are currently being assessed for a wide variety of purposes, across a wide variety of domains, and in multiple service settings. The increase in the amount of assessment raises understandable concerns about whether assessments are selected, implemented and interpreted correctly. Child assessments can be used for a variety of purposes such as determining the level of functioning of individual children, guiding instruction, or measuring functioning at the program, community, or state level. Different purposes require different types of assessments, and the evidence base that supports the use of an assessment for one purpose may not be appropriate for another. As the consequences of assessment findings become more severe, the accuracy and quality of the instruments used to provide findings must be more reliable. Decisions based on an assessment used to monitor a child’s progress may be important to that child and her family and must therefore be taken with caution, but they may also be challenged and reconsidered more easily than assessments used to determine the fate or funding for groups of children, such as those who attend a local child care center, an early education program, or a national program such as Head Start. When used for program evaluation and accountability purposes, often referred to as high-stakes, we have adopted the following definition of high-stakes evaluation (see A Â Appendix A): Tests and/or assessment processes for which the results lead to signi-

SUMMARY Assessments can have major implications for large numbers of children and families, for the community served by the program, and for policy. If decisions about individual children or programs are to be defended, the assessment system must reflect the highest standards of evidence in three domains: the psychometric properties of the instruments used in the assessment system; the evidence supporting the appropriateness of assessment instruments for different ethnic, racial, linguistic, functional status, and age group populations; and domains that serve as the focus of assessment. In addition, resources should be directed to the training of evaluators, the analysis and reporting of results, and the interpretation of those results. Such attention is especially warranted when making decisions about whether programs will continue to be financed by tax money. The purpose and system principles also apply to the interpretation, use and communication of assessment data. Data collection should be preceded by planning how the data will be used, who should have access to it, what decisions it will play in, and what stakeholders should know about it. Ideally, any assessment activity benefits children by providing information that can be used to inform their caregivers and teachers, to improve the quality of their care and educational environments, and to identify remediable risk factors in children. . But assessments can also have negative consequences. Direct judgments can make children feel anxious, incompetent, or bored, and indirect judgments can be burdensome for adults. Assessment activity can also divert time and resources from teaching, and assessments cost money. It is therefore important to ensure that the value of the information gathered through assessments outweighs any negative effects on adults or children and is worth the investment of resources. Deliberate and systematic assessment requires decisions about what to assess. In this study, the committee focuses on five significant sanctions or rewards for children, their teachers, administrators, schools/programs, and/or school systems. Sanctions can be direct (eg, retention in a children’s class, reassignment of teachers, reorganization of schools) or unintended (eg, narrowing of the curriculum, increased dropout).

EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT domains that build on the school readiness work of the National Panel on Educational Goals (1995): 1. physical well-being and motor development, 2. social and emotional development, 3. approaches to learning, 4. developmental language (including public literacy) and 5. cognition and general knowledge (including mathematics and science). This list reflects state early learning standards, guidelines from organizations focused on the well-being of young children, and the status of available assessment instruments. Domains are not specific to many areas of potential interest to parents, educators, and society, such as art, music, creativity, prosocial behavior, and morality. Also, for some purposes and for some children, including infants and preschoolers with disabilities, a functional rather than a specific approach to assessment may be appropriate. Once the objective is established and a set of domains selected, the next challenge is to identify the best assessment instrument; this may be one that is widely used, or an adaptation of a previously used instrument, or in some cases a newly developed instrument. The various approaches available, which include conducting direct assessments, interviewing parents or teachers, observing children in natural or less structured settings, and analyzing their work, all represent rich sources of information. Questions of psychometric adequacy, particularly the validity of the instrument selected for all subgroups of children to be considered, are most important for observational and interview instruments as well as for direct assessments. The remainder of this summary presents assessment guidelines related to four issues: objectives, domains and measures, implementation, and systems. The summary concludes with key points for the future research agenda.

Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Checklist • Kids Activities Blog

SUMMARY Guidelines for Assessment Objectives (P-1) Public and private entities that conduct assessments of young children should make the objectives of the assessment clear and public. (P-2) The assessment strategy—which assessments to use, how often to administer them, how long they should be, how the domain of items or children or programs should be sampled—should fit the stated purpose and require a minimum time to obtain valid results for that purpose. Even assessments that do not directly involve children, such as classroom observations, teacher evaluation forms, and collection of work products, impose a burden on adults and will require advance planning for the use of information. (P-3) Those charged with selecting assessments should carefully weigh options, considering the suitability of candidate assessments for the intended purpose and for use with all subgroups of children to be included. Although the same measure can be used for more than one purpose, prior consideration of all potential purposes is essential, as is careful analysis of the actual content of the assessment instrument. Direct examination of assessment items is important because the title of the measure does not always reflect the content. Guidelines for Domains and Measures of Developmental Outcomes (D-1) The domains included in the assessment of child outcomes and the quality of educational programs should be expanded further.

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