Classroom-based assessments may sound like a formal concept, but they should be a welcome part of ongoing communications between families and educators, leading educators said today at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Professional Development Institute.
Myriam Baker, director of research and evaluation for Knowledge Universe, made the case for educational assessments as a tool to help teachers meet the needs of all children. Knowledge Universe is the parent company of KinderCare Learning Centers, the nation’s leading private provider of early childhood education.
“The beauty of assessments is the empirical evidence that helps us understand each individual child’s strengths and needs for support. With that information we can help teachers to use a data-based approach to adjust the educational experience to help each child learn in ways that work best for them,” said Myriam, who leads assessment, research and evaluation efforts for the estimated 150,000 children enrolled in Knowledge Universe programs.
The panel, which included Inclusion Services Manager Kate Jordan-Downs and research analyst Bobby Baca, helped participants learn about different categories of early childhood assessment, including developmental screenings, formative assessments and summative assessments.
Developmental screenings, which are a brief snapshot of where a child is relative to expectations based on peers nationally, can provide early identification of children at risk of developmental delays, as well as giving parents a brief overview of their children’s development on key indicators in the areas of language, cognitive, motor, and social-emotional development.
Formative assessments are more detailed, and provide an ongoing measure of children’s progress toward specific developmental milestones as seen in typical day-to-day activities in which the children demonstrate their knowledge and abilities.
Summative assessments can be used to evaluate how well a program is doing at achieving its stated goals, such as preparing children to be ready for kindergarten.
“Sharing assessment results is one more tool to engage families in the whole education of their child, but it is only useful if we are thoughtful about learning from the data and adapting our curriculum to meet the children where they are with their progress and their own unique needs,” Myriam said.
Assessments generally entail teachers, center directors, assistant directors and enrichment staff observing children during various typical learning activities to record each child’s development.
“It’s part of our responsibility as leading early childhood educators to help our colleagues better understand the value assessment brings to children and their families, our classrooms, and our communities,” said Kate. “Having the ability to analyze a child’s strengths and areas of support objectively creates an opportunity to improve instruction and learning outcomes for children of all abilities. Being able to confidently discuss these results with families and engage them in the learning process of the child is a best practice of inclusive education.”