Assessments as a learning tool

Portfolios are one way to assess a child's progress as they master new skills.

Portfolios are one way to assess a child’s progress as they master new skills.

Student assessments. The term conjures images of students bent over test sheets, #2 pencils scratching thin paper as each child carefully fills in the bubble sheet – and exactly the kind of mental image the Knowledge Universe Education team wants families to push out of their minds.

“We’re trying to dispel the negative association with the word,” said Myriam Baker, KU’s Director of Research and Development. “Our goal is to get the most authentic and accurate observations of progress for each child. Monitoring children’s progress helps teachers to better understand their students’ strengths and areas of need, tailoring their instruction to support all children in the classroom.”

Assessments not only help teachers determine what they should do to best support their students, but also let families know what their child is learning and what skills he or she will be focusing on next.

Assessments needn’t be formal tests. Every student in KU centers has the opportunity to be evaluated twice a year with the Early Foundations Developmental Assessment©. The Developmental Assessment is an example of what’s known as an “authentic assessment,” meaning it’s based on what a child does in a natural environment and setting, like a school classroom. The Developmental Assessment covers key milestones in children’s development across each early learning domain addressed in the KinderCare curriculum.

Another way KU teachers assess a child’s skills is through the BRIGANCE© Early Childhood Screens – III. The BRIGANCE screening consists of key skills children should be able to complete at various stages of their development. The BRIGANCE is currently in use in more than 300 centers across the country.

During the BRIGANCE screening, a preschool teacher would show a four-year-old a series of pictures of everyday objects and ask the child to explain what each item is for. (“This is a stove. What is a stove for?” “It’s for cooking.”) The screening covers a variety of learning domains and skills.

Teachers record each child’s answers and upload that information into an online management system to track the child’s progress throughout the year.

“This isn’t a ‘test’ with a score children are supposed to achieve,” said Baker. “We’re looking at how children perform in the classroom on a day-to-day basis to determine how our teachers can best support each child.”

Both assessments are completely optional. If families would rather their child not be assessed, they can choose not to participate.

In addition to the Developmental Assessment and the BRIGANCE screening, KU teachers work with each child to create a portfolio of work samples, art projects, and/or photographs that show evidence of what children are learning and doing in the classroom, showcasing the skills and subjects they’ve mastered throughout the year.

All of this information is shared with families twice a year at parent-teacher conferences. (Check out KLCentral for additional parent-teacher conference resources on the Education home page.)

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