Assessment of young children must be based on information
adequate for all the major purposes of assessment
(Dodge, Jablon, & Bickart, 1994; Hills, 1992). This means that the
data collected must constitute an adequate basis for:
- Instructional planning and communicating with parents.
Information for instructional planning and communicating with parents
depends on a teacher's careful and frequent observation of children's behavior
in the classroom activities, documentation of the observation in brief
records (written, audiotaped, videotaped, or photographed, and so on),
and interpretation of the meaning of this information in relation to developmental
and curricular expectations.
- Identifying children who need supplements or alternatives to the program
planned for typical children and deciding what those needs are.
When a teacher has cause to be concerned about the way a child is faring
in the program--for example, when a child seems not to be fulfilling expectations
that are reasonable in terms of age and background--she or he will want
to observe more carefully and more frequently, arrange for a colleague
to observe the child, and discuss the situation with the parents. If the
concerns persist after these steps, the teacher should be able to refer
the child for developmental screening, a procedure designed to distinguish
between children who may need an individualized program to meet their
special needs and those who probably do not.
Children who are identified at possible risk must then be referred for
diagnostic assessment, which will determine the nature of any developmental
problems or disabilities so that an individualized educational program
can be planned and implemented. (See Wolery, Strain, & Bailey, 1992.)
- Determining the worth of the program.
The extent to which the program is accomplishing the purposes for which it was
designed is determined from data aggregated from the group of children, rather
than analysis of the progress of individual children. Because young children's
learning is holistic rather than compartmentalized and because effective early
childhood programs are comprehensive in scope, data for evaluation should be
collected on all components of the program (National Association for the Education
of Young Children & National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State
Departments of Education, 1990) rather than just on the outcomes for children.
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