Posted on 10/21/2016 at 09:17 AM by Liz Determan

What can an assessment document tell us? How can a teacher know what to do next with the data that is gathered about a child? What can parents learn about their child in the process and how can they work with the teaching staff to help a child develop skills? These are all important pieces that are critical to the growth of a child and quality of the early childhood program.

Curriculum and learning standards guide what we do each and every day to develop a plan for learning in the classroom. Teachers need to consider what children are like, what they should learn, how to plan for and develop the class routine and learning spaces, and work with families to gain additional information about what a child knows and is learning. All of this helps the teaching staff plan the most effective learning opportunities for children. The next step then becomes the assessment documentation of how the child is making progress towards age level skills. The observations along with gathered materials (videos, projects, etc.) all tell a “story” about the child. That story allows adults to plan what are the learning needs and how those needs can best become part of the everyday routine, such as if a child is struggling with fine motor skills, the teacher can include activities that have the child use these skills in more activities that are part of the everyday routine (eating, writing, drawing, stringing beads, etc.). The cycle is now in place: curriculum, assessment, instruction! And, then it starts over again as teaching staff continue to gather new information that will then be used for planning and programming.

There are some critical elements that must be in place for assessment to be completed with integrity and allow for optimal planning for young children. One of the primary element is that all assessment (and curriculum as well) should be developmentally appropriate (DAP), which means that it is based on age and individual needs of the young child.  DAP also includes the perspective that a young child’s cultural and linguistic perspective is strongly considered as well as include families in the process. And, a high quality assessment program allows teachers to make the best possible decisions for meeting the learning needs of the young child.

Finally, in order to ensure that the system is most effective gather information over time, link data to ongoing daily planning, and use a variety of pieces of information to have the best picture of a child’s skills. Teaching staff should also have many chances to engage in learning opportunities to improve their skills in the assessment process. With all these details in place, it would be easy to say an assessment will truly reflect the what is learned about each and every child. (Resource: NAEYC Position Statement on curriculum, assessment and instruction).

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