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Developmental Screening in Early Childhood

Comprehensive Early Childhood Assessment System

A thoughtfully designed system of assessment ensures that children who are experiencing challenges in development and learning are identified as soon as possible and are connected to the services and programs that best meet their needs. A comprehensive assessment system utilizes three main assessment components: developmental screening, evaluation and assessment for determining eligibility and ongoing formative assessment. 

What is Developmental Screening for Young Children?

Developmental Screening: brief, relatively inexpensive, standardized procedures or tests designed to quickly assess a large number of children to find out which ones need further evaluation (Meisels & Atkins-Burnett, 2005).

Screening results should be considered along with additional information to ensure that the results accurately represent the child’s present level of learning and development.

Why is Developmental Screening Important?

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) guidelines for developmentally appropriate assessment practice endorse screening of all children to identify those who have special learning or developmental needs and to plan appropriate curriculum and instruction. It also helps district preschool advisory councils determine which risk factors are present in their community and impacting young children and their families.

  • Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) - All children being considered for placement in the CPP should be screened with a valid and reliable developmental screening tool.
  • Preschool Special Education - children who have already been determined eligible for preschool special education services should not automatically be screened as they are already identified as needing specialized supports and services.

Child Find’s Role in Developmental Screening

Child Find is required to do an evaluation of children who are identified as potentially needing special education services to benefit from instruction in the preschool setting. When an educational disability is suspected as a result of the developmental screening process, children should be referred to Child Find following the local special education referral process.

How Does Developmental Screening Differ From Formative Assessment?

Developmental screening:

  • used to determine the child’s eligibility for CPP or,
  • used to determine whether a referral to Child Find for additional evaluation and assessment is warranted.
  • conducted prior to the child’s entry into preschool.

Formative assessments: 

  • used to measure the developmental and academic growth of children over time.
  • used to plan and differentiate curriculum and instruction for each child.

Formative assessments used in preschools such as GOLD® by Teaching Strategies and HighScope COR Advantage are not screening instruments.


Additional Resources/References:

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