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Assessment for Progress Monitoring and Alignment to Standards
Direct Assessment Compared to Authentic Assessment
Authentic assessment may feel burdensome to staff implementing it for the first time. This is particularly the case for staff who are used to direct assessments like PALS and Woodcock-Johnson, which often focus on individual domains administered in a relatively short window. However, observational, whole-child assessments are not intended to be administered in the same way as direct assessments. The formative process of ongoing observation in all areas of development and learning requires teachers to document what they see children doing based on their planning and instruction. Data is not just collected a few weeks or days before the checkpoint finalization date. With this frame in mind, CDE and assessment vendors are committed to developing resources, such as mobile apps, training materials, implementation roadmaps, and policy guidance, to help teachers use the approved assessments efficiently.
Diagnostic Assessment Compared to Authentic Assessment
While authentic assessment tools like GOLD® and COR are not intended as diagnostic evaluations to identify developmental delays or establish eligibility for special education services, they provide a valuable source of data (as a part of a whole body of evidence) to support referral, IEP eligibility, and progress monitoring purposes. As ongoing progress monitoring tools, these assessments provide important evidence to substantiate the need for a referral to special education when a child is demonstrating persistent challenges in meeting widely held expectations for their age. Observational child assessments can also be used for ongoing progress monitoring following eligibility determination for specialized instruction and related services. Such use of ongoing assessment is a recommended practice by the Division for Early Childhood of the Council of Exceptional Children.
Curriculum versus Assessment
It is important to remember that the Results Matter-approved tools (GOLD® and COR Advantage) are assessments, not curricula. A curriculum is a set of strategies for learning experiences while an assessment gauges whether children have met various standards of learning and development. Each component has a distinct place in designing effective classroom practices. Assessment tools on the Results Matter and menu are intended to be used with any developmentally appropriate curriculum that takes a holistic approach to development and learning. Educators and leaders are encouraged to thoughtfully choose the most appropriate evidence-based curriculum for their program and how they will assess whether children have met certain standards while teaching using the curriculum.
See the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s position statement on early childhood curriculum, assessment, and program evaluation for more information about the qualities of effective curriculum and assessment.
Alignment to Current Standards and Best Practices
The Results Matter approach to assessment aligns with a variety standards and best practices that early childhood educators are subject to:
Assessment tools on the Results Matter menu have been aligned to the Colorado Preschool Academic Standards, Colorado Early Childhood and Development Guidelines, and Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework. Item-level alignments are available on the Results Matter Implementation Page and/or within the online assessment tools.
The Division of Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices for assessment have several commonalities including “Practitioners use a variety of methods, including observation and interviews, to gather assessment information from multiple sources, including the child’s family and other significant individuals in the child’s life” (A6) and “Practitioners conduct assessments that include all areas of development and behavior to learn about the child’s strengths, needs, preferences, and interests.” (A4)
Colorado’s Early Childhood Professional Competencies around child observation and assessment have several commonalities including “Plans and applies appropriate indirect and direct child observation and assessment methods to gather and keep confidential a well-rounded and accurate description of the development of the individual child” (COA.1.2) and “Uses child observation and assessment strategies on a regular basis to collect information about each child and monitors results to inform planning and referrals” (COA 3.2).
The National Association for the Education of Young Children Standard #4 - Assessment of Child Progress: “The program is informed by ongoing systematic, formal, and informal assessment approaches to provide information on children’s learning and development. These assessments occur within the context of reciprocal communications with families and with sensitivity to the cultural contexts in which children develop. Assessment results are used to benefit children by informing sound decisions about children, teaching, and program improvement.”
The National Association for Elementary School Principals (NAESP) - Pre-K-3 Leadership Standard #5: “Use multiple assessments to create experiences that strengthen student learning.” NAESP goes on to say that the “ideal for young children’s learning includes programs that are guided by ongoing classroom-based assessment, rather than by an over-reliance on norm-referenced testing.”
The Colorado Quality Standards for Early Childhood Care and Education Services have several commonalities including “The teaching team utilizes observation and assessment practices which reflect developmental principles, and which are integrated and used to benefit each child” (G-7) and “Staff and families plan learning activities for children based on assessment of individual needs and interests” (B-2).
The National Academies’ Early Childhood Assessment: Why, What, and How, a landmark consensus study report, recommended that “domains included when assessing child outcomes and the quality of education programs should be expanded beyond those traditionally emphasized (language, literacy, and mathematics) to include others, such as affect, interpersonal interaction, and opportunities for self-expression”(D-1).
The National Institute for Early Education Research identifies the use of appropriate child assessment to inform instruction as one of 15 elements of high-quality preschool.