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Results Matter Documentation

Documentation Best Practices and Policies

Documentation, the process of collecting observations about children’s development and learning, is the bedrock of authentic assessment and a key piece of the data-based decision making model. It serves as evidence of learning for reliable ratings and builds a rich portfolio for sharing with families. Therefore, teachers are required to enter documentation online.

The observation/documentation process should begin immediately after a child starts in your program, regardless of whether a child enrolls late in a checkpoint period. Information from evaluations and screenings can serve as documentation for the related objectives and dimensions. 

Documentation can include typed notes, digital photos (of work samples or activities), voice recordings, video recordings, and other vendor-supported resources. Photos and work samples should include context statements to illustrate how they relate to the chosen objectives. Consider time-saving methods built into the assessment tools, preliminary ratings, and documentation apps. Note: pictures and videos are not required. Documentation apps are available as an optional convenience for teachers. If you choose to use videos, Tips Sheet: where and When to Store Video Clips is a handy resource to help decide when it is worth uploading video clips to the child’s online assessment portfolio versus keeping them on your computer. 

While teachers must have at least one piece of documentation to support their ratings, CDE does not require two or more per objective. The expectation is simply that teachers have some form of high-quality, objective documentation that can inform all assessment ratings. CDE does not recommend that programs set an arbitrary minimum number of pieces of documentation as it tends to become a race to collect quantity over quality observations.

Teachers do not necessarily need to collect one piece of documentation per objective per child every checkpoint period:

  • A single piece of documentation capturing the language and behaviors of multiple children at one moment can be uploaded once and can populate the portfolios of multiple children instantly, saving time previously needed to document the same information for each child individually. However, information specific to individual children should be noted within this piece of documentation.
  • Likewise, a single observation containing rich, thorough information can serve as documentation for multiple objectives and domains. Teachers and paraprofessionals can then edit each portfolio as needed to individualize this documentation for each child. It is important to consider confidentiality when using these methods. Instead of a child’s name, you can use initials when entering documentation into a single child’s portfolio. Use caution to protect confidentiality when typing notes and uploading photos that include multiple children.
  • Teachers do not need to continually collect documentation on an objective where a child has “topped out” on the assessment rating scale and has not shown any regression since the last period. At the same time, staff should be mindful when there is regression on an objective and should use documentation to support ratings when there is a rating change.

Use your intuition, discretion, and personal knowledge about your children in order to decide whether to collect more than one piece of documentation in a checkpoint period. You may notice a child is developing relatively fast on one particular objective, and you want to capture this growth through the qualitative data that is documentation. As a result, you may make a preliminary rating of level 3 early in the checkpoint period based on one observation but make another preliminary rating of level 4 later in the period using another observation. At the same time, there is no expectation to consistently collect documentation on every objective within a checkpoint period. Most of the time, you can collect your documentation, upload and tag the related objective(s), and move on. Remember, the purpose of documentation is to inform your rating and adjust instruction accordingly. Use documentation however it helps you in this process.

Lead assessors should consider the entire body of documentation collected from the assessment team when scoring. Families should be considered as part of the documentation team. For children on IEPs, specialists should also contribute documentation and/or ratings. The general education and special education teacher should consider teaming to share information used for eligibility determination as the general education teacher may not have been involved in the evaluation, especially if the child was not already in preschool at the time of referral. Some assessment vendors allow itinerant service providers and family members to aid you in the documentation process through specialized portals or apps. Such features help you collect valuable evidence from all team members and save you time.

Documentation Apps

GOLD® and COR Advantage offer documentation apps for mobile devices as a convenience to teachers to make the documentation process more efficient. However, CDE does not require the use of pictures and videos for documentation. 

Make sure to upload documentation daily. If you wait too long with a backlog of large file sizes, the app may crash and you risk losing your documentation.

Partnering with Families in the Assessment Process

Families are important partners in the assessment process. 

A common misconception is that family members are “unreliable observers” in regards to observational assessment. On the contrary, families know their children very well, often carefully observing their children on a daily basis. They can help in the observation process and extend learning and development outside of the classroom. Family members certainly should not be completing assessment ratings but they are a valuable source of information and documentation.

The assessments' online systems typically offer portals where family members can contribute documentation captured outside of the classroom, and teachers can share their own documentation with family members. This often underutilized feature is a wonderful way to engage families in their child’s assessment and save teachers time in collecting documentation.

In addition, local providers should consider informing families about the purposes and methods of authentic assessment as soon as children enroll. Parents are more likely to trust the data and find the information personally valuable if they understand it up front. Consider using family friendly brochures from assessment publishers to aid in the process.

Browse the Results Matter Video Library for more exciting ways to engage families. 

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