At the heart of Results Matter is a developmentally appropriate assessment that provides valid, meaningful, and representative information about young children. Early childhood care and education providers who participate in the Results Matter program use assessment systems such as GOLD® by Teaching Strategies to assess learning and development in all major areas of development and learning. Through the authentic assessment strategies of ongoing observation, portfolio documentation, and completion of developmental checklists, educators identify and plan for the instructional needs of young children in their care throughout the year.
Authentic assessment is:
- Developmentally Appropriate – uses assessment tools that considered by the scientific and professional community to be valid, reliable, and appropriate for young children
- Ongoing – educators observe, document, and monitor the progress of children throughout the year
- Naturalistic – occurs in children’s everyday routines with familiar people, places, and things
- Multifaceted – draws from a variety of sources including multiple team members’ observations and children’s own work samples and portfolios
- A Whole Child Approach – assesses all areas of learning and development including social-emotional, language, literacy, math, physical, and cognitive development as well as approaches to learning, creative arts, social studies, and science
- Useful – helps teachers plan, measure progress, work with families, and individualize learning
Teachers are assessors in the Results Matter model. To ensure authentic assessment is used with fidelity, strong professional development is essential. Results Matter makes available a variety of professional development resources:
- Brief interactive module on writing effective observation notes
- Self-reflection tools and monthly job targets to guide each program's implementation of authentic assessment
- Observation: The Heart of Authentic Assessment: a training module on intentional observation skills complete with all trainer and trainee course materials
- A world-renowned downloadable video series for providers to practice observation, learn about effective teaming practices, technology in early childhood classrooms, and more
- Assessment orientation modules and interrater reliability certification available through the online assessment systems
- Customized workshops on observation and assessment skills as well as specific assessment systems (due to limited state resources, these workshops are generally only available to providers who serve children funded by Colorado Preschool Program and preschool special education)
In addition, Results Matter has contributed to the Introduction to Child Assessment and How to Use Child Assessment Data to Achieve Positive Outcomes courses available in the Colorado Professional Development Information System (PDIS).
Technology, when used appropriately, can be a powerful tool in early childhood education. What’s particularly beneficial for educators and families in the Results Matter program is that they have access to online systems that provide real-time reporting and digital portfolios.
Children's assessment results are recorded using secure online systems that allow immediate access to a variety of progress reports including reports about Colorado standards. Access-controlled reports are available in real time at the child, classroom, site, program, and state level. Documentation can be uploaded to create a rich digital portfolio of children’s learning and development. While not required, educators have the added option of capturing this evidence of growth through pictures and videos which can be particularly transformative material for engaging families in the assessment process.
Decision makers require information. Information comes from data. Data need to be analyzed in order to draw meaning and form the basis for decision-making.
Decision makers are everywhere: educators, principals, families, policymakers, just to name a few. Among these roles, assessment information is used for:
- Planning individual and class-wide instruction
- Communicating with families
- Potentially supplementing additional educational experiences at home
- Planning classroom and program-wide improvement strategies
- Resource allocation
- Accountability and program evaluation
- For example, see the Colorado Preschool Program and Special Education annual reports
The Results Matter program provides meaningful assessment data that can be used to make decisions at several levels. At higher levels, public reports are always aggregated and never reveal personally identifiable information.
Of course, we know children don’t grow and learn in a vacuum. When analyzed with other important information such as program quality and long-term outcomes, early childhood assessment data can provide more context about educational environments.
A potential benefit is that this information can be tied to specific schools and programs in order to support continuous quality improvement efforts, family outreach, and community systems work. Services and programs can also be evaluated and held accountable to taxpayers, funders, and communities. Ultimately, these systems can improve where they are lacking and celebrate where they are strong.
We all want to see great outcomes for children. To that end, we must measure those outcomes.