Early Childhood Assessment: 9 Keys to Effective Practice

Early Childhood Assessment: 9 Keys to Effective PracticeRecently, we published a paper by Dr. Cindy Jiban, titled Early Childhood Assessment: Implementing Effective Practice. If you are an early childhood educator, specialist or administrator, I highly recommend taking a look at this resource. In the paper, Dr. Jiban reflects on the key considerations that should guide our early childhood assessment decisions and lays out a practical, three step process for building a comprehensive assessment plan in the early grades (prekindergarten – 3rd grade) in line with best practices.

In my next series of articles, I’ll be pulling out and discussing key themes from that paper. To kick off the series, here are 9 keys to effective practice that I gleaned from the paper:

1. The context that informs assessment decisions for early learners is unique. It is not enough to assess earlier content using approaches used in older grades. Special attention must be paid to developmental appropriateness and rapid development across domains.

2. Early Childhood Assessment must be purpose-driven. Different tools are appropriate for different purposes. Negative outcomes result when tools are used for purposes for which they were not designed.

3. Assessment must be aligned to curriculum and instruction. Material assessed must represent the valued outcomes on which instruction is focused.

4. Assessment must be beneficial to students. Assessments of young children must serve to optimize learning.

5. A wide range of domains needs to be assessed in early childhood. This includes math and literacy, as well as non-academic domains.

6. Multiple methods should be used to create a comprehensive picture of strengths and needs. (e.g. tests, observation, interviews, portfolios, projects, developmental history).

7. Kindergarten readiness assessments can be informative, but should not be used to prevent students from receiving educational programming.

8. Early Childhood Assessment in the early grades is a critical component of evidence-based early intervention. It can help identify needs and prevent learning difficulties.

9. Authenticity is an important feature to consider for early childhood assessments. Authentic assessment includes tasks or observations that occur in the context of regular play or activities, in settings typical to the child. Each assessment method, whether an observational tool or a test, may incorporate features of authenticity (such as the use of feedback).

If you work in the early childhood space, can you think of any additional keys to effective assessment practice in the early grades? If we keep these keys at the center of our assessment decisions, we can be sure to serve our youngest students in the best way we can. Stay tuned to unpack some of these ideas further in the next article.