Early Childhood Assessment Tools for Preschools

Preschools and early childhood educators across the country and around the globe are looking for better ways to assess their children’s progress. Being able to systematically and objectively assess students, teachers, and the environment are important because they affect the overall quality of the classroom and have been shown to affect child outcomes (as shown in other blogs).

In our classrooms, we commonly use items like child portfolios, growth and development books, anecdotals, and Teaching Strategies Gold (among other things).

Today I want to mention some more formal assessments: that is, the assessments that are more often seen in research (although certainly anecdotals and the like have been used in research). I will briefly mention a few, and then point you in the right direction to where you can glean more information (i.e. off of a companies website).

Classroom Assessment Scoring System(CLASS) “is an observational tool that provides a common lens and language focused on what matters—the classroom interactions that boost student learning. Data from CLASS™ observations are used to support teachers’ unique professional development needs, set school-wide goals, and shape system-wide reform at the local, state, and national levels.” CLASS focuses on effective teaching, helps teachers recognize and understand the power of their interactions with students, aligns with professional development tools, [and] works across age levels and subjects.

Early Literacy Skills Assessment(ELSA) ” is an authentic assessment in the form of a children’s storybook.  It is a generic instrument designed to measure the emerging literacy skills of children attending early childhood programs —  including but not limited to programs using the HighScope educational approach. The ELSA measures the four key principles of early literacy –Comprehension,Phonological  Awareness, Alphabetic Principle, and Concepts About Print.”

Preschool Program Quality Assessment(Preschool PQA) “is a rating instrument designed to evaluate the quality of early childhood programs and identify staff training needs. The Preschool PQA is reliable and valid and is appropriate for use in all center-based early childhood settings, including but not limited to those using the HighScope educational approach.” It assesses key aspects of program quality, reflects research-based and field-tested best practices in early childhood education and care, can be aligned with the Head Start Program Performance Standards, provides reliable, scientifically validated assessment proven in a wide range of early childhood programs and settings, [and] can be used as a basis for program accreditation, reporting, monitoring, and training.”

The HighScope Child Observation Record (COR) “is an observation-based instrument providing systematic assessment of young children’s knowledge and abilities in all areas of development. This authentic instrument can be used by any developmentally based program serving preschool children, not just programs using the HighScope Curriculum. The Preschool COR is used to assess children from the ages of 2½ to 6 years…The COR is an observational tool. Teachers or caregivers spend a few minutes each day writing brief notes (“anecdotes”) that describe significant episodes of young children’s behavior. They record their notes on printed forms or in computer files, and then classify and rate them according to the COR categories, items, and levels.”

Brigance  “The BRIGANCE® Head Start/Early Head Start System helps programs screen children, monitor each child’s progress, plan developmentally appropriate instruction, and ensure that each child is prepared for Kindergarten.”

Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA) “is a nationally normed assessment of within-child protective factors in preschool children aged two to five. Based on resilience theory, this comprehensive system is made up of a 5-step system designed to support early childhood teachers, mental health professionals, and parents in their goal of helping children develop healthy social/emotional skills and reduce challenging behaviors.”

Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) “is a brief behavioural screening questionnaire about 3-16 year olds. It exists in several versions to meet the needs of researchers, clinicians and [educators]. All versions of the SDQ ask about 25 attributes, some positive and others negative.  These 25 items are divided between 5 scales: 1) emotional symptoms (5 items), 2) conduct problems (5 items), 3) hyperactivity/inattention (5 items), 4) peer relationship problems (5 items), and 5) prosocial behaviour (5 items).”

Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL [Psychology Wiki]) “was a parent-report questionnaire on which the child was rated on various behavioral and emotional problems. It was first developed by Thomas M. Achenbach and has been one of the most widely-used standardized measures in child psychology for evaluating maladaptive behavioral and emotional problems in preschool subjects aged 2 to 3 or in subjects between the ages of 4 and 18. It assessed internalizing (i.e., anxious, depressive, and overcontrolled) and externalizing (i.e., aggressive, hyperactive, noncompliant, and undercontrolled) behaviors. Several subareas were measured including social withdrawal, somatic complaints, anxiety and depression, destructive behavior, social problems, thought problems, attention problems, aggressive behavior, and delinquent behaviors.”

Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO) “Trusted by schools across the country, ELLCO helps build better literacy programs by assessing the quality of both the classroom environment and teachers’ practices. With ELLCO, educators reliably gather the essential data needed for professional development and program improvement that lead to better literacy outcomes for young children.”

There are several Environment Rating Scales that have been developed through University of North Carolina that are commonly used by the varying preschool types:

Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (Revised) [ECERS-R)

Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale (ITERS-R)

Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale (FCCRS-R)

School-Age Care Environment Rating Scale (SACERS)

Please note that the assessment tools I listed are purely because they are the tools I use or have heard of.

For other blogs on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): click here to read about implementing CLASS, click here to see the breakdown of the CLASS content (the domains and dimensions), click here to read more about Dr Hamre’s work regarding CLASS and academic achievement, or click here to find research that has been published using CLASS as an assessment tool.

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