As the academic year gets going, one objective at the forefront of many preschool program’s evaluation plan is fall academic screening. Typically, students are screened within a few weeks of starting class to establish a baseline status. This information, often collected with measures like IGDIs for early literacy and early numeracy skills, can be used to inform how instruction may most benefits the students in the classroom.
Technology is growing exponentially in educational environments. Every day children and educators have access to volumes of resources that are provided in digital interfaces— computers, tablets and smartboards are all commonplace in classrooms across the nation. As opportunities to engage technology become more and more available in early childhood it is important on consider if the value added is worth the investment.
In the first years of life, developmental trajectories change rapidly, creating dramatic opportunities for children to learn new things and grow. This window of growth is an important time because research indicates parents, educators and other adults are the primary influencers in child level success. Within these first five years, language development is included in this window, as children are listening and learning new vocabulary within every interaction with their caregivers.
Using technology in preschool classrooms to improve assessment and promote data-based decision making
When the topics of early childhood education and technology come together there are often intense opinions about when and if children should be exposed to technology at young ages, how such interactions impact child level outcomes and behaviors and the intended or unintended impact such use of technology in preschool may have on family, teacher, classroom or system level practices. Current research is developing on both sides of this debate and at present we have few empirical studies to support how to make decisions about child level interactions with technology during the early childhood years.
with special contribution from Mary Mischke, Early Childhood Specialist Pre-K of Bloomington Public Schools (MN)
When we hear the term “data-based decision making” or “data-driven instruction” early childhood teachers often wonder, “What constitutes data?” and “How do I use it to make decisions?” Data are the information we collect at the student and classroom level to evaluate student success or instructional practices, and when we use those data to drive how we modify our instruction we engage a data-driven process. Conceptually, it sounds easy enough, but in practice, it takes careful attention to a host of factors. This story features one school district’s experience with data-based decision making and how this model has promoted best practices in their preschool classrooms.
Volumes of research illustrate how the first five years are a window especially ripe for creating healthy, happy and successful children. Over the past two decades a substantial collection of seminal work on the magic that occurs in these precious years have been disseminated across the nation in reports, website, editorials, books and research study findings (e.g. Neurons to Neighborhoods, Harvard’s Developing Child Center, National Early Literacy Panel, Thirty Million Words, etc.). Findings stretching from neuron formations and brain development, to the value of talking to children in meaningful conversation to build vocabulary, to supporting healthy eating habits that promote sustained healthy lifestyles have all contributed to the importance of these first five years. As a result, it is now well accepted that across the research, findings all point to the core notion that if we want to create circumstances for the most success in life, we must start in early childhood.
In the early 2000’s, legislative shifts and new educational paradigms started to shift attention to Pre-Kindergarten outcomes. A new focus on academic readiness was born, with the aim of better preparing students for Kindergarten. With laws and initiatives like Early Reading First and No Child Left Behind, we began to direct our attention on the early predictors for academic success. One of these predictors, early literacy, gained much attention as researchers went to work to define what it is and how it contributes to educational success.
At a national level the demographics of preschool classrooms are evolving such that larger and larger percentages of students represent native non-English speakers, or English Language Learners (ELL). Through efforts to maximize inclusive education practices, we are successfully serving more and more students, and increasingly the needs and languages represented are growing more and more diverse. In fact, a language other than English is spoken in more than 20% of U.S. households (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013). As we see classrooms make shifts in demographics, classroom teachers across the nation are asking the question: what do we need to consider when assessing ELL’s?
with special contribution from Marcia Reed, Lead ECSE teacher of Mounds View Public Schools
In an age of increased accountability and expectations, early childhood programs, school districts and other early care and education settings are often inspired to employ best-practices and high-quality interventions to meet the needs of their students. Research findings have contributed to resources for early childhood professionals to access such practices, such as the What Works Clearinghouse. However, contrary to popular opinion, there isn’t necessarily a correlation between quality and cost. While it’s true that there are some exceptionally well-constructed measurement tools, curricula or intervention that may be worth their weight in gold, there seem to be just as many poorly designed or ineffective measurement tools, curricula or intervention that don’t measure up.
Geometry. Algebra. Measurement. Arithmetic. These terms all represent a collection of skills often categorized in research literature as mathematics. However, findings supporting mathematics generally reference performance of elementary students through adults. Recent research demonstrates increasing attention to the development of early numeracy, or the early skills within a developmental continuum that function as precursors and prerequisites to mathematics.