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.
IGDIs, and many other recently developed assessments for preschool children, require a certain degree of “fussiness” on the part of teachers and others collecting assessment data. In our trainings for IGDIs, and in manuals and other documents that describe their use, we emphasize the importance of standardization, or following to the letter assessment directions, scoring criteria, and many other aspects of the task of assessing young children.
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?
The Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) which are learning goals that describe what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade, for K-12 education. The intent of these common standards is to establish consistent learning benchmarks for all children across the country, to increase the likelihood that students, regardless of the state in which they live, graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life. Currently, forty-five states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have adopted the Common Core. Find more information on the Common Core at: http://www.corestandards.org.
I am asked often, “Is it a violation of developmentally appropriate practice to ask a preschool-age child questions about his/her knowledge in a testing situation?”
This question may be common because direct child assessment can have a negative connotation for young children. Some testing situations are: time-intensive, which makes them uncomfortable; conducted by professionals who may not have a lot of experience working with young children; and, somewhat unnatural in that many young children do not often find themselves sitting one-on-one with an adult in a structured setting. But, what if testing is conducted in a manner that addresses these concerns?
In partnership with Early Learning Labs, the University of Minnesota has signed an agreement with the Iowa Department of Education to provide universal screening and progress monitoring assessments for reading achievement from pre-kindergarten through grade six. As part of the agreement, two sets of assessment tools developed by U of M researchers, one for preschool programs and another for elementary grades, will be implemented by Iowa teachers statewide starting in the 2013-2014 academic school year.
The title of this article is “Why do we assess preschool children?” Ironically, this question represents the central tenet of what should guide our thinking when approaching assessment of young children. Very young children are exposed to a variety of assessments, from the height and weight measurements they receive at every well-child check-up, to intensive diagnostic developmental assessments. What needs to be understood and very clear is that before a child experiences an assessment interaction, those conducting the assessment must be certain of the purpose of the assessment and how information from the assessment will be used.