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Using Data-based Decision Making to Drive Instruction in PreK: One District’s Experience

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.

The Achievement Gap: why we need to start in early childhood

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.

Demonstrating Results: How Minnesota Reading Corps uses MTSS for preparing successful readers

In this post, we spotlight the Minnesota Reading Corps – the largest AmeriCorps program in the country. Authored by Minnesota Reading Corps’ Pre-K program developer, trainer and master coach, Kate Horst, this is the story of how the Minnesota Reading Corps established a framework of supports for producing strong literacy gains among emerging readers.

Kansas Preschool Programs using myIGDIs for Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS)

To ensure young children are reaching important achievement standards and school readiness goals, the Kansas Preschool Programs (KPP) are integrating structures necessary for implementing a Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS).

The Kansas MTSS framework is based on a systematic, evidence-based approach to curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices for influencing positive educational outcomes. Working within this framework, the Kansas Inservice Training System (KITS), a program of the Kansas University Life Span Institute at Parsons, initiated training to reinforce assessment, planning, and intentional instruction by the KPP.

What is early literacy and why is it so important?

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.

Los Angeles schools implement countywide tiered-intervention model

To ensure young children are socially and emotionally prepared for school, the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Head Start-State Preschool Division is implementing an innovative tiered model of intervention across all 16 of its delegate agencies.

“This new social-emotional model of intervention will help us prepare more than 13,000 at-risk preschool children in Los Angeles for kindergarten,” said Rebecca Lundeen, a school psychologist consultant for LACOE. “Over the past few years, we have seen incredible results with our Response-to-Intervention early literacy project. While we’re taking a different focus this year, I’m confident this social-emotional program will be just as successful.”

Why is standardized assessment important when evaluating young children?

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.

What do the connections between early literacy and numeracy mean in preschool?

Early literacy and early numeracy are two important skill areas that develop during the early childhood period. Not only are these skills critical in and of themselves in terms of early school success, they are also necessary building blocks for knowledge in other areas (e.g., Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998) and they appear to be related to one another. For example, young children with delays in literacy skill development are often delayed in early math skills as well (Krajewski & Schneider, 2009). There is also growing evidence that both early literacy AND early numeracy skills are strong predictors of long-term achievement (e.g., Duncan et al., 2007).

Narrowing the Income Achievement Gap

In a RAND Corporation blog post, Early Childhood Education Policy Researcher Heather L. Schwartz talks about early child school-readiness and narrowing the income achievement gap.

In the article, Heather states: “Given how early achievement gaps emerge in children’s lives, it is important to look within and beyond educational reforms that take place within the walls of K-12. Focusing on education policy, a good place to start is with sustaining the federal Department of Education’s focus on expanding preschool opportunities and supporting research to identify the critical elements of quality care and early education.”

Narrowing the Income Achievement Gap

In a RAND Corporation blog post, Early Childhood Education Policy Researcher Heather L. Schwartz talks about early child school-readiness and narrowing the income achievement gap.

In the article, Heather states: “Given how early achievement gaps emerge in children’s lives, it is important to look within and beyond educational reforms that take place within the walls of K-12. Focusing on education policy, a good place to start is with sustaining the federal Department of Education’s focus on expanding preschool opportunities and supporting research to identify the critical elements of quality care and early education.”

What do we need to consider when assessing English Language Learners?

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?