Skip to main content

By Crystal Williams, Ed.M.

The Division for Early Childhood of the Council of Exceptional Children, the leading professional organization in EI/ECSE, spearheaded efforts to develop the EI/ECSE standards.  It is important for all early childhood professionals to be familiar with these standards to provide the support needed for individual children with disabilities and their families. In this blog series, we discuss each standard, prompt questions for reflection, and provide tips and resources that professionals can use to ensure their practices align with the EI/ECSE standards.

Standard 4: Assessment Processes

Early childhood professionals must understand assessment procedures to determine a child’s eligibility for services, assess a child’s needs, plan appropriate instruction, and monitor/share progress. Assessment includes both formal and informal measures administered by members of a child’s team.

Components Reflective Questions
4.1 Understand the purpose of formal and informal assessment and choose appropriate tools to assess children
  • How can you, or your program, ensure that assessment tools are developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate?
  • What challenges do you experience when assessing young children? How can you and other team members overcome these challenges?
4.2 Develop and administer informal assessments and/or use valid assessment tools in partnership with other team members
  • What types of informal assessment methods do you use? What are their strengths and limitations?
  • What formal assessment tools do you use? What are their strengths and limitations?
  • Why is it important to incorporate multiple team members’ perspectives when assessing a child? What strategies can you use to include all team members in the assessment process?
4.3 Analyze, interpret, report, and share assessment information using a strengths-based approach
  • What strategies do you use to interpret other team members’ assessment results? What could you do to help other team members (including families) understand your assessment results?
  • How can you ensure that the child’s strengths are highlighted when you share assessment results in writing and orally?
4.4 Use assessment data to determine eligibility, write goals, plan instruction, and monitor progress
  • Why is it important to integrate data from multiple settings and from multiple sources? How can your team(s) improve on this strategy?
  • What can you do to ensure goals and objectives emerge from assessment data and that they are relevant, functional, and important for the child and their family?

Resources to enhance your knowledge related to Standard 4:

  • Authentic Child Assessment Practices
    This three-part module focuses on authentic assessment and includes lessons on the characteristics, benefits, strategies, and opportunities to practice authentic assessment.
  • Early Childhood Recommended Practices Modules (RPMs)
    RPM Module #7 utilizes a learning framework aligned with the DEC Recommended Practices and provides opportunities for professionals to learn about, implement, and improve their teaming and collaboration skills.
  • Evaluating Dual Language Learners
    This 14-minute interview developed by the IRIS Center highlights strategies for working with young dual language learners and underscores important factors that professionals should consider when assessing children who are dual language learners.

Tips for improving your practice related to Standard 4:

  • When planning an assessment, choose a time during which the child is most likely to participate (e.g., when the child is most alert, after the child has eaten and rested).
  • Start assessments by asking caregiver(s) about the child’s strengths and interests. Use the child’s interests to motivate them to try additional skills.
  • Follow the child’s lead during the assessment. For example, if the child is engaging in gross motor play, start with any gross motor items on the assessment tool first. If using a tool for a different developmental domain, incorporate some of your assessment items into the child’s gross motor play.
  • Encourage family members to take an active role in the assessment process. Ask caregivers to show you how their child does specific skills through their interactions with the child, rather than prompting the child directly.
  • If you are conducting an assessment in a family’s home, use their materials as much as possible. Prepare families ahead of time by asking them to find materials in their home that can be used for the assessment.
  • Provide caregivers with a condensed (one-page or less), summary of the assessment results that includes the child’s strengths, areas of need, and decisions made based on the assessment (e.g., eligibility determination, changes to goals, new services added to the child’s plan).

Children with significant and/or multiple disabilities their families may experience more assessments throughout the child’s lifetime, meaning assessment may become cumbersome and difficult for them. It is important that EI/ECSE professionals are prepared to assess children sensitively and in a meaningful way.

Tips for assessing children with intensive needs:

  • Choose an appropriate assessment tool for the child and family. A good assessment will capture the child’s skills and small increments of progress, provide information about the next skills in the developmental sequence, and incorporate information derived from observations in natural settings.
  • Allot extra time for assessments. Children with intensive support needs may require extra time and breaks to complete assessment tasks.
  • Utilize a variety of assessment strategies such as structured observations, questionnaires that focus on child strengths, interviews with the family, insights from other team members, and informed clinical judgment to make decisions.
  • Focus on what might come next developmentally for the child rather than quantitative findings (e.g., percent of delay/age equivalencies).