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.
|Understand the purpose of formal and informal assessment and choose appropriate tools to assess children
|Develop and administer informal assessments and/or use valid assessment tools in partnership with other team members
|Analyze, interpret, report, and share assessment information using a strengths-based approach
|Use assessment data to determine eligibility, write goals, plan instruction, and monitor progress
Resources to enhance your knowledge related to Standard 4:
- Early Childhood Technical Assistance Practice Improvement Tools: Assessment
Use these checklists and practice guides to improve your assessment processes. Some examples of topics include child strengths, engaging families as partners, and authentic assessment.
- 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.
- “I Shouldn’t Have to Dehumanize My Son to Get Him Support”
This blog, written by the father of a child with Down syndrome, illustrates many challenges families of children with disabilities may face related to assessments and services.
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).