Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Preschool Teachers' Use of Assessments and Curricula: A Statewide Examination

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Preschool Teachers' Use of Assessments and Curricula: A Statewide Examination

Article excerpt

Over the last decade, the fields of early childhood education (ECE) and early childhood special education (ECSE) have made important strides in the development of assessment and curricular materials designed to improve services delivered to preschool age children who are at risk and have disabilities (e.g., Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; Sandall, McLean, & Smith, 2000). In particular, efforts have focused on the development of appropriate and authentic assessment practices (e.g., Bagnato, Neisworth, & Munson, 1997; Losardo & Notari-Syverson, 2001; McConnell, 2000; McLean, Bailey, & Wolery, 1996) and the use of child-centered curricular approaches (e.g., Bricker, Pretti-Frontczak, & McComas, 1998; Bruder, 1997; Davis, Kilgo, & Gamel-McCormick, 1998; Goffin, 2000; Wolery, 2000). A review of the ECE/ECSE literature, however, reveals a limited body of research and documentation regarding preschool teachers' large-scale use of assessments and curricula, particularly as outlined by recommended practices.

RECOMMENDED PRACTICE

The use of curriculum-based measures (CBMs) is promoted as recommended assessment practice (e.g., Neisworth & Bagnato, 2000). CBMs are defined as "a form of criterion-referenced measurement wherein curricular objectives act as the criteria for the identification of instructional targets and for the assessment of status and progress" (Bagnato & Neisworth, 1991, p. 97). CBMs can be further classified into three types: curriculum-embedded (CE), curriculum-compatible (CC), and norm-based/curriculum compatible (NBCC). Such measures are designed to strengthen the link between key program processes such as assessment, individualized education programs (IEPs), intervention, and evaluation (e.g., Bricker et al., 1998; Losardo & Notari-Syverson, 2001; Notari, Slentz, & Bricker, 1990; Pretti-Frontczak, in press). Use of child-centered intervention approaches (e.g., activity-based intervention) and curricula that facilitate active child engagement, learning, and participation is promoted as recommended curriculum practice (e.g., Wolery, 2000). Child-centered approaches and curricula are designed to facilitate learning by encouraging providers to follow children's lead and individualize interventions based upon children's strengths, interests, and emerging skills (e.g., Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; Bricker et al.).

Despite the growing number of commercially available CBMs and a growing body of research to support the use of child-centered curricula, a clear understanding regarding their use by preschool teachers is absent. This gap in our knowledge base warrants an examination of providers' identification and use of materials associated with recommended practice.

WHAT WE KNOW

A review of the literature reveals several important limitations regarding our knowledge base concerning ECE/ECSE assessment and curricular practices. First, while a number of investigations have been conducted on the assessment and curriculum practices of school-age providers (e.g., Sands, Adams, & Stout, 1995), infant and toddler providers (e.g., Karnes & Stayton 1988; Stayton & Karnes, 1994), and related service personnel (e.g., Bagnato & Neisworth, 1994), few have documented the practices of preschool teachers. Second, of the research on preschool providers, most is outdated. For example, the last systematic examination of preschool providers' use of assessment instruments was disseminated a decade and a half ago (i.e., Johnson & Beauchamp, 1987). Third, states or regions periodically summarize the practices of preschool providers (e.g., Cuyahoga Special Education Service Center, 1995); but such examinations are not conducted systematically nor disseminated widely. Fourth, a number of sources contain reports of what providers are using but fail to (a) describe the procedures used to collect the information (e. …

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