Technology Connects Assessment, Accountability Standards in Early Childhood Education

By Costello, Kathryn; Zarowin, David | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), November 2002 | Go to article overview

Technology Connects Assessment, Accountability Standards in Early Childhood Education


Costello, Kathryn, Zarowin, David, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


As federal pressure for accountability standards moves into the preschool arena, it is important for states to rapidly develop processes that align preschool standards with K-12 standards and evaluate how prepared children are to succeed in school. Districts and states can now utilize observational assessments and technology to make the connection between developmentally appropriate practices and accountability standards.

Evaluating Assessment, Accountability Standards

Early childhood assessments are different from high-stakes testing done in grades 3-12. Two types of achievement tests exist: norm-referenced and criterion-referenced. Standardized tests common in grades 3-12 compare a child's performance to a norm. Criterion-referenced assessment focuses on a child's performance compared to clearly defined criteria. Research shows that early childhood assessment is best done through observation over time against clear criteria.

In early childhood, assessment is focused on determining individual needs and appropriate instructional strategies. The ongoing monitoring of a child's performance empowers the teacher to use the information they acquire about a child's skills and knowledge to plan and individualize instruction more precisely. As accountability standards move into the early years, it is important for programs to be able to continue to use this method of assessment. In addition, young children should not be compared to one another. Instead, their learning and progress should be compared to meaningful age-level performance indicators linked to research-based curricula and assessments.

Today, only 15 states and the District of Columbia have prekindergarten standards, with only six states requiring preschool programs to adhere to them. Only a small percentage of states require diagnostic testing at either the kindergarten or preschool level. The only national adherence is found in Head Start, where all 50 states plus the District of Columbia adhere to the federal government's standards for the Head Start program. The new federal legislation, coupled with the Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement, provide clear direction and financial incentives to improve education for young children.

These efforts, along with President Bush's "Good Start, Grow Smart" initiative will be a driving force for reorganization within the early childhood community. The goals are to establish a new system of accountability for Head Start, forge partnerships with states to ensure that preschool programs are more closely coordinated with state K-12 education goals, and provide better information to teachers and parents through an unprecedented research effort on early literacy.

Utilizing Assessment and Technology Solutions

Pearson Education's SchoolSuccess builds technology solutions that will help states respond to the emerging standards on assessment in the early childhood community. In partnership with Pearson Early Learning and other leading experts in early childhood education, SchoolSuccess' core platform technology connects curriculum and assessment to outcomes reporting that is required by state departments of education and federal funding sources.

Pearson Early Learning offers the Work Sampling System (WSS), a research-based assessment tool for students in preschool through sixth grade that relies on a criterion-referenced approach. Its performance indicators and guidelines are correlated to national and state standards. …

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