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If a community’s goal is to create equity in education and improve outcomes for all children, high-quality early childhood education is among the best investments that leaders can make. Decades of compelling research backs up this claim with strong evidence (for example, the research of Nobel Prize winner James Heckman).
The first five years of a child’s life are a critical period of development: the cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional skills that they develop and refine in that time period lay the foundation for their long-term academic, civic, personal, and economic well-being.
In order for our youngest learners to be successful, their teachers need to be successful. One important dimension of that success is setting a strong academic foundation that gets early learners ready for elementary school. In Indispensable Policies and Practices for High-Quality Pre-K, the early childhood education team at New America Foundation summarized the research in this area well: “[T]he use of research-based, developmental curricula; data-driven and individualized instructional approaches; and formative assessments based on clear learning goals are essential practices that lead to positive child outcomes.”
One key element: teachers of our earliest learners need developmentally appropriate assessment tools to determine how students are doing. These tools should allow for responsive and immediate feedback as a means to prevent students from getting off track. It’s akin to an educator doing his or her due diligence to ensure that each student is building the academic foundation in math and reading to enter elementary school prepared.
So, how are educators using these kinds of assessment tools to support student progress?
CenterPoint’s content team has worked with educators of young students to create developmentally appropriate classroom-based tools that give teachers meaningful feedback to inform instruction. The K–2 formative tasks we’ve developed in English language arts/literacy and mathematics are designed to provide teachers with real-time information about what individual students know and can do.
Tasks are incorporated into the curriculum and allow teachers to gather information about student learning in a way that is “invisible” to the student. These formative tasks are designed to be delivered using the engaged learning structures that best suit early learners—for example, learning centers, circle time for whole group sessions, interactive read alouds, and games with manipulatives.
In our next blog post, we’ll share a few examples of what these kinds of tasks look like and key features that support classroom instruction for early learners.
By Lesley Muldoon, Chief of Policy and Advocacy at CenterPoint Education Solutions