A new policyreviews the assessments currently used in 40 states to weigh the skills of their youngest learners and offers advice to policymakers on how to craft their own systems.
Authors Richard Coley, the executive director of research and development at the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Services, and Debra Ackerman, the lead research project manager at ETS, found that many states gauge what children are learning by observing them on a day-to-day basis while they are engaged in their usual preschool activities.
A few states—Alabama, Alaska, Nevada, and Virginia—use direct assessments to show whether a child has met a specific skill such as recognizing a letter in the alphabet. The authors caution that this approach, while reliable and valid, may not give a full picture of a child’s skills or the quality of the program he or she is enrolled in. Other states use a combination of observation and direct assessment.
The report also spells out key criteria for policymakers to weigh when choosing an assessment approach for preschoolers.
A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 2012 edition of Education Week as Pre-K Assessments