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Starting the Early Childhood Assessment Conversation

Author: Helios Education Foundation

In laying the foundation for success in school and beyond, the ages between birth to eight are critical to a child’s healthy development.  Ensuring young children have access to high-quality early learning environments, regardless of race, income or geography, provides many individual and societal benefits.   In fact, research shows that children exposed to high-quality early learning environments are more likely to perform well academically, be more socially and emotionally well-adjusted, abstain from delinquent behavior and graduate from high school. 

But how can we be sure that the early learning setting is conducive to learning or if the teacher can actually teach?  How can we be sure that children are absorbing information that benefits them based on their individual needs?

There are numerous early childhood assessments that attempt to answer these questions, but they may not be well aligned to clear, industry-wide benchmarks. Additionally, assessment data isn’t always available in a format that can inform teaching. 

To address these issues, Helios Education Foundation partnered with the University of South Florida and the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County to host an Early Childhood Education (ECE) Convening in Tampa, Florida, in February.  The convening engaged recognized national and local experts and practitioners in a discussion focused on the availability, appropriateness, limitations, alignment and future directions of early childhood assessments, particularly as they relate to program evaluation and statewide school readiness policy and practice.

“The topics of developmentally appropriate instruction and use of assessments in the early childhood setting are critical to early childhood professionals, practitioners and educators,” said Dr. Karen Ortiz, Vice President and Program Director, Early Childhood Education at Helios Education Foundation.  “This opportunity to draw on the expertise of individuals from around the country is unique and we believe it will help move the implementation of best practices in early childhood education forward in a substantial and meaningful way.”

Over thirty early childhood education experts and practitioners gathered from across the country to engage in a robust dialogue on the purpose, relevance and use of current assessments.  The conversation explored the number of assessments currently in use, who is requiring various assessments and the lack of alignment and integration. 

Helios will synthesize the results of these discussions and share them with the early childhood education community throughout the country.  In addition, next steps will be developed that will inform Helios Education Foundation’s strategies toward early grade success.

Below are some perspectives from some of the ECE Convening attendees:

“Bringing together a remarkable and exceedingly accomplished professional group for two days of discussion was an exciting opportunity to ask national and international experts to identify challenges and best practices in early childhood assessment and to generate recommendations for innovative future work.”
- Kirsten Ellingsen, PhD
Director, National Research & Evaluation Center for HIPPY USA at University of South Florida
Tampa, FL

“I hope that this convening will lead to more collaborative work, debates, pilot initiatives, BUT ESPECIALLY, the identification and funding of a lobbying and policy development group which will pressure state legislatures and the federal government to institute new policies and practices which are in keeping with what we believe and what is needed.”
- Stephen J. Bagnato, EdD, NCSP
Professor of Psychology & Pediatrics, Schools of Education & Medicine
Applied Developmental Psychology Program Director, Early Childhood Partnerships 
Office of Child Development
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA

“The convening on ECE was long overdue. The discussions brought up many concerns but also many answers due to the diversity of the group. ECE has long been an area that has not been given the attention/respect it deserves. Hopefully we can continue to build on the ideas that were brought up at the convening.”
- Anita Maurer, Preschool Inclusion Specialist 
Early Childhood Council of Hillsborough County
Tampa, Florida

Category: Early Childhood Education

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