Assessment of children takes on many forms at the Child Development and Learning Laboratory. Teaching staff take very seriously their role in supporting and documenting children's learning. In each classroom, on a daily basis, teachers and student teachers are taking photos, gathering children's work, recording conversations, and writing narrative records of the children's words and activities. We believe that valid assessment information is gathered and used as children engage in normal daily activities within a familiar environment and that this is the best way to support children with different abilities, languages, and cultures. Teachers also communicate with parents when they want to compare activities and language occurring at school with that of the home culture and language. To that end, teachers initiate conversations with children, question children in open ended ways, and consider children's thoughts, words, and interests as they gather information for daily classroom planning. By collecting this information on a daily basis, teachers are able to give life to the curriculum as they foster children's curiosity, extend children's engagement and support self-initiated learning. As various topics of interest emerge and develop within each classroom, teachers will share information about the growing projects through newsletters and through informal displays in the classroom. This is done in hopes that families can also contribute to the curriculum as they see and hear about what is going on within the classroom. Teachers will also develop more formal displays which document the process and outcomes of various classroom projects. These displays are available for viewing within classrooms, in public CDLL spaces and even at various other points around the campus community. From time to time, when appropriate, teachers may also document project learning through books, booklets, digital slideshows and in other more portable formats to share with families and other members of the community.
Using this ongoing documentation, teachers and student teachers also connect children's experiences and words with the developmental areas, goals and objectives outlined by The Creative Curriculum. Within the four developmental areas of Social/Emotional, Physical, Cognitive and Language, there are 10 major goals that encompass 50 different learning objectives. At the end of each week, teachers review classroom activities (which are noted on lesson plans) in order to identify and record how each experience supported children's learning within the 50 objectives. They also review the written narrative records of the children's words and activities of the week in order to determine, for each individual child, what objectives the record documents. These observational records are recorded on a weekly basis under each child's file at Teaching Strategies Gold. The program is also able to download photos and scanned documents that support the narrative entry. Twice each year in December and April, teachers review each child's online file in order to assess where they fall within the developmental continuum by completing the Individual Child Profile online. For each numbered objective within this tool, there are links which take you to a description of the developmental steps/levels within that objective and examples of children's activities/words that demonstrate their ability to function at that level. There are many benefits of using Teaching Strategies Gold for assessment purposes. Once the initial fall assessment has been completed, teachers can use the assessment tool in many different ways. Some of the most commonly used features include the:
• Ability to look at each individual child's assessment record for individual planning
• Ability to view assessment results in a class chart that allows teachers to see specific groups of children that share similar developmental skill levels and needs
• Ability to look at a specific developmental objective, see the various progressive levels within that objective, and see the names of children grouped within each step based on the most recent completion of the Individual Child Profile
• Ability to complete a Child Progress Report for use at parent/teacher meetings (Formally in December and May and informally at home visits in August and March) which includes actual observational data and allows both parents and classroom teachers to set developmental goals for each child as they meet together.
Upon completion of two assessment checkpoints within each classroom, teachers can also use the online tool to create a class chart indicating children's growth and progress between checkpoints. This information is very valuable as teachers consider areas in which children exhibited strong growth as well as areas where growth was not as evident. This knowledge and understanding can then inform potential teacher professional development needs so that they can purposefully enhance classroom experiences within these lower growth areas.
From time to time, as teachers observe and interact with the children in the classroom, they may suspect that an individual child has a developmental delay or special need. When this occurs, teachers may use various developmental screenings, checklists or rating scales as a means of further investigation. If those forms of assessment indicate a potential for a delay or need, the teacher will contact the child's family in order to share those observations and to discuss further evaluation by a professional from the Gratiot-Isabella Regional Education Service District. At this point, families are given information about the services offered by the GIRESD, as well as their rights. If the parents give their signed consent for continued assessment, arrangements will be made through the GIRESD. Very commonly, those professionals are able to come directly to the CDLL in order to observe and assess the child sometimes using standardized tests. All results will be shared with the child's parents and future plans will be made with a team of specialists, CDLL teachers and the child's parents working together.
Access to children's assessment information at Teaching Strategies Gold is limited to program administrators/staff and to teaching staff and students teachers within the classrooms. The website is password protected. All other assessment results are kept in children's files in a file cabinet in the program office which is locked when staff are not present.