Authentic Assessments in Early Childhood

Young children learn through play; authentic assessment aims to document a child’s development and progress in a way that is non-intrusive and captures how a child uses his or her skills while engaging with materials, teachers, parents and peers. Authentic assessment involves the teacher as an observer and a researcher – working from a background of solid education and specialized training, collecting data over time, selecting and organizing evidence (the portfolio), preparing a hypothesis that can be tested (the curriculum), sharing conclusions with parents and others to refine what will work best in guiding a child to develop to his or her potential, and developing lesson plans that will help students individually progress toward meeting learning expectations.

Teaching Strategies GOLD

Teaching Strategies GOLD is an authentic, ongoing assessment tool which can be used with any developmentally appropriate early childhood curriculum birth through kindergarten. It is based on 38 research-based objectives, divided among 4 developmental domains and 6 content areas (including English Language Acquisition). The objectives are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, the Iowa Early Learning Standards, and the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework. It is not designed to be a screening instrument, rather it provides a broad picture of development of the whole child. Authentic information is gathered throughout the year from a variety of sources including teachers, family members and specialists who might be working with the child. Both print and online versions of this assessment are available.

The Iowa Department of Education requires that all children served in preschools funded through the State Wide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP), regardless of age, be assessed using the GOLD Objectives for Development and Learning. Most Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Iowa also utilize GOLD for assessment of young children. Any preschool or childcare center in Iowa can take advantage of the State of Iowa discounted rate for the GOLD online system. Teachers and childcare providers who are interested in using the GOLD online system should begin at the Iowa Department of Education. See an overview of the GOLD system from Teaching Strategies; further information and support in the use of the GOLD online assessment system can be provided by your area Central Rivers AEA Early Childhood Consultant.

Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System for Infants and Children (AEPS)

The AEPS is a comprehensive system that ties together assessment, goal development, intervention, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation. The results of the evaluation provide educationally relevant, meaningful and functional information that can be used to formulate developmentally appropriate goals/outcomes and objectives/benchmarks for children. It is particularly helpful in the assessment of young children with significant disabilities. The following areas may be assessed (although it is not necessary to assess all areas of development):  fine motor, gross motor, adaptive behaviors, cognitive, social-communication, and social. This is not a norm-referenced or standardized assessment, so IQ or other standardized scores cannot be obtained. Many Central Rivers AEA Early Childhood Collaborators have been trained in the AEPS and can administer the assessment as needed and/or assist in the interpretation of the instrument. An on-line scoring and interpretation tool, the AEPS, is also available. Further information can be found on the AEPS website. An updated version of the AEPS is set to be released in the Fall of 2020.

Screening Instruments

Screening involves brief assessments that are valid, reliable, and evidence-based. They may screen broadly for developmental concerns in younger children or may screen for more specific areas (such as literacy). Screenings are conducted with all children or targeted groups of children to identify children who may be at risk of developmental delays or future academic challenges. These children are likely to need additional or alternative forms of instruction and/or support to supplement what is typically found in the natural environment or in the conventional general education setting.

Why It Is Important

Screening detects possible developmental delays in children—and celebrates milestones. Screening young children is an effective, efficient way for professionals to gauge developmental progress and determine meaningful next steps—at a time when action can have its greatest impact: during a child’s earliest years of life. In fact, intervention prior to kindergarten has huge academic, social, and economic benefits. Studies have shown that children who receive early intervention for developmental delays are more likely to graduate from high school, hold jobs, and live independently, becoming future ready. Similarly, the earlier possible academic difficulties are discerned in school age children, the more positive the outcomes, especially in relationship to literacy.