This paper discusses the measurement of child outcomes in the context of evaluating the effectiveness of preschool programs for children. Little is known about how individual districts and states are evaluating early childhood programs, so this discussion highlights some of the ways in which this challenge is being addressed.
After a brief discussion of the importance of focusing on the whole child rather than just their language and cognitive domains, most of the paper explores what is known about current assessment methods used with young children. Problems related to relying solely on traditional, on-demand standardized tests to assess achievement of young children will be explained.
Although young children who are English Language Learners (ELL) represent an increasing proportion of preschool children, it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss in-depth the issues involved in assessing these children.
Observational measures that span the preschool to elementary age range offer an alternative to direct testing. The use of these measures in formative evaluation efforts will be discussed with the caution that high stakes should never be attached to these measures. Using a multimethod approach would provide a richer portrayal of children’s performance.
Innovative and alternative approaches to assessment used by some states will be highlighted, and concerns about reliability of teacher judgments discussed. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of measuring classroom quality and recommendations for next steps.