Evaluating Assessments Assessments are such an important part of a high quality program,because they are the tools that help guide instruction and meet the needs ofstudents. Each assessment tool has itsown strengths and areas of weakness, so they must be carefully weighed andevaluated to be sure the assessment is exactly what you need. In my program we utilize Creative Curriculumfor all children, along with the assessment provided by the company who writesthe curriculum and the Ages and Stages screener for our children through agethree. Creative Curriculum is a completecurriculum that is based upon the development of the child, along with earlyeducation research and theory.
Thecreators of Creative Curriculum take into account the research in the field ofearly childhood education and apply it to the design and structure of thecurriculum model. Creative Curriculumprovides many opportunities for research-based learning for the children, butthe teacher must also plan this learning. Creative Curriculum is structured to look at big topics or ideas, whichchildren then explore through hands-on activities, literacy based learning, andcreative projects.
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Children have theopportunity to ask questions that are then used to guide the teaching andlearning in the classroom. Along with this curriculum, weutilize the assessments Teaching Strategies Gold, which is designed to alignwith the same 36 developmental objectives as The Creative Curriculum. These objectives are organized within theareas of Social-Emotional, Physical, Language, Cognitive, Literacy, andMathematics.
Along with this there aretwo objectives for English-Language acquisition, which are addressed in boththe assessment and curriculum (Teaching Strategies LLC, n.d.). Thinking about the way the assessment andcurriculum aligns, I believe helps me as a future director and the teachersplan instruction which hits these high leverage areas of development. Beyond the Teaching Strategies Goldassessment, we also use Ages and Stages, which is a developmental screeningthat can be given as early as four months of age. The assessment includes a parentquestionnaire and assesses the following areas: communication, gross motorskills, fine motor skills, problem solving, and personal-social skills.
The assessment is used to help identify anydevelopmental delays and address them through early intervention. The assessment does not necessarily alignwith the classroom curriculum, but does provide very important information toboth the parents and teacher. Through looking at all of thecurriculum and assessment tools, I know feel I have a better understanding howthey connect to one another. Although Ihave worked in my current placement for some time, there was never muchexplanation about the curriculum and assessment tools. Seeing now how they relate so closely, I feelI can help teachers better understand how to use them seamlessly with oneanother on a more regular basis. Before they always felt like separate toolsand pieces that were thrown into a room, but realistically they areinterdependent on one another to meet the needs of children. Our curriculum as a whole does agreat job of including children with exceptionalities and really takes amulti-cultural approach. To ensurechildren are exposed to people from all different cultures in curriculum, oneof the best ways to do this is through books.
Books can span the globe and help bring children to places they maynever be able to go otherwise. Alongwith books, it is important when children bring up questions or ask about othercultures to answer the questions without bias and just provide straightinformation. This is something thatteachers must think about and be intentional about as they teach about topicsthat could at times be linked to cultural bias.
I think as a whole the curriculumand assessment tools are very strong, because of many reasons. First, I think the way the curriculum andassessment tools link so closely together is an obvious strength. The curriculum and assessments also looks atthe entire child, not just the child academically. This is an important piece of early childhoodeducation, as our job is to ensure the child is gaining appropriate skills inall areas of development. Anotherstrength is that the curriculum is very discovery based, posing questions forchildren and providing structure necessary, but more importantly it is openenough to allow children to explore topics of their own choosing.
The openness of a curriculum can be scary forteachers, which is why Creative Curriculum is so powerful, because it providesthe structure teachers seek as they learn about discovery based learning in theclassroom. The Ages and Stages screening tool also has manystrengths, but the most important one is that it does not just look at thechild within the school system, but at home as well. This is important because at times a parentmay see something at home that is not witnessed at school that can either raiseconcern or relieve concern.
Thescreening tool is also easy to use and can be started when children areextremely young. This is not true of allassessments, which is a strength. A weakness of the curriculum andtools is that sometimes it assumes children know about certain topics or haveprevious background knowledge that they may not. This is something that we do not always seeas a problem in our setting, because most of our children are upper-middleclass and have had many experiences outside of school.
However, we have seen when we have childrencome in from adoptive situations or perhaps are being raised by grandparents orolder adults, that they do not have the same scheme as the other children whichthe curriculum assumes is in place. However,our teachers know this is an issue with the curriculum and work to make sureall learning barriers are removed when possible. One weakness of Ages and Stages is that itrequires parental involvement, which means if parents do not return their sideof the questionnaire you are missing some information. Fortunately, you can still utilize thisassessment without the parent side. Overall, The Creative Curriculum,Teaching Strategies Gold, and Ages and Stages questionnaire are fantasticresources for the early childhood environment. Each of the tools provides the things necessary to help children besuccessful in the early childhood setting. Curriculum should be structured enough to allow children to feel safe,but open enough for them to be able to explore and take academic risks. The screeners should look at the whole childand incorporate various perspectives to ensure all stakeholders have avoice.
After reviewing the curriculumand assessment tools, I have learned that it is important to do this on aregular basis and be sure you truly understand how the curriculum andassessment tools work together. Simplyputting curriculum and assessment tools in a classroom, without trulyunderstanding them, is unfair to staff and far from beneficial forstudents. As a director, you must have asolid understanding of all things curricular and assessment based.