What Do We Know About How Early Childhood Teachers Use Ongoing Assessment?

What Do We Know About How Early Childhood Teachers Use Ongoing Assessment?

Early Childhood Teachers' Use of Ongoing Child Assessment to Individualize Instruction, OPRE Brief #2015-60
Published: Jun 30, 2015
Publisher: Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research
Associated Project

Using Progress Monitoring in Early Childhood Education: Assessing Methods and Developing an Evidence-Based Model

Time frame: 2012-2016

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation


Patricia Del Grosso

Sally Atkins-Burnett

Kimberly Boller

Judith Carta

Barbara A. Wasik

Key Findings

Key Findings:

  • Teachers who use ongoing assessment to individualize instruction may reduce the school readiness gap for children at risk, deliver more effective instruction, and have students who achieve better outcomes. 
  • Teachers might need support to overcome challenges to conducting ongoing assessment.
  • Families can be important partners.
  • More research is needed about the ongoing assessment practices recommended by ECE professionals and researchers.

Recently, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers have placed greater emphasis on early childhood education (ECE) teachers’ use of ongoing assessments to track children’s progress and tailor instruction to each child’s unique strengths, needs, and interests. Ongoing child assessment involves repeated assessments and observations of a child’s performance and progress over time. Using ongoing child assessment to tailor or individualize instruction for each child is considered a best practice in early education programs and is a requirement in the Head Start Performance Standards.  To learn more about the use of ongoing assessment in early education, the Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation funded a project in fall 2012 to explore how teachers use children’s data to tailor instruction for each child. The project’s goals are to (1) review the existing literature and develop a conceptual framework of ECE teachers’ use of ongoing child assessment to individualize instruction and (2) create a measurement tool to examine this process further. This brief summarizes findings from the review of the literature on ongoing assessment in early childhood, including what we know, what we still need to learn, and some recommended practices for using assessments to support children’s learning and development.

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