Across the state and the nation students are evaluated and tested every year. This year, new measures are being implemented across the state to evaluate some of its youngest students.
The Early Learners Survey is being implemented in both the Capital and Caesar Rodney School Districts as part of a Race to the Top Early Learning grant that the State of Delaware received last year. The survey is being used to determine how prepared children are when they come into kindergarten, said Brandi Miller, program manager for the Office of Early Learning.
“We want to provide aggregate data for state and local policy makers so that they can assess the outcomes of the early childhood system,” Miller said. “And so they can plan future policy making and work on closing the preparedness gap and make informed decisions in regards to resource allocation.”
The survey isn’t being administered like a traditional assessment with pen and paper; instead teachers across both districts are evaluating student’s skills and knowledge in the midst of their instruction through observations. Teachers will record their observations and enter them using an online system. The data will then be analyzed by the Office of Early Learning, Miller said.
This new survey has been in the works for over a year now. Last year the state Department of Education selected pilot classrooms and began testing the program out. Four pilot classrooms were at Welch, according to CR Director of Instruction Scott Lykens. This year the Caesar Rodney School District is expanding the survey. All of the classrooms McIlvaine will be administering the survey, Lykens said.
“We looked at what we do at the beginning of kindergarten and said if we’re doing these things with the students anyway, let’s observe and collect the data,” Lykens said “They don’t stop instruction for two weeks and do these tests. It’s embedded in the activities.”
The same effort to keep instruction moving is being made in the Capital district, said Pamela Herrera, Director of Elementary Instruction for the Capital School District. Capital was not part of pilot program but the Early Learner Survey will be implemented at all seven elementary schools this year, Herrera said.
“Since this is an observation, a teacher can teach a particular skill and watch how a child responds and record their observations while still instructing,” she said.
Skills being evaluated range from the academic such as math, reading and language skills, to non-academic aspects such as social, physical and emotional skills. The survey will be administered within the first 30 days of school.
The data that is collected in those classrooms will be passed along to the Office of Early Learning, but it will also be used to strengthen individual classrooms, according to Lykens.
Page 2 of 2 - “The teachers can use this information for their classroom instruction,” Lykens said. “A teacher could look and say ‘OK, in terms of following directions these kids have it and these kids don’t.’ It can help teachers to know how to group their students.”
It’s all about establishing a baseline, Lykens said.
“Some kids got to two years of pre-school, some kids go to daycare and some kids may stay at home,” he said. “In my opinion, this is to assess what kids are coming into kindergarten knowing and being able to do.”
In Herrera’s eyes the test is aimed at making sure kindergarteners are able to hit the ground running.
“I think that the goal, ultimately, is to provide some alignment between kindergarten and what is happening in pre-schools and three- and four-year-old programs,” Herrera said. “So that everybody is clear on where we want to go and as a result we will have kids who come into kindergarten more prepared.”