By W. Steven Barnett, PhD, Shannon Riley-Ayers, PhD, & Jessica Francis, PhD
As our nation increases public and private investments to support the care and education of young children, there is increased concern about how specific public policies affect children before they enter primary school. This desire to establish cause and effect and to estimate the magnitude of benefits to children’s learning, development, and wellbeing (LDWB) puts increased technical demands on assessment (discussed below). In addition, causal attributions require more than simply describing children’s development over time, it requires rigorous research methodologies that warrant strong causal inferences.
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), partner to CEELO, was commissioned by OECD to provide a scholarly discussion paper that presented the pros and cons of various methods of and instruments used for reporting on international data of children’s cognitive and social outcomes. This report draws from the work for that paper to provide information to inform decision-making regarding the assessment of young children’s LDWB for state and national assessments designed to inform early childhood education (ECE) policy and practice. We include “wellbeing” because ECE should not merely be a means to improve a young child’s future success in school, or even life, but should enhance the child’s current quality of life. The primary focus here is on the preschool years. As there are many, many assessments available, this report does not review all of the individual assessments. Several much broader reviews with exhaustive compendia are already available such a publication from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (Snow & Van Hemmel, 2008). Instead, we describe and illustrate each of the general approaches from which policy makers can choose.
Source: Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes