By Doug McNally, MKEA Coordinator, Berkshire Region
We are just beginning to understand the positive impact that effective use of formative assessment in early education could have on both individual learners and on the early education system as a whole. Although GOLD® is a tool for formative assessment, and as such is not meant to be predictive, over time aggregated data will provide profiles of children at early ages who achieve success in grades three and beyond. Wouldn’t it be great if we could show a correlation between strong early development in the executive function and reading proficiency in elementary grades?
If one examines the strategic plan design requirements for Preschool Expansion Grants, it becomes apparent that both the departments of Early Education and Care and Elementary and Secondary Education believe that Teaching Strategies GOLD®, or a similar assessment system, will provide a vehicle for finally being able to assess a child’s growth trajectory in all domains from an early age.
For this to bear fruit, we need to ensure that the assessment is implemented with fidelity, that early educators use the results to inform their curriculum and instructional decisions, and that there is a mechanism that will allow educators who have direct responsibility for the child’s learning to access the data over time. Districts should work with early education programs in their communities to facilitate the assignments of State Assigned Student Identification numbers (SASIDs) to preschool students and also to facilitate the development of a data warehousing plan so that kindergarten teachers can have access to the learning history of their entering students.
Furthermore, all of us involved in early education must expand our efforts to ensure that we get the implementation of formative observational assessment in the early years done correctly. This means that lead teachers and principals, as well as classroom teachers, must become proficient in how to use the tool for their own role to maximize every child’s learning.
Early educators should endeavor to move beyond collecting evidence and benchmarking children’s progress. Now that most have gained confidence in the use of the tool, it is time to expand the effective use of the data in all classrooms across the mixed delivery early education system and early elementary grades.