This research project builds on previous work with authentic assessment tools through two recent projects: the Brooklyn Assessment Project and the Common Metric Project. The Brooklyn Assessment Project was a summer-long project in which members of our team provided one-on-one in-person, intensive coaching to 56 preschool and Head Start educators, to strengthen their use of authentic assessment tools. Similarly, as part of the Common Metric Project, we provided 365 ACS and DOE teachers of 4-year-olds with individualized support, via coaching phone calls, to build their authentic assessment skills and improve practices. Through this work, our team has identified gaps in preschool teachers’ understanding and use of authentic assessments. One of the most significant and pervasive gaps noted was in the training and support teachers receive regarding the collection of authentic assessment data (via anecdotes recorded throughout everyday classroom activities), as well as the use of assessment data to effectively inform teaching practices and classroom instruction. This lack of training prevents pre-kindergarten teachers from using the tools for their primary and arguably most important purpose: using assessment to inform practice, as a means of supporting children’s preparedness for school.
Given the importance of the preschool years in setting a solid foundation for low-income children’s school readiness, the project will focus on helping Head Start teachers of 4-year-olds identify the precursors specific to reading success, accurately assess children’s competencies in these areas, individualize their classroom practices to build on children’s strengths and address their weaknesses. Reading readiness consists of a wide range of competencies, ranging from phonological and print awareness to linguistic skills and higher order thinking. Research has demonstrated that children who can not only identify and blend phonemes and recognize letters and common words, but also demonstrate advanced vocabulary knowledge, display greater emergent reading abilities. At the same time, however, research findings suggest that non-academic competencies such as social interactions with peers and self-regulatory abilities are additional key predictors of reading readiness.
Findings of past studies suggest that there are many ways that prekindergarten teachers can foster both the academic and nonacademic skills necessary for children to achieve reading readiness. For example, shared book reading with meaningful extra-textual talk; encouraging frequent and meaningful interactions between the children; and promoting self-regulatory abilities are linked to growth in vocabulary, emergent literacy and conversational skills. However, these skills cannot be supported unless teachers know how to identify individual children’s abilities and have the tools to use that knowledge to inform their everyday practices. Thus, the project will center on supporting teachers in guiding children’s progress in these key areas of reading readiness.
This project is led by Dr. LaRue Allen.