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Student Assessment - Progress Monitoring

Can you suggest any progress monitoring tools to use with preschool students? We have some preschool students who have failed screenings with DIAL, PPVT, PALS and FLUEHARTY. Our special education department has requested data on pre-academic skills and we are unable to find any progress monitoring tools that extend below kindergarten.

Response from Robin Miller Young, Ed.D., NCSP:

When we think about gathering data of any kind, we should make sure that we understand the question that has been raised about a student (or a group of students), and who is raising the question.  So, in this case, what kind of decision do you want to make about the student(s)?  What do you already know about the student(s) and what information do you still need to gather to make the decision?  What does the phrase "pre-academics" mean to the decision makers?  Then finally, who will use the data to make the decision and with whom will the decision be shared?   I will expand on Child Find and Progress Monitoring, two types of assessment, below:


Child Find:  When you say that the student has "failed a screening on the DIAL," it would seem that the DIAL is one measure used in a multi-component Child Find screening process.   Is this the kind of decision you and the members of your special education department are trying to make?   You may need to consider "why" the child did not perform as expected and therefore is judged to have "failed;" i.e., was the DIAL attempted during the child's nap time, etc.?   We also need to know what other information you have besides the DIAL scores that would tell us about the child's status on a variety of additional important indicators.  Without knowing more, you may find it helpful to look at a domain-referenced tool like the Brigance Inventory of Early Development - II (Curriculum Associates) to supplement the DIAL results.  Many programs are also adopting the Ages & Stages Questionnaires (Brookes Publishing) to obtain valuable information on how the child performs essential skills from the perspective of a parent or other informant outside of the face-to-face screening process.       
Progress Monitoring:  Taking a closer look at the term "Progress Monitoring", one should review the works of Judy Carta and Amanda VanDerHeyden as they have each described two different types of progress monitoring processes that can take place in  the Early Childhood and Preschool/Pre-K settings.
The first type of progress monitoring process is Critical Skills Mastery or Mastery Monitoring, which is used to describe Curriculum-based Assessments (CBAs) that inform adults as to the child's progress in a specific curricular scope and sequence.  For many commercially available curricula, there is a prescribed assessment process that is linked to the specific targeted skills and content.  For example, if your preschool is using the The Creative Curriculum®  (Teaching Strategies), then you would be using either  the Creative Curriculum Developmental Curriculum  or the new Teaching Strategies GOLDTMthat are aligned to their curriculum to note the child's progress in that specific program.  The same would hold true for High Scope® (HighScope Educational Research Foundation), A Sound Start (Guilford Press), PATHS® (Channing Bete), and any other comprehensive or supplemental curricula.  In some instances, teachers develop skill-based probes to monitor mastery of the implemented curriculum.  Readers should also review information on the mCLASS: CIRCLE (Wireless Generation) being used in the Recognition and Response RtI model to see if it would meet their needs.

The second type of progress monitoring process look at the child's performance on General Outcomes Measurement (GOMs).  A GOM system looks to measure the child's progress on an "indicator" that reflects a socially valid, general outcome (Curriculum-based Measurement).  Carta's presentation referenced above describes the Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs); the most widely used preschool IGDIs are the Picture Naming, Alliteration and Rhyming tasks (also known as the "Get it, Got it, Go" assessments) developed by Scott McConnell and colleagues at the University of Minnesota.  Revisions are being developed and should be shared publicly in the next year or so. 
Readers interested in early numeracy and early math, should review VanDerHeyden's work with iSteep tasks and Robin Hojnoski's work with Preschool Numeracy Indicators (PNIs).
So, depending on the question being asked and the decision-makers, a staff member may want to monitoring a child's progress on a tool designed for "Child Find" purposes, to gauge progress in a specific instructional sequence, or on a socially valid indicator of later academic success.  Many decisions rely on a "convergence" of data around a decision rule, so more than one type of progress monitoring system might be needed to help you arrive at the best answer to your question.

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