Online System Simplifies Early Childhood Assessment for Florida School District

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The federal government's early childhood initiatives, which seek to improve the literacy and language skills of children from preschool through third grade, are raising standards and demanding accountability for results in school readiness. Given the inherent demands of accountability, administrators and teachers are now looking for easy solutions to meet reporting requirements. Schools in Florida's Broward County recently found a solution by encouraging the use of an online assessment system instead of an offline early childhood assessment tool.

Broward County is one of the largest school districts in the nation and the second most populated district in Florida after Dade County. It offers two preschool programs: Head Start and Florida's state-funded School Readiness Program, formerly known as the Pre-K Early Intervention Program. There are currently about 6,000 preschool students in Broward County schools. For the last 10 years, Broward County has been assessing students using an offline tool. Manually recording and aggregating data at the classroom level has always been a cumbersome process for teachers. Likewise, administrators have faced the equally overwhelming task of aggregating large amounts of data for reporting purposes at the program level.

Valid Assessments

With standards moving into the early years, it is critical for programs to implement a valid and research-based assessment system to ensure their accountability. Head Start programs must also ensure that this system links to the required outcomes and frameworks. Since Head Start Performance Out-comes' report requirements consume a substantial amount of administrators' and teachers' time, Broward County's Child Development Department wanted to equip its staff to meet these demands. So, the department looked for ways to help teachers and administrators gather and aggregate data in the most economical manner. Florida's Department of Education and Region IV Head Start, in collaboration with the Florida Head Start State Collaboration Office, set up meetings for vendors and program administrators to discuss early childhood assessment and evaluate the different online assessment options available for early childhood programs.

In January 2002, a representative from Teaching Strategies Inc. was invited to Broward County to offer a training session on their product Creative Curriculum.net, which is the online assessment system based on The Crea-tive Curriculum Developmental Continuum, a valid and reliable assessment in-strument for children ages 3-5. CreativeCurriculum.net allows preschool programs to link curriculum, assessment, child learning opportunities, parent involvement and outcomes reporting in a single, secure interactive tool. SchoolSuccess, a Pearson Education Co., developed the technology behind the system.

Monitoring a child's performance in early childhood education allows teachers to use the information they acquire about a child's skills and knowledge to individualize instruction and plan accordingly. For instance, when a teacher completes a progress checkpoint on CreativeCurriculum.net, the system instantly responds with recommended strategies specific to that child. These recommended strategies are available to the teacher for use in the classroom. Recommendations for parents to use at home are also given.

One of the most appealing features of the assessment system is its ability to generate individual student and class reports. In particular, CreativeCurriculum.net reports patterns of child progress directly against the Head Start framework. The online assessment system allows data to map against other educational frameworks as well. CreativeCurriculum.net enables administrators to produce reports and program levels at the site, which eases their administrative workload. In addition, producing reports becomes an easy task because data is accessible from anywhere. Teachers simply complete their assessments online; from there, the various reports are automatically generated with the click of a mouse.

Conclusions

Broward County recently purchased more than 2,000 portfolios for the 2002-2003 academic year. Head Start classes will begin using the online version in August. The majority of classrooms have Internet connectivity, and administrators plan to have all classrooms wired as soon as possible. As additional computers are connected, more teachers will go online with CreativeCurriculum.net. Because ongoing computer training and professional development are built-in components of Broward County's management system, teachers are experienced computer and Internet users.

In addition, the Broward County's prekindergarten department wanted to help its teachers meet increasing reporting requirements by going online with CreativeCurriculum.net, which makes assessment, planning and teaching easier. Ultimately, the goal is to have teachers spend more time in the classroom. CreativeCurriculum.net reduces the administrative load to make that possible.

Marlyn Black
Teacher Specialist
Broward County School District, Fla.

Contact Information
SchoolSuccess
Boston, MA
(800) 874-0914
www.schoolsuccess.net

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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