There are clear and concise images displayed in most paintings and art. However, occasionally, you see a work of art that has blurred lines and is much more subtle in it’s appearance. I thought of this watercolor with blurred lines (a purposeful lack of specific images) as I was speaking with two education managers at a local Head Start agency.
The managers were concerned about the lack of clarity and the blurriness of their assessment procedures. Their concern stems from indications that the students in their program are not displaying the skills that their observation assessments seem to indicate. Their concern is that the teachers are documenting what they think they observe during their classroom interactions, but don’t explicitly determine if each child has clearly developed individual skills.
Many preschool assessment programs are like that. My opinion is that they contain so much information and documentation that the basic tracking of skill development is lost. I believe that many programs try to solve every problem and cover everything that could possibly happen in a classroom. This massive amount of documentation can weigh down the teacher and she/he doesn’t master any of the procedures because of the overwhelming amount of paperwork.
Many years ago, when I was Head Start Education Manager, I developed a simple road map of skills from the HS Outcome Indicator document. I put them in developmental order and they were posted in each classroom. Even though we had other assessments in place, this was a hands-on individualization that helped the teacher easily track progress. What happened was that we began to actually see skill development in the children. We still had our observation assessment that we documented, but we had a quick way to evaluate whether the child had the skill. That simple road map provided so much clarity for the teacher that she/he began to understand how individualization works and how to put all the pieces in place.
I bring assessment up at this time of year since most programs do an assessment at the end of the school year. While subtle images and blurriness may have their place in a watercolor portrait, they do not have a place in appropriate assessments. It is critical that we track a child’s progress in a clear, developmentally appropriate way.
I had the opportunity to spend some of the holiday season in Kaua’i. On that island there is an amazing wonder called Waimea Canyon. It is considered the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. Indeed when we went to see it, I was shocked that this amazing canyon was hiding on an island. That portion of the island was not as it appeared from a distance. A hidden treasure!
I was talking with a group of students today about NAEYC’s requirements for ‘multiple measures’ to be used in tracking children’s progress. That information is part of Standard 4 in NAEYC’s Accreditation process. It is critical for us to individualize enough so that we can monitor the progress of each child. Sometimes children can fool us with their knowledge when they are in a group setting. Just like Waimea Canyon, things may not be as they appear. Within the classroom we can easily assume a child has mastered a skill that may still be a challenge for her individually. Without individualization and assessment, we would not know about the additional support that she may need. I remember a child I had a number of years ago that I assumed was a solid reader. He seemed to fit into our reading program well. However, when I asked him to read to me one day, he read a paragraph completely different than what was in print. The irony was that when he was finished he had stated the same information that was in the paragraph, just using different words and rewording sentences. Without individualized attention, his lack of skills may have been like the canyon-completely unknown from a distance. Individualized assessment allows us to explore every skill canyon that we are trying to reach. Assessment can keep us from false appearances in the classroom.