Understanding and Choosing Assessments and Developmental Screeners for Young Children Ages 3-5: Profiles of Selected Measures, Final Report

Publication Date: June 15, 2011


The 2007 reauthorization of Head Start requires Head Start programs to use child assessments and developmental screeners that are developmentally, linguistically, and culturally appropriate, as well as valid and reliable in the language in which they are used. This can be a challenge, since very few child assessment tools are developed or tested with linguistically and culturally diverse samples or with samples of children with disabilities (Pena & Halle, 2011; Spiker, Hebbeler, & Barton, 2011). Further, staff members in Head Start and other early childhood education programs rarely have the time, and may lack the technical training, to review and compare complex psychometric information on the quality of assessment and developmental screening tools. This compendium has been created to address this need and to promote the use of reliable and valid assessment data, wherever possible, in Head Start and other early childhood programs.

This document has three purposes. First, the compendium aims to help Head Start managers and other early childhood education administrators review information regarding the reliability and validity of commonly used assessment and developmental screening tools in order to help them better select appropriate tools for the populations they serve. Second, the compendium aims more generally to increase awareness about reliability and validity and how to evaluate whether an instrument is reliable and valid for the population and purpose for which it will be used. Finally, the compendium aims to highlight areas in which the early childhood field is lacking information on reliability and validity of early childhood assessments and developmental screeners. While originally developed in response to Head Start’s reauthorization, the compendium is designed to be useful to managers and staff who work in different types of early childhood education programs and who are responsible for selecting and evaluating assessment or screening instruments.

With regard to the first purpose, many manuals provide complex information regarding the reliability, validity, and appropriateness of a particular assessment instrument for different populations. This information can be detailed and is not always presented in a way that is easily understood to those who are not trained researchers. Head Start and other program managers may need help sifting through and understanding the information that is provided in these formats. This challenge is amplified by the fact that an instrument may be reliable and valid with one population but not another, or for one purpose but not another.

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