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Early Childhood Assessment: Why, What, and How? (Research Brief)

Published: October 15, 2008
Head Start
National Academy of Sciences: Study of Early Childhood Assessment, 2006-2008 | Learn more about this project

In the context of an expanding array of programs aimed at early childhood intervention, the assessment of young children’s development and learning has recently taken on new importance. Private and government organizations are developing programs to enhance the school readiness of all young children, especially children from economically disadvantaged homes and communities and children with special needs. These programs are designed to enhance social, language, and academic skills through responsive early care and education. In addition, they provide settings to identify and offer appropriate interventions to children with developmental problems.

The expansion of early child care and intervention programs has been accompanied by calls for accountability for these initiatives, especially those that are publicly funded. School systems and government agencies are asked to set goals, establish standards, track progress, analyze strengths and weaknesses in programs, and report on their achievements, with consequences for unmet goals. Early childhood education and intervention programs are increasingly called on to prove their worth in similar ways.

Last Reviewed: April 29, 2019