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How Early Childhood Assessments Can Help, Not Hinder

Mom and child playing

Shawn Hardee regularly leads his wife’s preschool class in a sing-a-long. (“There’s nothing better than hearing kids sing with you!” he says.)

He’s the father of two young children.

He’s also one of Pearson’s leading experts on early childhood assessment.

And—he refers to young students as “kiddos.”

“These students are not research subjects,” Shawn says. “They’re kids.”

Helping Children, Not Holding Them Back

“Early childhood assessment,” Shawn says, “is fundamentally a matter of fairness and equality in education.”

“It’s not about fixing problems or holding kids back,” he says.

Shawn says early childhood assessment is critical to identifying developmental problems that might drag down a child’s learning—then helping them get the help they need.

“It also gives teachers a better picture of the student to make better lesson plans,” he says. “And, perhaps even more importantly, it helps keep parents informed.”

Current Research

Shawn is currently collaborating on a project with one of the titans in his field, Sam Meisels.

Man playing the guitar for young children

It’s called the Early Screening Inventory (ESI), which is a quick developmental screener. Teachers can use it with younger students 3 to 5 years old.

“It involves things like building block towers or memory games,” Shawn says. “And, once the screening is done, it helps a teacher decide whether a child needs additional, more in-depth assessment.”

The Realities of Young Classrooms

“When we design assessments for younger classrooms,” Shawn says, “you have to remember the realities of that younger classroom.”

“Kids are often all over the place, their noses are running,” he says. “And that’s where these teachers need to be able to do an assessment that could help a child’s learning and development.”

“That’s why my wife is my ‘go-to’ for reality checks on how to phrase questions or structure assessment tasks,” Shawn says.

“She’s in the trenches as a preschool teacher,” he says. “She keeps me grounded.”

The Future of Assessments

“We’ve come so far in what we know about early child assessments,” Shawn says. “Yet, there’s still so much more to know.”

For example, standardized achievement tests in vogue for so long are no longer considered assessment gospel.

“We know so much more now about a child’s brain, about neuroscience,” Shawn says.

“So we’re always refining what we do.”