Letter of the Day | Early childhood tests internationally recognised
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The following is a response by the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) to Rose Davies' article 'Cautions on early childhood assessment', published in The Sunday Gleaner on Sunday, May 22, 2016, which raised concerns about the National Age Four Assessment Screening Exercise.
On May 10 and 11, 2016, the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), in collaboration with the Student Assessment Unit of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information,conducted assessment screening exercises in more than 2,000 early childhood institutions covering more than 43,000 four-year-old students. The aim was to determine the readiness of the students to access primary-school education. This exercise is part of a World Bank Monitoring Indicator on early childhood development for the ECC and, as such, is supported by the World Bank.
Mrs Davies' said, "... One-off group assessments such as these being executed are developmentally inappropriate for children as young as four years old." The ECC wishes to again state that the assessment was not an achievement test and, therefore, did not seek to screen students' abilities in the cognitive domain. The screening exercise was administered in the students' normal learning environment using observation checklists.
It should be noted that observation checklists are recognised and used internationally as assessment tools for young children. Appropriate assessment measures were considered in the development of the tool, hence 75 per cent of the assessment checklist comprised items which took into consideration social, emotional, motor and other developmental skills. The checklist was completed by teachers who would have been interacting with the students for more than one year, after they were exposed to the early childhood curriculum for four-year-olds.
For the remaining 25 per cent of the items, students were required to follow simple instructions and demonstrate pre-readiness skills based on early childhood development at that age. Careful consideration was given to the students' developmental milestones. Therefore, the students were not required to write or read question items but were only required to follow simple instructions.
Preparation for the National Assessment Screening Exercise
In preparation for the national roll-out, a pilot study was conducted in October 2015 and January 2016 across eight parishes, namely: St Ann, Hanover, St James, Manchester, St Catherine, St Thomas, Kingston and St Andrew. In addition, as part of the preparation, consultations were held across the island with key stakeholders, including parents, early childhood teachers, principals, and teachers' colleges.
Guided by the Student Assessment Unit of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the checklists originally designed by a consultant and the University of Oregon were redesigned to make them more culturally appropriate.
The findings of the National Assessment Screening Exercise will assist the ECC's teams to identify appropriate intervention programmes in early childhood institutions and, where necessary, make appropriate referrals.
Communication Manager, ECC