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Measuring Infant/Toddler Language Development: Lessons Learned About Assessment and Screening Tools
Early Head Start programs are expected to assess child progress on an ongoing basis to ensure that children are developing the skills they need to be ready for school. Programs typically use two types of instruments to determine how children are doing: screeners and assessments. Screeners are typically used as a preliminary step to determine if developmental skills are progressing as expected or if skills are not progressing as expected and further evaluation is needed. Assessment tools are used on an ongoing basis to identify children’s unique strengths and needs. Information from assessments can be used to determine strategies to support the development of the child within the context of the classroom. With a wide variety of assessment and screening tools available to select from, it can be daunting for Early Head Start programs to choose tools that will provide the information needed to understand children’s progress and make decisions about instruction, further evaluation, and services. Early Head Start does not dictate which tools programs use; rather, programs select the assessments and screening tools they deem most appropriate for the population they serve. While this flexibility allows programs to tailor their practice, questions persist about how to select tools that are appropriate for the purpose and population at hand.