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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 3, Lesson 1

Evaluation and Assessment Purposes

Assessment, in the broadest sense, is defined as a systematic process for collecting information and data to make instructional and program decisions about young children (McLean, 2004; Mindes, 2003; Salvia & Ysseldyke, 2001). Assessment (in the broad sense) has multiple purposes and functions. Within the Early Steps program the process of gathering data and information for decision making occurs during the identification process which includes screening (First Contacts), determination of eligibility for Early Steps services (evaluation) and assessment for program planning and the development of the Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP).

In addition to those purposes defined by Early Steps, there is the function of monitoring child progress in order to determine if the intervention is effective and to adjust activities and interactions to insure progress. In order to provide data for our own instructional decision-making as well as share program data with stakeholders, we must use evaluation and assessment information to determine our overall program effectiveness.

Information Gathering Terms and Functions in Decision Making

  • Screening - The functional reason for screening is to determine if children need further evaluation and assessment. Screening should occur within the context of First Contacts. Children who have documented established conditions do not need to participate in the screening process, although this is permissible based on individual situations. Screening is not designed to establish delays or to determine eligibility.
  • Evaluation - The evaluation phase of collecting information is to determine if the individual children meet specific program eligibility criteria. We evaluate children using standardized, norm-referenced tests and instruments which will be discussed in Lesson 2.
  • Assessment - During the assessment phase, we determine strengths and needs for planning services and developing the IFSP. Within the context of the Early Steps program, an arena assessment must be conducted. There are a variety of different methods used to collect information and data during the assessment process.
  • Monitoring - Early Steps defines this function as Evaluation of Strategies and Outcomes. It is critical to monitor programs and individual child and family progress in order to continue, modify or create new plans if strategies are not working and if children have moved beyond the original IFSP. We use data to make these decisions.
  • Program Accountability - Ultimately, data and information gathered through the assessment and monitoring phases are used to determine overall program effectiveness. This is particularly true in entitlement programs like Early Steps where federal and state dollars are supporting early intervention services. Accountability is becoming more and more critical and stakeholders are demanding to see positive child outcome data.


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