Erikson expertise shaped a new report on the appropriate use of assessments of young children in preschools, child care, and other early childhood programs.

With growing interest in the question of how publicly-funded programs should prove their worth, Congress tasked the National Research Council to identify appropriate outcomes for young children and determine how best to assess children. Eboni Howard, director of the Herr Research Center for Children and Social Policy at Erikson, was named to serve on the committee studying the issue. Abigail Duchatelier-Jeudy, a doctoral student at Erikson and a researcher at the Herr Research Center, provided assistance to Howard as she worked with the committee on its findings, released in a report Aug. 4.

The committee reported that well-planned assessments can inform teaching and contribute to better outcomes in children and programs. Conversely, assessments that are poorly matched to the outcomes measured or misuse of the results can harm both children and programs. The report urges extreme caution in basing high-stakes decisions—such as determining whether a program will receive continued funding or whether a child is eligible for services because of an identified disability—on assessments of young children.

The report also addressed the use of assessments as part of an accountability and program quality system. It urged caution in assessing children of special populations (e.g., English language learners, minority, special needs), because the existing methods to assess these children have not been accurate. The report offers selection guidelines, implementation steps, and suggestions for future research.

Erikson president Samuel J. Meisels, a nationally recognized expert on assessment of young children, says the report affirms his positions on the careful and appropriate use of assessments.