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Assessment

The Office of Early Learning is committed to best practices in instruction and assessment for all students. In New York State, each school district must conduct a screening for all new entrants. School districts shall also establish a process for assessing the developmental baseline and progress of all children participating in the program. Districts are responsible for reporting the progress of prekindergarten students and may use summative assessments to determine gains.

Please select from the below listed topics and also refer to the Screenings and Assessments Overview for additional guidance.

Defining Assessment

Regulations Pertaining to Traditional Standardized Tests

Per Commissioner's Regulations 151-1.2(e), "Traditional standardized test" shall mean a systematic method of gathering information from objectively scored items that allow the test taker to select one or more of the given options or choices as their response. Examples include multiple-choice, true-false, and matching items. Traditional standardized tests are those that require the student (and not the examiner/assessor) to directly use a "bubble" answer sheet. Traditional standardized tests do not include performance assessments or assessments in which students perform real-world tasks that demonstrate application of knowledge and skills; assessments that are otherwise required to be administered by federal law; and/or assessments used for diagnostic or formative purposes, including but not limited to assessments used for diagnostic screening required by Education Law.

Per Commissioner's Regulations, no school district shall administer traditional standardized tests in a pre-kindergarten program; provided that nothing herein shall prohibit assessments in which students perform real-world tasks that demonstrate application of knowledge and skills or assessments that are otherwise required to be administered by federal law.

Assessment Categories and Instruments

The required assessments for NYS-funded prekindergarten programs fall into distinct categories: screening new entrants, establishing a developmental baseline (pre-test), progress monitoring, and outcome assessment (post-test).  These assessments are required for all prekindergarten students enrolled in district and community-based organization (CBO) classrooms.  The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to districts on implementing these requirements.

NYS does not require the use of specific instruments.  Districts may select a valid and reliable instrument that assesses, at a minimum, the areas specified in the prior sections regarding establishing a screening, developmental baseline, progress monitoring and outcome assessment. 

Screening New Entrants

What is considered a screening?

For purposes of Part 117, screening is the use of a brief procedure designed to provide information that allows the district to distinguish from the general population those children who fit into one of more of the three categories listed under #2 below.

Why must prekindergarten students be screened?

Part 117 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education requires districts to establish procedures for the screening of every new student entering the New York State public school system P-12 for the first time or reentering a New York State public school with no available record of a prior screening.

When should prekindergarten children be screened?

Prekindergarten entrants should be screened prior to the beginning of the school year, if possible, but no later than December first.  Students entering the prekindergarten program after December first should be screened within fifteen days of enrollment.

What shall be included in the screening of prekindergarten entrants?

Screening of prekindergarten entrants shall include, but is not limited to:

  • evidence of health examination
  • certificate of immunization
  • vision, hearing and dental screenings
  • cognitive development, motor development and language and literacy skills
  • a determination of the child’s home language

How are the screening results to be used?

The results of the screening must be reviewed and a written report of each student screened shall be prepared by appropriately qualified school district staff. These reports must include a description of the screening devices used, the student's performance on those devices and, if required, the appropriate referral.  No later than 15 calendar days after completion of the screening, a student who is suspected of having a disability must be referred to the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE).  A student identified as possibly gifted must be reported to the superintendent of schools and to the child’s parent or legal guardian.

Establishing a Developmental Baseline (Pre-Test)

What is meant by a developmental baseline?

The developmental baseline assessment may be viewed as a “pre-test.”  It provides a comprehensive evaluation of the level of skills, abilities and/or knowledge that a child possesses prior to beginning formal instruction.  A developmental baseline assessment is not a “screening” device, as it is more in-depth than a screening.  Since the experiences children have before they begin prekindergarten vary, the developmental baseline assessment will reveal a range or span of abilities in each classroom.

What areas of development must be included when establishing a baseline?

At a minimum, districts must establish a developmental baseline for language and literacy skills, cognitive skills and social skills.  Districts may choose to establish a developmental baseline in additional domains of children’s learning and development.

Why must a developmental baseline be established?

Section 151-1.3(b) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education requires that districts establish procedures for assessing the developmental baseline of all children participating in the program using a valid and reliable tool.

What does “valid” mean?

A valid form of assessment is one which measures what it is supposed to measure; the extent to which an assessment’s results support meaningful inferences for certain intended purposes.  

What does "reliable" mean?

Reliable means the consistency of measures, gauged by any of several methods, including when the testing procedure is repeated on a population of individuals or groups or administered by different raters.  A reliable assessment will produce the same results on re-test, and will produce similar results with a similar cohort of students, so it is consistent in its methods and criteria. 

How should the developmental baseline results be used?

Baseline results indicate the best starting point for individual student instruction.  It can be used to plan learning experiences that can also be aggregated and used at the classroom level to identify strengths and needs of a group.  By aggregating the baseline assessment data, teachers can make informed instructional decisions.  This information can also be used to inform parents and to help them support their children’s learning.

Progress Monitoring (On-going assessment)

What is progress monitoring?

Progress monitoring is assessment conducted to examine student’s academic performance over time and to evaluate the effectiveness of individual and group instruction.  Progress is measured on a regular basis by comparing expectations of what students should know and be able to do with actual student performance.  Both formal and informal tools/instruments may be used. For more information, see OEL's guidance for Observing and Recording Children's Development.

Why is progress monitoring necessary?

Section 151-1.3(b) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education requires districts to establish a process for assessing the progress of all children in the UPK program.   This process must, at a minimum, provide for ongoing assessment of the development of language, cognitive, and social skills.  

How should the results of progress monitoring be analyzed and used?

An effective progress monitoring process should reflect specific information on children's progress to be used for instructional planning for individual children.  The process should also include a variety of ongoing and frequently used strategies to collect, analyze and apply information on an ongoing basis.  All individuals involved in progress monitoring should be trained in the appropriate use of progress monitoring tools, both formal and informal, as well as the process of using information for planning instruction and learning opportunities for children.  The information generated from on-going progress monitoring should drive pedagogical decision-making, such as the intentional planning of classroom environments, scheduling, whole/small group times, and, materials to address both general and individualized goals for students.

How should the results of progress monitoring be used?

Progress monitoring should demonstrate whether students are benefiting from the instructional program and how program or curriculum adjustments are being made.  Reporting may be for individual students or for the class as a whole. Some reporting tools are meant to develop and enhance communication with families and others involved in the individual needs of each student.  Other reports may include reflection on the group’s progress and might be shared with administrators, school boards and the public.  Reporting methods might include parent conferences, staff meetings, referrals, progress reports, individualized instruction plans, and professional development plans.

Outcome Assessment (Post-Test)

What is outcome assessment?

Outcome assessment (post-test) is the process of collecting student information for the purposes of assessing whether the services, activities, or experiences offered had the desired impact over a specified period of time.  

Should the same assessment tool that was used for the pre-test also be used for the post-test?

Yes.  When a pre-test is administered to students before an educational activity and a post-test is administered to them at the end of the school year, you will be able to assess using the same measurement tool(s) how much the educational, program and support activity services increased the child’s knowledge by comparing pre-test and post-test scores. 

How should the results of the outcome assessment be used?

Outcome assessment is used to measure individual student growth or can be aggregated to evaluate the effectiveness of the academic programs and activities.  The results should be used to build on individual student or program strengths and to discuss areas of growth.