An Assessment Tool for Early Learning
January 01, 2021
Appears in January 2021: School Administrator.
As superintendent of an 1,800-student school district in Dundee, Mich., I have been applying what I have learned from my experiences with the AASA Early Learning cohort, which I co-chair. Of note, I’ve taken hold of a tool for measuring the effectiveness of a school or district’s early learning program.
As a part of my doctoral studies, I developed a resource called the Early Learning Program Assessment Tool,© or ELPAT©. This is a tool for measuring the effectiveness of a school or district’s early learning program — what I consider the first opportunity for quantifying the effectiveness of early learning.
In addition, the tool has the capacity to generate aggregated data on a national scale that can be used by AASA to drive public policy and legislative efforts. By using research-based best practices in early learning and early childhood development, the ELPAT combines the framework for developmentally appropriate practices published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children with numerous other resources. The result is a complete picture of the whole child that enables any user the chance to understand best practices in early learning.
The ELPAT consists of a web-based evaluation rubric that measures impact in four age categories: birth through age 3, preschool, kindergarten and grades 1-3. It is built on a platform of developmentally appropriate, research-based practices that measures 11 categories in birth through age 3 with 14 categories in the other three age ranges.
Now that Standards For Success, an Indianapolis, Ind.-based firm dealing with online evaluation in education, is releasing this resource, it is accessible to other educators. Superintendents with minimal knowledge of early childhood education will find the tool’s construction makes it easy to mark rubrics under each age category. The research-based resources are linked causally to each rubric indicator, enabling a user to align practices to the areas measured.
I used the tool in my district, alongside nine other districts in Monroe County, Mich., to build a countywide alliance that identified areas of growth for our districts. We have worked with other community agencies to hire two family engagement specialists who provide services to our students and their families that are identified in the tool for children from birth through age 3.
We have used ELPAT scores to implement a successful early learning program in Dundee that now offers Early Head Start, Head Start, Young 5’s and all-day kindergarten. We are continuously working to make smoother transitions for our littlest students
while aligning our curriculum in all early learning grades as a result of the ELPAT scores.
EDDIE MANUSZAK is superintendent of the Dundee Community Schools in Dundee, Mich.