6.2 Becoming Assessment Literate

Illustration of a bird in flight

Our text focuses on examining a comprehensive collection of literacy practices and strategies to ensure early educators are well prepared to nurture young children’s emerging literacies. Determining how to facilitate literacy experiences to meet individual children’s needs and interests relies on an educator’s knowledge, use, interpretation, and integration of a variety of assessment data points. To effectively engage children in rich language, reading, and writing experiences, educators must become assessment literate. Assessment literate educators possess a strong understanding of a variety of assessment practices and know how to interpret assessment results to inform their decisions about curricular experiences for learners (Popham, 2011). Because assessment results influence learning opportunities for children, it is important for educators to develop intentional and ongoing assessment practices and routines that illuminate children’s literacy learnings. Assessments are designed to meet specific purposes and provide evidence of a child’s knowledge or skill at a particular moment in time. However, children’s emergent literacy knowledge involves the integration of complex language-based practices, and it is unlikely a single assessment tool will provide all of the data necessary to make fully informed decisions. Therefore, knowing that all assessments have limitations, early educators need to develop a robust understanding of how, when, and why they use specific assessment tools to inform their work with children and families.

Educators and early education programs frequently use a variety of assessment measurement tools including standardized assessments, performance assessments, curriculum-based assessments, and observation-based assessments (Piker & Jewkes, 2013). Learning how to leverage diverse assessment tools to meet different purposes is an important aspect of an educator’s work with young learners and families. Becoming assessment literate empowers educators to critically analyze assessment data for biases, inherent in all assessments, that may under-represent a child’s emergent literacy knowledge. Accurate and full documentation of a child’s understanding is not only essential for designing curricular experiences for learners. Assessment results also influence the types of interventions or additional special education services children and families receive (McLean et al., 2020). Therefore, knowing how to use diverse sets of data to discuss a child’s emerging skills strengthens educators’ efforts advocating for children and families (Mindes & Jung, 2018).

Purposes for Assessment

  • Educators use assessments to understand learning and development and to guide instructional decisions
  • Assessments help educators identify children who might benefit from receiving additional intervention services
  • Educators use assessment data to evaluate program practices and processes for areas of continued improvement and professional growth (Kidd et al., 2019; National Research Council, 2008).
  • Understanding how to use numerous assessment tools to advocate for children and families and guide young learners is emphasized by professional organizations, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Division of Early Childhood (DEC). Both organizations encourage early childhood educators to use data strategically to enhance young children’s learning experiences. These organizations also maintain that assessments for young children must be developmentally appropriate and advance the use of observational assessment practices to capture children’s literacy performances within their natural environments (McLean et al., 2020, NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2003).

Fortunately, children’s literacy performances are readily observable across a child’s day as children talk, interact with text, and create their own drawings and writings to express their ideas. Knowing how to structure a child’s environment to elicit literacy rich interactions will make documenting children’s literacy enactments easier. Similarly, learning how to identify components of children’s literacy enactments and capture evidence of their emerging literacy skills as they play will enhance your savvy as an early childhood literacy educator. As you learn to see, document, and interpret children’s emerging literacies,  you will develop a repertoire of assessment and instructional practices that will inform your work facilitating literacy experiences for young children.

Media Attributions


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

The Early Literacy Journey: Supporting and Celebrating Young Learners Copyright © 2024 by Sandra Carrie Garvey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book