K-3 Assessment that Informs Instruction


Children’s development in the early grades is complex, involving not only academic skills, but also communication, motor skills, social-emotional development, and more. To help teachers address all domains of learning, SRI Education is working on developmentally appropriate, observation-based assessment focused on the whole child.

Early childhood researchers from SRI’s Center for Education and Human Services are working with the 10-state K-3 Formative Assessment Consortium to enhance a formative assessment developed by the state of North Carolina. This assessment will inform instruction in kindergarten through third grade. Implementing kindergarten entry assessments (KEA) is a major priority of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge program, and the Department has funded multiple consortia to enhance KEAs developed by states.


SRI Education’s approach applies research on assessment practices and early childhood development to produce an assessment that is feasible and provides useful information to teachers and policymakers about what children know and can do at entry to kindergarten. A unique focus of this consortium is that the assessment extends from kindergarten entry through grade 3 to provide teachers with information about children’s progress across these crucial years of learning.

Based on current formative assessment research, the assessment uses naturally occurring events in the classroom as evidence to identify a child’s learning status on multiple construct progressions. A construct progression is a set of skills that trace the development of learning for a particular concept of subject matter over time. This type of assessment is designed to help a teacher see where a child is on the progression so the teacher can help the child reach the next step. This assessment is in contrast to a one-time kindergarten entry assessment, which provides no information as to what the child should be learning next.

SRI researchers have worked closely with researchers, educators, district teams, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Early Learning and the other nine states in the Consortium to develop the K-3 Formative Assessment Process with an Enhanced Assessment Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In particular, the consortium is designing flexible ways to collect information about children that is embedded in day-to-day instructional practices and that will produce actionable data for teachers. Further, SRI and the K-3 consortium are also helping teachers integrate ongoing observation into day-to-day teaching practices so the teachers are able to use the resulting information to guide instruction.

Watch for updates on our progress in developing a meaningful, useful assessment tool to support the teaching and learning of young children.

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