Getting on Track Early for School Success: An Assessment System to Support Effective Instruction

Promoting the development of oral language and the acquisition of numeracy, spatial reasoning, and geometry skills among preschool children is foundational to Getting on Track Early for School Success.  Recent research demonstrates that focusing on early oral language development positively influences children’s later proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and numerical reasoning and that math-related interactions between parents, teachers and children can substantially enhance the development of children’s mathematical thinking. Yet, evaluations of preschool instruction find that these critical oral language and math skills are not sufficiently emphasized in preschool classrooms. We seek to change this state of affairs by clarifying instructional goals for early language, mathematics, and academic development in preschool settings, by providing teachers with frequent objective, accurate and valid assessments of children’s skills in these domains, and thereby enabling teachers and researchers to develop powerful instructional strategies to foster these skills.

With funding from the Foundation for Child Development (FCD), the Kellogg Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we have developed statistically reliable pre-K literacy and mathematics assessments which integrate research and practice and provide information to preschool teachers that is highly relevant to individual, small group, and whole class instruction. These assessments will serve as the core of a coherent system of instruction we are developing that begins in pre-K and reliably enables children of all social, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds to attain high levels of academic achievement by grade 3.  The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, practitioners and methodological experts. Our team, listed below, includes child development experts, early learning practitioners, curriculum and assessment developers, and methodologists.

In the process of developing our assessments, we:

  • Rigorously reviewed research to identify the domains of early language and mathematics development that are most critical for future academic success
  • Surveyed existing literacy and mathematics assessments for young children
  • Developed and piloted instructionally relevant assessments for English-speaking children between the ages of 3 and 5 based on cutting-edge research and practical usability in the classroom
  • Developed and piloted instructionally relevant literacy and mathematics assessments for young Spanish-speaking dual language learners (DLL) measuring the research-based skills assessed in our English language assessments
  • Ensured the assessments align with Illinois pre-K standards, including those for DLL children
  • Had experts in the fields of literacy, mathematics, and early child education review the field-test versions of the English language assessments and made revisions based on their feedback
  • Conducted 2 large-scale field tests of the English language literacy and mathematics assessments (400 3 – 5 year olds for each; approximately 300 items in each), yielding exceptional datasets of highly reliable measures of children’s emergent oral language, print-related, and mathematics skills

NORC is currently conducting Classical Item and Item Response Theory (IRT) analyses on the field test data.

The next steps to complete development of our coherent instruction system are 1) to build an innovative assessment design to provide teachers with data tailored to individual students and relevant to instruction; 2) to complete the development of the DLL literacy and mathematics assessments by conducting a large-scale field test and analysis of field test data; and 3) to increase teacher capacity to foster critical skills in their students through professional development and support materials. 


Project Executive Committee


Stephen Raudenbush,
EdD, Project PI, Professor of Sociology and Chair, Committee on Education, University of Chicago

Terese Schwartzman, PhD, Project Director, Committee on Education, University of Chicago
 
Molly Branson Thayer, PhD, Director for Strategic Initiatives, Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago
 
Susan Goldin-Meadow, PhD, Professor of Comparative Human Development and Psychology, University of Chicago
 
Marc Hernandez, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Academic Research Centers, NORC, University of Chicago
 
Debbie Leslie, MAT, Associate Director for Direct Services, Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education, University of Chicago
 
Susan C. Levine, PhD, Professor of Comparative Human Development and Psychology, University of Chicago 
 

Project Team

  
Jennifer Adams, PhD, Senior Literacy Assessment Development Associate, Committee on Education, University of Chicago
 
Ozlem Ece Demir, PhD, Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University
 
Cassie Freeman, Institute of Education Sciences Fellows, Department of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago
 
Elizabeth Gunderson, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Temple University
 
Raedy Ping, PhD, Postdoctoral Scholar, Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago
 
Michael Reynolds, PhD, Associate Director for Research, Academic Research Centers, NORC, University of Chicago
 
Janet Sorkin, PhD, Senior Mathematics Assessment Development Associate, Committee on Education, University of Chicago
 
Liesje Spaepen, PhD, Curriculum Developer, Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education, University of Chicago
 
Margaret Walsh, MAT, Director of STEP Literacy, Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago
 
Michele Zimowski, PhD, Senior Survey Methodologist, Statistics and Methodology, NORC, University of Chicago
 
 

 

Primary Contact

Marc Hernandez
(773) 256-6152
hernandez-marc@norc.org

Project Director

Michael J. Reynolds

(773) 256-6073

Principal Investigator

Stephen W. Raudenbush

(773) 834-1904


Senior Staff

Michael J. Reynolds
Senior Vice President and Director

Marc W. Hernandez
Senior Research Scientist