One Sunflower

Marco…. (response to questions about assessment)

on May 15, 2010


I’ve been playing this game with my students all year.  It begins at our first home visit when I chat with parents about the goals they have for their children and themselves while my future students peek shyly from laps or behind sofas.  “Marco” 


Maestra helps the parents fill out the mounds of paperwork required,    and I sit with the children and watch as they draw their first self portraits and make letters or marks for their names.  “Polo”

Two weeks into the school year, I have finished reviewing the Ages and Stages Questionnaires filled out by the parents.  This gives me information about developmental abilities and social emotional needs.  “Marco”  By then, my students have learned how to navigate from the bus to the classroom, to the bathroom and the cafeteria, and I’ve introduced them to our rules and routines. In general, Maestra and I have a better idea of who these little beings are.  “Polo”

Our first assessments have to be completed within 45 days of the first day of school – so usually by the 3rd week of October, I’ve completed a checklist of basic body vocabulary, colors and shapes, sorting, counting, alphabet and book knowledge as well as the 50 items on the Creative Curriculum Developmental Continuum.   The parents and teachers also complete  DECA questionnaires. “Marco” 

These tools help me create an ILP – Individual Learning Plan for each student. 

I meet with the families in November and our work deepens. “Polo”

The ILP’s become my guide for additional curriculum support, groupings for activities, directed play scenarios, resources for families. 


I reevaluate the children in February and April, meeting with the families each time and adjusting ILP goals and objectives as necessary.  “Marco Polo”

When I first started working in early childhood programs, the only assessments I did involved watching to see whether a child could write their name, draw a person, recognize colors and shapes and use scissors.  I conferenced with parents about whether their children were making friends and had particular interests and abilities.  Occasionally I helped a family find particular resources for their child because of questions about speech and hearing difficulties, fine motor control and attention span.  

Of course I balked when I moved out to the school district and found out that I had to do a formal sit-down check list with my students, record the data and submit it!  I hated the time it took, I hated feeling so accountable.

But I was truly amazed at how much more informed I was about my students and their needs, and what I needed to be doing as their teacher – after all, that is my job!


Luckily I work in a district that – while serious about assessing children, collecting the data and responding to it – is also very intentional and careful in the choices they make around assessments.  Teacher input is asked for and expected, support is given to help gather the information and the data is returned in a timely way to actually impact curriculum planning. 

  It is the call and response of the school year.  

Like the game of Marco Polo, the goal is to narrow the gap.

Luckily, unlike the water game, I am not calling out blindly – nor am I alone in the work.     My next post will be about how I am supported to be a reflective and reflexive teacher.

couldn’t resist putting in some photos of  the recent sailboat race my brother and dad sponsor and support!


4 responses to “Marco…. (response to questions about assessment)

  1. If you had to choose just a few assessment pieces (and were not required to do specifc assessments) what would they be? I believe we need to be more intentional in assessing our children and using what we learn but I struggle with the assessment tools so often used.

    • onesunflower says:

      I have really come to appreciate the Creative Curriculum Developmental Continuum. The tool gives me descriptors of what each item would look like in the classroom and I like that it isn’t just a plus or minus but a “continuum” with a 1-2-3. The other thing I like about it are the “forerunners” described so that I can record delays – and the subsequent progress. If there isn’t movement into the regular section, it also works as evidence that a child needs more evaluation. Other pluses are that it is understandable by parents, it matches the Washington State Early Learning Benchmarks and I can fill it out totally through observation – I don’t need to sit down with a kid and test them. There are items that require detailed knowledge – such as does a child know 1-9 alphabet letters, letter sounds, do they know number symbols, etc., but I can develop my own tools to check for knowledge of those items.
      Other tools I’ve used – and currently have to use – ask me to find out just exactly which alphabet letters or numbers the child knows.
      The other thing I like about how we use this tool is that it names targeted goals for a child. When we make ILP’s for our students we choose about 4 objectives – usually from the language and literacy and prosocial sections. We are easily able to evaluate progress and adjust the objectives because it is all there on the document.
      We have a data queen who collects all of our input and puts it on an excel doc. It helps us see how kids rank according to others of similar age in the district and if there are areas that require special focus.

  2. Sarah says:

    I just found your blog, and I have to confess, I love the combination of intentionality and research-backed methodology with recognition of the importance of classroom climate. Do you have any more information about how you create your ILP’s? We use the Creative Curriculum in our district too, but I am always unsure about how to intentionally utilize that data in my planning! This past year was my first, and I so often ended up using the whole evaluation as a way to target specific children for further intervention, but it was always sort of half-thought out. Like, “PJ was all forerunners and I’s, so I need to spend more time with him and focus on him more at circle”, instead of aligning specific goals and objectives.

    • onesunflower says:

      Welcome – I’m glad you’ve found me and I hope we can have more back and forth exchanges!
      Our ILP’s have 3 sections – to target 3 areas, literacy, social/emotional development and “other.” Sometimes “other” is “see IEP,” but we also use it for number sense goals. I pull the goals straight from the Creative Curriculum, usually just two per area. The ILP has a place to name how I’m going to support the student in school and a section for suggestions for how to support the student at home. There are boxes for dating our reviews and giving the student scores from 0-4, no progress, some progress, good progress, achieved.
      As far as using the Creative Curriculum, I have an informal tally sheet for the class where I add up their scores in a section and then look at how each student compares to the rest of the class or to others in their age group. If they seem particularly low in a section, that becomes a priority for classroom support.
      I don’t have the score sheet in front of me but here’s an example – I think there were about 6 ways to evaluate oral language, with a possible score of 3 for each one, a perfect score would be 18. Many of my ELL students were scoring a 6 (in English) so my goal was to raise their scores on those items at least one point over the year. I averaged getting most of them up to cumulative scores of 8’s and 9’s. Does that make sense?

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