Panel: Strengthening Measurement in Early Childhood Education to Strengthen Policy-Making
(Family and Child Policy)

Thursday, November 2, 2017: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Stetson BC (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Shira Mattera, MDRC
Panel Chairs:  Shira Mattera, MDRC
Discussants:  Tamara Halle, Child Trends

Aligning Three Measures of Children’s Pre-K and Kindergarten Math Skills in the Making Pre-K Count Study
Shira Mattera1, Pamela Morris2 and Natalia Rojas2, (1)MDRC, (2)New York University

An Observational Measure of Regulation-Related Skills in the Early Childhood Classroom Setting
Dana Charles McCoy1, Stephanie M. Jones1, Abby Hemenway1, Andrew Koepp1 and Oliver Wilder-Smith2, (1)Harvard University, (2)Norteastern University

Policy makers have shown increasing interest in early childhood education as a tool for supporting children’s development and improving children’s outcomes (National Education Goals Panel, 1996). Cost-benefit calculations have shown that even relatively expensive early childhood interventions can be cost effective (see Reynolds & Temple, 2006; Rolnick & Gruneweld, 2003). Bipartisan support for pre-k has led to pre-k expansion in a growing number of locales, with over 40 states spending more than $6.2 billion on state-funded pre-k programs in the 2014-2015 school year (Barnett et al., 2016). With this increase in funding comes a growing interest in measuring children’s outcomes accurately and validly across a number of developmental domains to assess program effectiveness and support program improvements.

However, the field of early childhood measurement is still nascent. The field continues to refine its conceptualization of key constructs in various developmental domains, validate new measures, and improve upon methods for collecting these data from young children. This panel presents four presentations focused on strengthening measurement across the domains of math, executive function, and social-emotional development. Each presentation focused on a unique aspect of strong measurement of child outcomes, examining different methodologies and different measures for collecting nuanced, detailed, reliable, and valid data on children’s outcomes.

The first presentation uses data from a large-scale, longitudinal randomized controlled trial of preschool math to examine the overlap and unique components of three measure of children’s math skill in pre-k and kindergarten, delving into how different measures of the same construct conceptualize and assess that construct. The second presentation describes the embedding of a validation of a tablet-based version of a widely used direct assessment in a larger data collection effort linked to New York City’s pre-k expansion. The third study presents the validation of a group-based executive function assessment. The fourth study examines the validation of a classroom-based self-regulation assessment.

Strong measurement can be the cornerstone of informed policy- and decision-making in early childhood. Valid, reliable measures that assess the outcomes that matter for children in the short- and long-term remain an important tool for policymakers to evaluate their policy decisions and strengthen their programs. This panel will delve deeply into how, when, and why different measures and methodologies work best.

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