The Measures for Early Success Initiative, led by MDRC with foundational support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to reimagine the landscape of early learning assessments for three- to five-year-olds in pre-K so that more equitable data can be used to meaningfully support and strengthen early learning experiences for all young children. The initiative seeks to support innovative solutions and develop scalable, comprehensive, and validated assessment tools of children’s developmental gains that are relevant and usable for all educators, children, and families in pre-K settings.
A wave of federal and state investments aims to build high-quality and equitable early learning systems. Instrumental to achieving these goals is the availability of reliable, high-quality, and unbiased information about children’s needs, competencies, progress, and classroom experiences in pre-K. Yet this type of data is rarely collected as part of normal pre-K operations.
Three primary hurdles limit the range of information collected across pre-K systems, undermining critical opportunities to identify solutions that can support all children:
- Most of the existing child assessment tools have been developed and validated with study samples that are not representative of the diverse populations of children served by publicly funded pre-K systems;
- Existing tools are also often costly, burdensome to use, and do not always yield meaningful and timely insights to support educators, families, and young children’s learning; and,
- Most tools focus on narrow sets of skills that have not been consistently linked with longer-term indicators of success.
Over the past year, MDRC, in collaboration with Substantial, a human-centered design firm, engaged pre-K educators and families as well as program leaders and administrators from federal, state, and local systems, to understand the current landscape of assessments in the pre-K space. In doing so, we sought to identify how future assessment tools could better address the needs of these stakeholders and to inform design parameters for the development of more equitable child assessment tools.