Blended Practices for Teaching Young Children in Inclusive Settings

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9781557667991: Blended Practices for Teaching Young Children in Inclusive Settings

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Whether they graduate from general education programs, special education programs, or a program that blends both, most early childhood educators will be required to teach children with and without disabilities — and document that all their students are progressing toward positive outcomes. This essential text is just what teachers need to face these tough challenges in inclusive classrooms. Bridging the gap between special and general education, this resource integrates knowledge about effective practices for teaching young children with and without disabilities into one comprehensive approach. Undergraduate and graduate students will find the explicit guidance they need to

  • develop, implement, and evaluate a curriculum framework that incorporate children's interests and needs and promote their growth and development
  • conduct authentic, meaningful assessments that directly guide teaching
  • create classroom environments that set the stage for effective teaching and learning
  • honor individual learning needs by tailoring instruction
  • embed learning opportunities that address children's goals across daily activities
  • actively involve families in all aspects of curricula design and implementation
  • address challenging behaviors
  • effectively monitor children's progress to inform practice

This core text is easy for students to use — it's filled with visual aids such as tables, figures, and sample forms; vignettes and practical examples that illustrate key concepts and guiding principles; helpful summaries for each chapter; and dozens of learning activities that challenge students to test and expand their knowledge. Early childhood teachers will use this as a reference for many years to come as they blend best practices from special and general education, develop effective curricula for inclusive classrooms, and improve outcomes for all children.

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About the Author:


Jennifer Grisham-Brown, Ed.D., is Professor in the Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education program at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. She received her doctorate in Education from the University of Kentucky. She is also Director of the Early Childhood Laboratory at the University of Kentucky, an inclusive early childhood program for children from birth to 5 years of age.

Dr. Grisham-Brown directs research projects on topics including linking assessment and instruction, early care and education program quality, and individualizing instruction for young children with disabilities. In addition, she has conducted research on the effectiveness of instructional procedures that are embedded into developmentally appropriate activities, use of distance learning in personnel preparation programs, and assessment strategies for students with significant disabilities. Dr. Grisham-Brown provides training and technical assistance through the United States on these topics.

Dr. Grisham-Brown is co-founder of a children’s home and preschool program in Guatemala City called Hope for Tomorrow, where she accompanies students for the education abroad program.

Mary Louise Hemmeter, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. She teaches courses, advises students, and conducts research on early childhood issues. She is the cofaculty director of the Susan Gray School for Children, which is an early childhood program for children with and without disabilities. Her research focuses on effective instruction, social–emotional development and challenging behavior, translating research to practice, and effective approaches to professional development.

Currently, she directs an Institute of Education Sciences–funded research project focused on the efficacy of implementing the Teaching Pyramid in classrooms, and she works on the National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning and the Office of Special Education Programs–funded Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Interventions. She is a coeditor of the Journal of Early Intervention and serves on the editorial boards of other major journals in early childhood special education. She served as President of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and received the Merle B. Karnes award from DEC.

As the president of B2K Solutions, Ltd., Dr. Pretti-Frontczak extends her expertise in the preparation of personnel to a global market with the aim of improving the implementation of effective practices and services by those who work with young children with diverse abilities. She is a gifted speaker, strong applied researcher, and is known for creating solutions to complex problems. She has presented to diverse audiences in countries such as Singapore and Australia as well as to early education providers in virtually every state in the US. Dr. Pretti-Frontczak is a Past President of the Division for Early Childhood, was a professor at Kent State University for 16 years, and has worked as an early childhood consultant and trainer since 1990.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Excerpted from Chapter 4 of Blended Practices for Teaching Young Children in Inclusive Settings, by Jennifer Grisham-Brown, Ed.D., Mary Louise Hemmeter, Ph.D., & Kristie Pretti-Frontczak, Ph.D.

Copyright©2005 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Ms. Susan works in an inclusive preschool in a rural midwestern town. Her program is operated by the public school system. She has eighteen 3- and 4-year-old children in her class. Six of those children have developmental delays. Ten of the children qualify for the school district's at-risk preschool program, based on socio-economic status. The remaining children are tuition-paying students whose caregivers want them to have a preschool experience. Ms. Susan is frustrated by the numerous assessment requirements she must complete for all of the children she teaches. She administers Get it Got it Go! (http://ggg.umn.edu) for all children as a means of quickly documenting children's progress toward specific language and early literacy indicators. Furthermore, the public school system requires that she complete a standardized developmental assessment on every child enrolled in the program. This information must be used to identify goals and objectives for the children who have individualized education programs (IEPs). In addition, the school district wants Ms. Susan to report how children are progressing toward the attainment of state preschool standards that have been recently implemented. She uses The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, Fourth Edition(Trister Dodge, Colker, & Herman, 2003), which also has its own set of outcomes and indicators. She believes that the skills found in The Creative Curriculum are what she is actually teaching and is confused about how all of the assessment pieces fit with what she is doing every day in her classroom. In addition, her preschool coordinator has asked that she start doing portfolio assessments of each child. The coordinator insists that she needs a consistent way to monitor each child's individualized outcomes. Ms. Susan is completely overwhelmed and doesn't know where to begin!

Teachers like Ms. Susan encounter a number of challenges related to assessing young children, such as conducting developmental assessments on groups of children, developing individualized plans to meet the needs of all children, monitoring individual children's progress as well as children's progress toward state or agency standards, and linking assessment to other program processes. Consequently, many teachers feel they spend too much time engaged in assessment-related activities and not enough time teaching. Despite the challenges and time required, teachers need to engage in systematic assessment of young children to ensure the development of appropriate services and to meet accountability requirements. Throughout this volume, assessment is defined as "a process of gathering information for purposes of making decisions" (Early Childhood Research Institute on Measuring Growth and Development, 1998, p. 2). This broad definition of assessment is used to convey that 1) assessment cannot and should not represent a single point in time and 2) ongoing decisions should be continuously made based on data when programming for young children.

As highlighted in the opening vignette, the assessment of young children can take on many forms and purposes. When providing services to young children in inclusive settings, assessment is used for at least five purposes: 1) identifying which children may need additional services or whose development is suspect (i.e., screening); 2) documenting an identified disability or delay and outlining needed services (i.e., eligibility determination); 3) understanding children's strengths and emerging skills to better support their learning and design instruction (i.e., program planning); 4) observing, documenting, analyzing, and interpreting data related to individual children's performance on specific skills and/or processes (i.e., progress monitoring); and 5) synthesizing and interpreting information about program effects and demonstrating accountability (i.e., program evaluation) (e.g., Bricker, 2002; Division for Early Childhood, 2005; Early Childhood Research Institute on Measuring Growth and Development, 1998; McLean, Wolery, & Bailey, 2004; NAEYC and NAECS/SDE, 2003). It is important for teachers to keep in mind that although each of these purposes accomplishes separate tasks or assists in making different types of decisions, the knowledge and information gained from each should be linked to one another. Table 4.1 provides a brief summary of these key assessment purposes, as well as the assessment questions that are answered by each. Although it is beyond the scope of this volume to discuss all five assessment purposes in depth, a comprehensive measurement framework is discussed as a means of conceptualizing the role that assessment plays in inclusive preschool programs. Prior to the discussion of a measurement framework, recommended practices related to assessing young children are described. Following the brief overview of recommended practices and the measurement framework, strategies and suggestions for program planning and evaluating program effects on young children's development and progress toward state and agency standards are discussed (information related to progress monitoring is described in Chapter 5). The chapter concludes with a description of how programs serving children in inclusive preschool settings can engage in authentic assessment practices.

RECOMMENDED ASSESSMENT PRACTICES

Both the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; NAEYC and NAECS/SDE, 2003) and the Council for Exceptional Children's Division for Early Childhood (DEC) (Sandall, Hemmeter, Smith, & McLean, 2005; Sandall, McLean, & Smith, 2000) have developed guidelines for appropriate assessment practices based on many years of research in child development and learning. These guidelines highlight the need for assessment approaches that are developmentally appropriate in terms of the purpose, content, and methods used. In general, recommended practice regarding the assessment of young children emphasizes authentic assessment, sometimes referred to as play based (Linder, 1993), performance assessment (Meisels, 1992), functional assessment (Grisham-Brown, 2000), and standards-based assessment (Steffy, 1993). Characteristics of an authentic assessment model include 1) being ecologically referenced or occurring in the natural environment, 2) actively involving the child's family/caregivers, and 3) using a variety of methods for collecting information. An authentic assessment model has been used to assess children who are typically developing as well as those with various developmental difficulties (e.g., Grisham-Brown, 2000; Schill, Kratochwill, & Elliot, 1998). The following are key recommended practices of an authentic assessment model:

  1. Assessment should be ongoing and the various purposes closely related or linked to one another. Assessment should not be conducted in single or isolated instances and the information gathered from one assessment (e.g., screening) should be used to interpret and guide assessment used for another purpose (e.g., eligibility determination).


  2. Assessment should cover all relevant areas of growth and learning (i.e., cover all developmental domains and content areas), measure developmentally appropriate skills, and be conducted in natural, authentic situations. In other words, children should be assessed as they are engaged in hands-on activities and interacting with their physical and social environment rather than being required to "perform on demand."


  3. Assessments should result in information that can be used to make accurate and useful decisions. Teachers (and other team members) should be able to use the information to identify children's individual needs, plan appropriate intervention, and accurately monitor children's progress.


  4. Assessment practices should involve multiple observations, multiple approaches, and multiple informants. Given the complexities of early development and the variability with which children perform, gathering information from multiple sources, across time, and with various materials ensures a convergence of ideas and a more holistic view of the child.

MEASUREMENT FRAMEWORK

An overall framework for assessing young children is useful in understanding the assessment issues with which teachers like Ms. Susan are struggling. In addition to helping sort the various components of the assessment process, the framework can ensure that teams make sound decisions aimed at improving child outcomes. The framework shown in Figure 4.1 is composed of three assessment levels (i.e., program evaluation, program planning, and progress monitoring). As stated previously, Levels One and Two are discussed here and Level Three is discussed in Chapter 5.

Level One: Program Evaluation

Program evaluation has been defined as the process of "systematically collecting, synthesizing, and interpreting information about programs for the purpose of assisting with decision making" (Snyder & Sheehan, 1996, p. 359). Program evaluation at a broad level can include examining staff quality and needs for training, the effects of various interventions or treatments on children, and whether a program is meeting the outcomes stated in their mission. Increasingly, the term accountability has been used when thinking about program evaluation efforts. Accountability refers to the "systematic collection, analysis and use of information to hold schools, educators and others responsible for the performance of students and the education system" (Education Commission of the States, 1998, p. 3).

With the passage of such acts as the Goals 2000: Educate America Act of 1994 (PL 103-227), public schools have become increasingly accountable for ensuring that students are making progress toward identified learning standards. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (PL 107-110) increased accountability requirements for programs by enacting certain sanctions to schools whose students are not performing at or above proficient levels. Gradually, states are starting to include preschool children in these accountability systems. Specifically, programs are accountable for ensuring the success of the children they teach. For preschool children this has been interpreted to mean "Are the children ready for kindergarten when they leave preschool?" In an effort to ensure accountability, state- and federally-funded preschool programs are being asked to measure children's progress toward the attainment of identified standards before leaving preschool. For example, the Head Start Outcomes Framework was developed as a result of the reauthorization of Head Start in 1998, which "created a new provision on education performance standards to ensure school readiness" (Lombardi & Cubbage, 2004). Similarly, many states have developed preschool standards (refer to Chapter 2 for a discussion of standards within a curriculum framework).

Participation in high-quality early childhood programs has been linked to promoting children's readiness for kindergarten (Bryant et al., 2003). Studies that thoroughly examine this linkage rely on numerous assessment methods to link quality with achievement. Although a full explanation of all of these assessment methods is beyond the scope of this text, Table 4.2 provides examples of methods that can be used to measure program quality for the purpose of linking to child outcomes.

Although teachers of young children are not routinely responsible for implementing program quality studies, there are implications for teachers with regard to assessment and accountability. Because high-quality early childhood education programs better prepare children for school, teachers must ensure that they are providing high-quality early childhood experiences to young children. Fortunately, teachers can use a number of tools to evaluate the quality of the learning environment and to develop improvement plans. Table 4.3 provides an overview of several of these types of instruments: the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale, Revised Edition (ECERS-R; Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 1998); the Early Language & Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO) Toolkit, Research Edition (Smith & Dickinson, 2002); and the DEC Recommended Practices Program Assessment: Improving Practices for Young Children with Special Needs and Their Families (Hemmeter, Joseph, Smith, & Sandall, 2001).

In addition to assessing the quality of programs, teachers must find a method for assessing children's progress toward state or agency standards. At least two possibilities exist for how this information might be gathered. First, norm—referenced instruments may be used to compare a child "with a representative sample of children" (McLean, 2004, p. 27). Researchers who engage in program evaluation often utilize repeated measures of standardized measures to assess developmental and content areas (McCormick & Nellis, 2004). For example, the Head Start National Reporting System (NRS; see http://www.headstartinfo.org/nrsk&r.htm) is composed of a 20–minute battery of tests that assess early math and preliteracy skills of 4–year–old children in Head Start. In other programs, teachers may be required to administer certain tests such as the Learning Accomplishment Profile–Diagnostic Edition (LAP–D; Nehring, Nehring, Bruni, & Randolph, 1992) or the Battelle Developmental Inventory, Second Edition (BDI–2; Newborg, Stock, & Wnek, 2004) at certain points during the year in an effort to show improvement in children's development over time.

Second, teachers may use curriculum-based measures to document growth over time toward outcomes. In some cases, curriculum-based measures have aligned curricular goals or assessment items with state and agency standards. For example, The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, Fourth Edition (Trister Dodge et al., 2003) has aligned its curriculum with the Head Start Outcomes Framework. Furthermore, the state of Illinois has worked with the developers of the Work Sampling System (Meisels, Jablon, Marsden, Dichtelmiller, & Dorfman, 1994) to align the state's early learning standards with the Work Sampling System's items. Such an alignment helps teachers understand the relationship between what they are assessing and what they are teaching. Research on primary programs shows that schools that align what is taught with what is assessed have better test scores than those who do not (McCormick, Grisham-Brown, Nellis, Anderman, Privett, & Williams, 2003). Teachers working with young children should ensure they have aligned what they are teaching with what they are assessing (e.g., McTighe & Wiggins, 1998). This notion of alignment is a challenge for teachers for several reasons. First, many state and agency standards are described broadly (e.g., begins to demonstrate safe practices and appropriate use of materials, be...

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