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IGDIs-PK3: Expanding Individual Growth and Development Indicators of Language and Early Literacy for Universal Screening in Multi-Tiered Systems of Support with Three-Year-Olds

Overview and goals

Early education programs for 3-year-olds are expanding rapidly; however, most assessment research has focused on 4-year-old students despite the expectation for evidence-based assessment practices. In other words, there is a gap in evidence-based assessments targeting 3-year-old preschool student, which we intend to resolve.

To close this gap, this project will create a practical assessment for evaluating early literacy skills among 3-year-old preschool children, extending and elaborating on work already conducted with 4-year-old children. Based on previous findings, we are creating items aligned to three areas of early literacy development-oral language, phonological awareness, and alphabet knowledge — in order to assess the broad spectrum of early literacy development. We think this work will improve outcomes for 3-year-old preschool children by allowing for early detection and intervention where few measures currently exist.

This project is one of several “logical next steps” for our work at IGDILab; our interest is building, evaluating, and facilitating the skillful implementation of tools that early educators and others can use to promote optimal development for young children. As part of this commitment, the current project is designed to extend the range of ages and skill levels that our language and early literacy measures can assess. This project is partly psychometric “engineering,” where we are adapting existing measures (and developing new ones) to assess the oral language, phonological awareness, and alphabet knowledge of younger preschool children. In so doing, we hope this project will provide new tools for teachers interested in better serving preschool children.

We also hope this project will contribute to the growing knowledge about young children’s language and early literacy development, the factors that promote (or inhibit) that development, and the ways in which we can deliberately manage those factors that promote better outcomes. This blending of practical focus on new tools and rigorous science is always our goal.

In this project, we will:

  1. Identify and develop assessment formats that produce rapid, easily scored responses related to language and early literacy for 3-year-old children;
  2. Develop, test, and refine at least 70 items for each identified format, keeping the best based on quality, fairness, and efficiency;
  3. Select items from pools to create seasonal screening measures for 3-year-old students, including cut scores for identifying children for more intensive intervention;
  4. Test validity claims for each measure’s use in a data-based decision-making model, evaluating use for screening individuals who may benefit from more intensive language and early literacy intervention;
  5. Describe areas of growth as well as relations across measures and time for assessed language and early literacy, and identify tentative relations to child and service delivery characteristics; and
  6. Produce application-ready sets of items/measures, administration requirements, and technical details for rapid dissemination to practice.

Planned project activities

Phase 1 — Refine constuct maps and create preliminary formats for data collection — (2016 and 2017 academic years)

Phase 2 — Initial item writing and testing (2016 and 2017 academic years)

Phase 3 — Revise and add items and re-test (2017/2018 academic year)

Phase 4 — Scaling and standard setting (2018/2019 academic year)

Phase 5 — Cross year scaling and factor and growth analysis (2019/2020 academic year)

Reports of project work

Technical reports

  1. Defining a Domain of Assessment for Language and Early Literacy in Three-Year-Olds: Phonological Awareness
  2. Defining a Domain of Assessment for Language and Early Literacy in Three-Year-Olds: Alphabet Knowledge
  3. Defining a Domain of Assessment for Language and Early Literacy in Three-Year-Olds: Oral Language
  4. IGDI Age 3 Prototype Formats
  5. Results of Pilot Testing Eight Formats for Assessing Language and Early Literacy in Young Children

Project staff

Scott McConnell, principal investigator

Alisha Wackerle-Hollman, investigator

Anthony Albano, investigator and psychometric lead

Michael Rodriguez

Erin Lease, coordinator

Alyssa Schardt, graduate research assistant

Kristin Schuster, graduate research assistant

Kayne Lussier

Project alumni

Dana Brandes, coordinator


The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A160034 to the University of Minnesota. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.

For more information

The project's abstract is available here.

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