Policy Makers and Leaders’ Role in Assessment for Continuity of Learning
Broader changes are required across education settings in improve assessment for continuity of learning, with implications for education leaders and policy makers.
The extent to which individual and education professionals in these settings can foster greater continuity for children and families throughout the birth through age 8 continuum depends partly on their knowledge and competencies, and how they put these into practice in the settings where they work. However, it also depends largely on whether policies and systems at the local, state, and national levels encourage, require, facilitate, or impede continuity and alignment (National Research Council, 2015).
The early learning and school systems are complex. While current efforts to create smoother transitions are important, there is a need to go beyond bridging contexts to actually reducing the difference between the two. When true continuity of learning is achieved, with unified learning pathways, transition will no longer be required. This is ambitious and will take time.
Unfortunately, fragmentation across both the early learning and school systems is perpetuated due to different policies, regulations, funding, philosophies and expectations for children and families (Cook and Coley, 2019).
In many settings, assessment is directly linked to curriculum goals which, in turn, are aligned with overarching standards or a shared framework (OPSI, 2008). The challenge is creating an aligned framework for learning and development across the years birth to 8. Such a framework would help to ensure that learning activities and child outcomes can be aligned and provide a consistent point of departure for curriculum development, instruction, and assessment across both early learning and school settings.
Rethink professional development
We need to develop and demonstrate other ways of working that will facilitate continuity of learning and assessment. Any efforts towards greater continuity must be backed up by essential supports for educators and teachers. This includes recruitment and compensation, professional preparation and ongoing professional development (OPSI, 2008).
Leaders in early learning and school settings should:
- review professional learning opportunities, ensuring they enable early learning and school colleagues to engage with each other;
- support the time and structures needed, for example, by providing paid time for joint professional learning and planning between educators in early learning and teachers at schools
- facilitate shared approaches to recording and documenting learning to enable teachers and
- educators to share knowledge and information
Form networks of leaders
We need to find, develop and support leaders in communities that will drive the changes needed and unlock the barriers to more appropriate practices that lead to achieving better outcomes for children especially those living in disadvantage. Leaders also serve as a point of linkage among different stakeholders, professionals, and settings. By sharing information, planning together, and introducing shared professional learning for their staff, a cross-sector cohort of leaders can play an important role in facilitating the communication and collaboration necessary to improve continuity (National Research Council, 2015).
To learn more about why Continuity of Learning is important, how it can be implemented, and the role assessment plays within this, download our free publication Towards Continuity of Learning: Rethinking Assessment HERE