All About Program Assessments
What is an Assessment?
During the licensing process, a child care provider is evaluated on many factors. One factor is the Program Assessment. Highly trained assessors go to the child care facility or home and observe it. During the observation, one or more Assessors will look at your indoor and outdoor spaces, activities, materials and the interactions among children and between children and adults. They will observe these things for each classroom being assessed. Assessors will keep a low profile and try to remain unnoticeable while in the classroom. They do this so the adults and children can interact naturally.
Also see the Frequently Asked Questions About Assessments.
Who Conducts an Assessment?
All the members of the assessment staff are highly trained. They want to make sure that, no matter what county or city the provider is located in and no matter which Assessor is doing the observation, it is fair. Reliability checks and careful communication help make sure that all child care programs are assessed fairly:
Because of the careful and ongoing training and the reliability checks and re-checks, child care providers can be confident that the assessment system is fair throughout the state.
The Environment Rating Scales
Assessors use one or more of the four Environment Rating Scales (ERS, or just "Scales") to assess the "process quality" within a child care setting.
According to Dr. Thelma Harms (an internationally recognized child care expert and one of the authors of the Environment Rating Scales), all children have three basic needs:
These needs do not change through childhoodregardless of a child's race, ethnicity, culture, or socio-economic background. The Scales are tools to help assess how well a child care provider meets these three basic needs. While children of all ages and backgrounds have the same three basic needs, the expression of those needsand thus the environment that best nurtures themchanges as children grow. So four different Scales, each carefully designed to address a different age group or setting, are used to assess the environment in which providers care for children. These four Scales are
Assessors use the Scale that fits the children's age and setting. All the Scales have been widely tested to make sure they workthat they are valid and reliable. The Scales have been tested to make sure that they also measure quality areas that affect children's later success. The Scales have been proven unbiased in a variety of studies in culturally diverse settings. They are widely used across the United States and in other countries. In fact, many states now use the Scales in assessment programs similar to Tennessee's, or in training, research, and education.
Want to find out more? Read Process Quality and the Environment Rating Scales.
These resources provide information useful in making scoring determinations:
The Environment Rating Scales contain many descriptive items. These items have been proven to measure quality in early childhood environments. But sometimes, more information is needed to help explain and interpret the intent of an item as it relates to "best practice."
The Additional Notes are written or changed when Assessors have questions about how to interpret and score certain items. The Additional Notes do not change the intent of an item. But they do help clarify its meaning, to assist Assessors when they decide how to score the item. The Additional Notes for each scale are reviewed, and may be slightly changed, a few times each year. As new Notes are developed, they will be posted on this web page. These most recent updates are effective November 7, 2013:
Have a question? Don't understand an interpretation or how it is used? Use the Ask A Question form to get answers.
Best Practices: The Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) Statements for the Environment Rating Scales
Each provider might have a different way of doing things. Their way of doing things, or their "practices," can be seen in the kinds of activities children do, in the way that children and adults talk to each other, in the kinds of toys available to the children, in the daily and weekly schedule for the home or classroom, and so on. But while it is OK for these practices to be different from one place to another, they should always be "developmentally appropriate." That means they should be geared toward the ages and needs of the children.
At different stages in their development (their age and maturity), children have different needs. Over the years, experts have worked to find out what those needs are and to define practices that are best for children in each stage. To give Assessors and other assessment staff a common definition of the "best practice" for each item on each of the Environment Rating Scales, Tennessee's Anchors wrote the Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) Statements for the Environment Rating Scales. That's a mouthful, so the name is shortened to "DAPs."
Each statement in the DAPs gives a general explanation of an item on the Scale. It also explains why doing things in the "best practice" way is important to the overall quality of care and to helping young children develop properly and positively. You can read each of the DAPs yourself:
Do you have a question that the DAPs didn't answer? Use the Ask A Question form.
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