That’s because developmental tests increasingly take into account not only whether children know their ABCs and numbers, but also whether they can dress themselves and share their toys – the kind of information a parent is most likely to know. The broader approach pleases Antonio Valdivia, who is on a Washington State University research team that is updating one of those tests.
“It takes a global look, so you can see the relationship between academic skills and social skills, emotions and personality,” he said.
WSU’s Learning & Performance Research Center is working on the Brigance Inventory of Early Development (IED), a product offered by the Massachusetts firm Curriculum Associates. The center has a $297,251 contract to confirm that the IED is fair, accurate, and properly administered.
This is the second time that Curriculum Associates has funded the work of center co-director Brian French. An associate professor in the WSU College of Education, French is an expert in educational and psychological measurement, a field known as psychometrics. He’s assisted on the latest project by doctoral students Valdivia and Chad Gotch.
“This is good experience for the students,” said French. “They get technical training and get to see how it will apply in real-world situations. They see the whole testing of a product, starting with how it was created.”
Developmental tests aren’t like the controversial achievement tests that older children take as a requirement for school advancement. Instead, they allow teachers, counselors, and pediatricians to identify children who may need special attention because they are either gifted or developmentally delayed.
The IED is designed for children from birth to age 8. It is most often used by public prekindergarten programs, such as the federally funded Head Start, but is also purchased by private organizations, such as day cares and medical offices.
The latest version of the product, known as IED III, has been tested on a small group of children. The WSU researchers will examine its technical quality and make recommendations for changes before and after trial tests are conducted with 2,000 children throughout the country. They also will create user manuals that assist teachers and other professionals in evaluating children.
Their work makes decisions about a child more accurate and appropriate, French said, and revolves around his own area of research, test score validity.
There has been more emphasis on social skills and emotional development since the last version of the IED was released in 2004, said Katie Nicholson, director of Brigance Products.
“Brian and his team are doing a number of analyses related to the reliability and validity of these assessment instruments. In addition, they are doing norming research, which means that they will be determining, based on a nationally representative sample, what is the average or normal performance of a 2-year-old, for example,” Nicholson said.
She described 40-year-old Curriculum Associates as one of the few remaining independent educational publishing companies. French was one of three psychometricians that Brigance approached for the job, and the only researcher based at a university.
“There is a real value to us in having the work done in a university setting,” she said. “We have a professor who is building his publishing and speaking career in addition to teaching. And in the two and a half years he will be spending on this research, he’ll be discussing our product and the research that he’s doing related to these assessments.”