ACCESS IN ACTION
AGGREGATING WHOLE CLASS DATA
The ACCESS Class Tracking Sheet (ACTS) is an integral part of the curriculum in that it captures the data that teachers collected through authentic assessment techniques. The ACTS for preschool uses a complication of Early Learning Content Standards for English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. Data for all children are recorded on Content Area Specific Charts (see below). The charts are used not only to track individual children's progress but also as a tool that informs instructional planning around a topic of investigation. Assessment tools that collect data over time and use authentic data collection techniques have been identified as preferred practice when working with young children (Mindes, 2007; Wortham, 2008).
The ACCESS Curriculum Framework:
The Intentional Curriculum Decision-Making Cycle
The ACCESS Curriculum Framework Implementation Guide was developed to provide students and practicing teachers with a step-by-step explanation of how to implement the ACCESS Curriculum Framework (ACCESS). The guide begins with an explanation of the Intentional Curriculum Decision-Making Cycle (Fig 1-1) which guides the students/practitioners to develop quality early childhood curriculum needed to meet the demands of the 21st century.
This process begins by collecting data as part of an evaluation of the program. This first step supports students/practitioners as they examine the climate and the culture of the classroom. They will also consider the strengths, needs and resources of the program, children and families so that they can plan and implement responsive learning experiences. The beginning ACCESS user will be called upon to collect preliminary assessment data so that they might understand where to begin.
The ACCESS Science Concept Planner will be used to develop an integrated investigation of an important science topic. In this step, students/practitioners will learn the importance of understanding the content to be taught as well as the development and learning needs of young children.
This step provides practicum students/practitioners with an opportunity to gain feedback from their peer partner and/or mentor teacher. This feedback allows them to critically reflect on their practices and make refinements before they teach their next lesson. Reflection is a key component needed to create a quality investigation.
STEP#4-Assessment of Student Learning
This step guides students/practitioners through the process of using informal and authentic assessment strategies to collect data describing what the children know and are able to do. During this step, students/practitioners will select and/or create assessment tools, use the tools to document learning and development, compile or aggregate the data ino a format that can be used to make instructional decisions and finally interpret the data. The results of the informal assessment will provide information for continuous improvement and starts the cycle all over again.
The ACCESS Acronym
S -SCIENCE EMPHASIS
S -STANDARDS INTEGRATED
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS/SDE) (2005), assessment is to be an integral component of the curriculum , with results used to guide teaching, identify concerns for individual children, and provide information to improve and guide interventions. Assessment methods to be used are those that are" developmentally appropriate, culturally and linguistically responsive, tied to children's daily activities, supported by professional development, and inclusive of families" (p.2). In contrast to "assessment supported" which refers to the system of ongoing documentation and recordkeeping that is done by teachers as they collect data on individual children and on the class as a whole. The ACCESS assessment system was designed by teachers and allows them to record information about the children's development and learning and also track where children are in terms of subject matter standards and developmental skills. Because the assessment system is such an integral part of ACCESS, data is aggregated using the ACCESS Classroom Tracking System (ACTS) and used to inform the decisions that teachers make as they plan instruction, including future investigations, min-investigations, in-betweens and daily routines. Through ACCESS, early childhood professionals are equipped with the information necessary to make teaching intentional and play purposeful.
Research shows that they are wide cultural variations in the experiences and developmental rates of young children, as well as in children's individual needs, including those of children with disabilities (Garcia-Coll & Magnuson, 2000; Sandall, McLean & Smith , 2000; Odom & Diamond, 1998). "Early learning standards should be flexible enough to encourage teachers and other professionals to embed culturally and individually relevant experiences in the curriculum, creating adaptations that promote success for all children" (NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2005, p.6). ACCESS includes in its instructions decision-making process an emphasis on following the child's lead, allowing for child choice, providing ample opportunities for high levels of teacher-child interactions, and staging an environment that allows children to practice their evolving skills and explore their world though play.
ACCESS relies, in part, on an emergent but negotiated curriculum model. Teachers plan instruction, select materials and stage environments that support investigations that emerge from the children's interests, realizing that children are motivated to learn concepts more thoroughly and permanently when they are meaningful, connected to prior knowledge, have a purpose, and apply to real life situations (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2002). Based on The Project Approach (Helm & Katz, 2002; Katz & Chard, 2000), investigations emerge from the children's interests while also being funneled through the teacher's understanding of the children's developmental strengths and needs, an aggregated assessment of the children's content knowledge, a comprehensive view of content standards and developmental guidelines, an understanding of family culture and the richness of the questions generated by the children. The teacher is the informed evaluator who considers all of these variables to determine which topic is most worthy of an extended investigation.
"From birth onward, humans, in their healthiest states, are active, inquisitive, curious, and playful creatures, displaying a ubiquitous readiness to learn and explore, and they do not require extraneous incentives to do so" (Ryan & Deci, 2000, p. 56). ACCESS capitalizes on these natural human tendencies and the intense sense of wonder that is present in young children and while providing a curriculum that includes many opportunities for children to learn about science. Studying science topics allows teachers to build on children's natural curiosity by fostering a sense of wonder and giving them the skills and tools they need to investigate their world. Science instruction also provides an engaging context through which students become literate, develop numeracy skills and academic language while they become more skilled socially. Because of the strong empirical evidence that shows that science instruction is not given adequate time in many early childhood programs and classrooms (Raizen & Michelsohn, 1994; Dorph, Shields, Tiffany-Morales, Hartry & McCaffrey, 2011), ACCESS provides a curriculum which supports science instruction and helps teachers find the time to teach this important subject area.
One aspect of quality early childhood programming that is receiving national attention is the increasing emphasis on content knowledge for young children (Adams, Baldwin, Comingore & Smith, 2006; Baldwin, Adams, & Kelly, 2009; Bredekamp & Pikulski, 2005, NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2002). Academic content standards are relatively new to early and for many traditional early childhood educators, the notion of content appears to contradict the child-centered practice and emergent curriculum model that has been the philosophical foundation of most earl childhood teacher preparation programs (Eliason & Jenkins, 2011; File & Kontos, 1993; Hyson, 2003). Some early childhood teachers struggle with the notion of how to blend an instructional focus on academic content with the NAEYC principles of learning and teaching that have been identified as preferred practice for the field of early childhood (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; Sandall, McLean & Smith, 200). At a time when there is a significant paradigm shift from a purely constructivist and play-based approach to preschool education, some early childhood professionals are surprised to learn that, under the right conditions, early learning content standards can create significant benefits for children's education and development while still maintaining a commitment to familiar developmentally appropriate practices (NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2002, 2005).
OTHER AREAS OF ACCESS
A RESEARCH-BASED CURRICULUM
The ACCESS Curriculum was developed to assist early childhood teachers to be intentional in their curriculum decision-making, is based on sound research, and has been field-tested at the Bombeck Center and in other early learning classrooms. Efforts were made to ensure that the curriculum is a valid reliable, evidence-based tool that results in engaging and effective classroom environments, strong teacher-child interactions and deep concept development.
ACCESS is based on extensive research that identifies young children as active learners who draw on direct physical and social experiences as well as culturally transmitted knowledge to construct their understandings of the world around them (Beaty, 2007; Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; Epstein, Schweinhart, &McAdoo, 1996; File & Kontos, 1993; Howes & Smith, 1995; NAEYC & NAECS/SDE 2002, 2005; National Research Council, 2000; Peisner-Feinberg et al., 2001; Peth-Pierce, 2001; Raver, 2002; Sandall, McLean, & Smith, 2000; Wortham, 2010).
ALLIGNED WITH PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION STANDARDS
In addition to the professional organizations that represent the academic content standards of English/language arts, math, science, and social studies found in nationally recognized content standards. ACCESS also incorporates recommendations for preferred practice as defined by both the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Division of Early Childhood for the Council of Exceptional Children (DEC). The NAEYC and the DEC recommendations work together to establish ideals that are blended in order to demonstrate preferred practice for children who are typically developing and those with special learning needs. ACCESS also reflects the 2002 joint position statement on early learning content standards developed by NAEYC and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Department of Education (NAECS/SDE) (2005) which supports the inclusion of early learning content and emphasizes the principals of learning and teaching that comprise developmentally appropriate practice.
The construct validity of ACCESS was assessed in part through the use of Head Start's Alignment Review Tool (National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning, 2011) which was used to verify that ACCESS aligns with the domains and domain elements identified in the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework (Head Start Resource Center, 2010). Additionally, ACCESS has been successfully aligned with the Common Core State Standards (Association of American Governors and the Council of the State Chief Education Officers 2009), Ohio's Learning and Development Standards (Ohio Department of Education, 2013) and the Ohio Infant and Toddler Guidelines (Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association, 2006).
The components of ACCESS have been developed and practiced by teachers at the Bombeck Center who were observed and evaluated regularly to ensure the curriculum was being implemented consistently. Each teaching team met monthly with the curriculum to reflect on practice, provide feedback and to ensure that curriculum planning decisions were being made using the ACESS Intentional Curriculum Decision-Making Process, the Science Concept Planner and the ACCESS Classroom Tracking Sheet (ACTS). The results of field testing show ACCESS to be a practical, affordable and effective educational approach for young children across the early care and education continuum. To view ACCESS field tested results and statistics, please click below.