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University experts to work on early-childhood evaluations

Child development experts from around the state will begin meeting at Duke University this week to come up with new ways to measure children's readiness for school and to evaluate their progress in the early grades.

The effort related to a new law aimed at curbing social promotion by having third graders pass the state reading test before they enter fourth grade. The law requires the state to come up with ways to measure student progress in kindergarten through third grades. The "assessments," as they're called, must be individualized, and schools can't use standardized end-of-grade tests for students in kindergarten through second grade as they do for older students.

Experts from public and private universities from across the state will work on the project for six months, and their recommendations will be used to create the assessments. The effort is funded, in part, by the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant the state won two years ago.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson is sponsoring the meetings, which they're calling a "think tank." John Pruette, director of the office of early learning in the state Department of Public Instruction, and Kenneth Dodge, director of the Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy, are in charge.

Dodge said in a statement that the new measures would help create a more complete picture of young children's progress.

"This is an opportunity to change the dynamic for teachers and children in the early grades," Dodge said.

UPDATE:

The group will also focus assessments of health and physical development, social and emotional development, and a child's approach to learning, Pruette said.


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