Measuring Child Outcomes

For children with disabilities, measuring and reporting outcomes is vital to promoting high-quality Early Intervention (EI) and Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services.

The process of gathering information, tracking progress and using data to analyze program effectiveness is key to understanding whether children with disabilities have benefited from the services provided to them. The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), within the U.S. Department of Education, requires that outcomes are reported annually for all children receiving EI and ECSE services.

Child outcomes data helps providers, teachers and program administrators improve the quality of services at the program level, and when examined broadly, helps state EI and ECSE administrators understand and improve services within districts and across the state. In addition, these outcomes can help parents understand how well their child is developing and participating in activities at home, at school, or in the community.

The three child outcomes measure “functional” outcomes. Functional outcomes measure a child’s ability to take meaningful actions within the context of everyday living and refer to an integrated series of behaviors or skills that allow the child to achieve important everyday goals and successfully participate in daily activities.

These outcomes were developed by the U.S. Department of Education and are used by all Early Intervention (EI) and Early Childhood Special Education Programs (ECSE) to measure young children’s progress. While Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) outcomes and Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals are written specifically for the child, these three child outcomes are the same for everyone.

1. Gaining positive social emotional skills, including social relationships. This outcome measures how children interact and play with their family, other adults, and other children.

2. Learning and using new knowledge and skills. This outcome measures how children learn and use basic language and communication skills such as counting and problem solving that will prepare them to be successful in kindergarten.

3. Using appropriate behaviors to meet their needs. This outcome measures how children gradually become more independent by learning how to move from place to place, feed themselves, and take care of basic needs.

Child outcomes are measured when children enter EI or ECSE and again when they exit. To determine changes in development, the difference between the entry and the exit scores are calculated, and each child is identified in one of five categories:

1. Children who did not improve functioning

2. Children who improved functioning but not enough to move nearer to the functioning of peers who are the same age

3. Children who improved functioning to a level nearer same-aged peers but did not reach the level of their peers

4. Children who improved functioning to reach a level comparable to same-aged peers

5. Children who started the program with and maintained functioning at a level comparable to same-aged peers

The state then uses the data to answer two questions for each outcome area in the Annual Performance Report (APR).

1. Of those children who entered or exited the program below age expectations in the outcome area, what was the percentage that substantially increased their rate of growth?

2. What was the percentage of children functioning within age expectations in the outcome area by the time they exit the program?

The individuals who participate in the child outcomes process and provide input into the entry and exit assessment rating each bring different information and unique perspectives, which ultimately lead to a collaborative overall statement of the functioning within each outcome area. This team includes:

  • Child’s parent(s) or guardian(s)
  • Child’s caregivers
  • Current EI or ECSE service providers
  • EI/ECSE providers who may have recently evaluated the child
  • Early childhood teacher (if the child is enrolled in an early childhood program)
  • Other individuals who know the child

The first step in the outcomes measurement process is for the team to identify the functional skills and behaviors of the child. Since children demonstrate different skills and knowledge under different circumstances, it is important to consider how a child functions across multiple situations and environments, including but not limited to the child’s home, early care and education setting (if applicable) and in the community. Therefore, when determining the rating, EI and ECSE programs are expected to use multiple sources of information to provide a complete description of a child’s functional skills and behaviors.

Once the child’s functional skills and behaviors are assessed and identified, it is important for the team to discuss and understand the child’s current developmental level relative to age-expected skills. Moving toward or maintaining age-expected functioning is critical, as it enables children to fully and actively participate in their natural and everyday environments. A child’s ability to exhibit functional skills and behaviors is measured using three categories that highlight a child’s progression toward age-expected skills:

  • Age-Expected: Skills and behaviors one would expect for the child’s age, understanding that development and learning vary widely in early childhood
  • Immediate Foundational: Skills that occur developmentally just prior to age-expected functioning
  • Foundational: Early skills on which to build later immediate foundational and age-expected skills

Last, the team discusses and summarizes the information into an overall statement of functioning according to the Seven-Point Scale. Although the statement of functioning is the primary discussion at the meeting, the EI service coordinator, ECSE LEA representative or case manager is required to ensure that the corresponding numerical rating is entered into the data system.

Requirements under the regulations governing Early Intervention (Part C) and Early Childhood Special Education (Part B) were created to ensure a smooth and effective transition between the programs for children who are found eligible. When children are transitioning between programs, the team will include both ECSE and EI professionals, the family, and any additional participants with whom the child spends considerable time. Because the outcome reporting requirements are the same for EI and ECSE, the outcomes measurement process during transition between EI and ECSE is very similar with a few slight differences. It is important to recognize that the outcomes measurement process that happens during entry into special education occurs at the same time as the outcomes measurements process that happens when a child exits from Early Intervention.

Preschool Outcomes– Annual Performance Report (APR) Indicator 7

Rhode Island reports the percent of preschool children aged 3 through 5 with IEPs who demonstrate improved positive social-emotional skills (including social relationships), acquisition and use of knowledge and skills (including early language/communication and early literacy) and use of appropriate behaviors to meet their needs.

For more information on Early Childhood Special Education, contact your district level Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Coordinator or select from the following sections: