Using Goals to Focus Observations

a teacher focuses closely on a toddler, helping him standGoals for children's development and learning provide a structure for framing observations. In partnership with families, education staff typically establish individual child goals that guide their daily work with infants and toddlers. In addition to family input, these goals may also come from sources such as knowledge of child development, the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five (ELOF), the program's infant/toddler curriculum, and Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) for children with disabilities.

Programs also establish school readiness goals and measurable objectives. HSPPS 45 CFR §1304.11(b)(1) requires all Head Start programs, including those serving infants and toddlers, to develop program goals for improving the school readiness of children participating in its program. These goals must:

  • Appropriately reflect the ages of all children who participate in the program
  • Align with the ELOF, the state's early learning guidelines, and the requirements and expectations of schools to the extent that they apply to the ages of children, from birth to 5, participating in the program
  • At a minimum, address the domains of language and literacy development, cognition and general knowledge, approaches toward learning, physical well-being and motor development, and social and emotional development
  • Be established in consultation with children's families participating in the program

Programs have systems in place to monitor progress toward the goals and use data for continuous quality improvement (45 CFR §1302.102(a)(3), (c)(1), and (2)(i)–(v)).

In addition to establishing goals in the five central domains, EHS and MSHS programs may also specify goals related to other areas, such as self-care and the arts. In most cases, goals are the starting points for more formal, observation-based assessment. Teachers, home visitors, and family child care providers take steps to link their observations to the goals to track children's progress over time.