Screening and Ongoing Assessment

Smiling toddler shows teacher a magnifying glass.Screening identifies children with possible developmental, health, or sensory concerns who should be referred for evaluation. Developmental screening is a brief process using standardized health and developmental screening instruments. Screening is used to make judgments about children to determine if a referral for further evaluation is necessary. See Screening in the Home Visitor’s Online Handbook.)

Ongoing assessments provide specific information about each child's learning and development. This helps the home visitor and family members create focused, individualized learning opportunities and track each child's progress. Based on the results, you may want to repeat some activities covered in a previous section of the curriculum or jump ahead to more advanced activities, depending on the child's development and skills. (See Ongoing Assessment and Curriculum Planning in the Home Visitor’s Online Handbook.)

The HSPPS (Child screenings and assessments, 45 CFR §1302.33) provides requirements for screening and assessment and for using data to individualize care for children. 

You have an important role to play in supporting both screening and ongoing assessment processes. You ensure that:

  • Your program uses research-based, valid, and reliable tools
  • Home visitors receive ongoing training in using the tools, interpreting the results, and using the results
  • Staff complete screenings and ongoing assessments within required time frames
  • Home visitors engage families in the screening and ongoing assessment process
  • Home visitors connect observation and ongoing assessment to joint curriculum planning with parents


These actions can support home visitors in completing the screening process:

  • Work with program staff (e.g., the health manager) to ensure that children receive vision and hearing screenings within the appropriate timelines.
  • Work with program staff with parents' input to choose a research-based, culturally and linguistically appropriate developmental screening tool (45 CFR §1302.33(a)(2). See the Learn More section for helpful resources about screening tools.
  • Familiarize yourself with the tool and how to analyze screening results.
  • Ensure that home visitors receive adequate training on how to use the tool, engage parents in the screening process, and share and interpret the results.
  • Establish a tracking system to ensure that home visitors meet the 45-day deadline for screening.
  • Establish connections with IDEA early intervention providers for children who need further evaluation.
  • Work with home visitors on ways to sensitively share screening results with families when results may indicate a need for further evaluation.

Ongoing Assessment

Take the following actions to support home visitors in conducting ongoing assessment:

  • Ensure that home visitors conduct standardized and structured assessments that provide ongoing information to evaluate progress towards the goals outlined in the Head Start ELOF (45 CFR §1302.33(b)).
  • Familiarize yourself with the appropriate tool(s) your program has selected for ongoing child assessment and how to interpret assessment results.
  • Ensure that home visitors have appropriate training on using observation skills and systems for documenting observations.
  • Ensure that home visitors receive adequate and ongoing training on how to use the tool(s), engage parents in the assessment process, interpret assessment results, share them with families, and use results to inform curriculum planning.
  • Help home visitors identify child assessment opportunities during home visits.
  • Strategize with home visitors on ways to integrate information about safety, nutrition, and other health-related topics as they discuss assessment results and developmental milestones with parents.
  • Establish a system to aggregate and analyze child-level assessment data at least three times per year (except for programs operating less than 90 days, which will be required to do so at least twice within their operating program period; see 45 CFR§1304.11(b)(2)(i).
  • Use that data in combination with other program data to determine grantees' progress toward meeting its goals; inform parents and the community of results; and direct continuous improvement related to curriculum, instruction, professional development, program design, and other program decisions (45 CFR§1304.11(b)(2)(i)).
  • Analyze individual ongoing, child-level assessment data for all children birth to age 5 participating in the program, and using the data in combination with input from parents and families, to:
    • Determine each child's status and progress with regard to, at a minimum, language and literacy development, cognition and general knowledge, approaches toward learning, physical well-being and motor development, and social and emotional development
    • Individualize the experiences, instructional strategies, and services to best support each child.

Learn More

Assessment for Individualization

Read about how a fictional grantee meets the HSPPS on assessment for individualization. Program staff can use this Standards in Action vignette to reflect on how to put the standards into practice in their own program.

Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! A Compendium of Screening Measures for Young Children

Recent statistics indicate that as many as 1 in 4 children, from birth to age 5, are at moderate or high risk for developmental, behavioral, or social delay. As a result, several agencies at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — as well as the Office of Special Education Programs at the Department of Education — have partnered to launch Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive!, a coordinated effort to encourage developmental and behavioral screening and support for children, families, and their providers who care for them.

Family Engagement and Ongoing Child Assessment

The partnership between parents and Head Start and Early Head Start staff is fundamental to children's current and future success in school readiness and beyond. Discover how programs can share information with families about children’s learning and development. Staff may use this resource to identify specific strategies that support relationship building with families.

Head Start Tip Sheets for Grantee Planning

Program leaders, technical assistance providers, and Regional Office staff can use these tip sheets to support grantee planning. Explore what to consider when implementing systems, policies, and practices around topics, from developmental screening to home-based programs and more. Each tip sheet includes strategies and resources relevant HSPPS. Use the tip sheets as a basis for discussion, clarification, problem solving, and planning.

Screening Dual Language Learners in Early Head Start and Head Start: A Guide for Program Leaders

Get tools to plan, implement, and evaluate screening processes for children from birth to age 5 who are dual-language learners. The guide includes a Planning and Implementation Worksheet for Early Head Start and Head Start teams to ensure that their screening process provides the best possible results for all children.

Special Considerations: Developmental Screening of Children Ages Birth to 5 Who Are Dual Language Learners (DLLs)

Programs are required to complete or obtain developmental screenings for all children. It is important to be thoughtful and intentional in screening children who are dual language learners. This tip sheet provides strategies and resources to support program planning.