reduce harsh negative parenting of infants, thereby indirectly enhancing their cognitive and social development (Wasik and Bryant, 2001). State or federally funded child care and educational programs are designed to promote children’s cognitive, academic, and social skills directly (National Institute for Early Education Research, 2006). Parents and policy makers want to know about the quality of programs or family environments to ensure that they are enhancing, or at least not harming, children’s development. Accordingly, assessing children’s home and center-based environments, as well as child outcomes, has become an important part of assessment systems for young children (Adams, Tout, and Zaslow, 2007; Mitchell, 2005).
Many observational measures have been developed to assess the quality of home or early childhood care and education programs. Selection of a measure requires consideration of the child population, the purpose of the observations, and the domains of most interest. For a program serving English language learners, for example, opportunities for children to develop language and vocabulary in their native language as well as English would be particularly important.
Observational measures serve a number of purposes. First, they can be used for caregiver and teacher professional development. They can call administrators’ and caregivers’ or teachers’ attention to their own behaviors and practices that might promote positive child outcomes. Having caregivers and teachers evaluate their own or each other’s classrooms and home-based care settings, as well as having two people (either an administrator and a caregiver/teacher or two caregivers/teachers) evaluate the same setting, can be instructive and can provide good material for discussion. Administrators of formal early care and education programs—such as child care centers, preschools, prekindergartens, and Head Start programs—can also use classroom observation measures as part of their teacher/caregiver evaluation strategy, as a more objective, sharable set of criteria for observation. Several promising professional development programs use observational measures as the basis for improving quality