Understanding the Progress Categories for Early Childhood Outcomes



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Understanding the Progress Categories for Early Childhood Outcomes

Children can be described with regard to how close they are functioning to age expected development in the 3 early childhood outcomes. This is done by collecting a variety of formative assessment data and using it to rate the child’s functioning on a 1 to 7 Likert scale, with 6 and 7 being age expected functioning level (see Child Outcome brochure). The aim is to link performance with age expectations by assessing the difference between the child with a disability and typically developing children.

The Child Outcome Summary (COS) process defines growth according to seven different trajectories or developmental progressions. Two of the trajectories are considered within age expectations (6 and 7). The remaining trajectories describe behavior that is below age level (5 and below). Descriptions for each trajectory are found in the Child Outcome brochure and the Decision Tree. These trajectories are visually depicted below:

Age level functioning can also be compared at different points in time to chart a child’s individual trajectory, or developmental progression. This is called growth modeling. Straight lines are used to link age level functional performance at two points in time, primarily between program entry and exit. Interim ratings may also be conducted at mid point in the treatment program to monitor a child’s growth and inform the need for further instruction. For example, a child may develop over time but stay within the same developmental trajectory, regress by moving to a lower functioning trajectory, or increase by moving to a higher functioning trajectory, and more. The COS process categorizes children’s developmental progression according to five progress categories. These progress categories are described below:



The Five Progress Categories:

A. Children who did not improve functioning.

B. Children who improved functioning but not sufficient to move nearer to functioning comparable to same-aged peers.

C. Children who improved functioning to a level nearer to same-aged peers but did not reach age level expectations.

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

E. Children who maintained functioning at a level comparable to same-aged peers.

Progress Category A

    • Children who did not improve functioning

    • Children who acquired no new skills or regressed during their time in the program

    • Didn’t gain or use even one new skill

    • Children with degenerative conditions/ significant disabilities

    • Rated lower at exit than entry; OR

    • Rated 1 at both entry and exit; AND

    • Scored “No” on the progress question (b)

    • Children who did not improve functioning

The profile for progress category A may look like one of these:





Progress Category B

  • Children who improved functioning but not sufficient to move nearer to functioning comparable to same-aged peers

  • Acquired new skills but continued to grow at the same rate throughout their time in the program

  • Gained and used new skills but did not increase their rate of growth or change their growth trajectories while in services

  • Rated 5 or lower at entry; AND

  • Rated the same or lower at exit; AND

  • “Yes” on the progress question (b)

  • % of children who improved functioning, but not sufficient to move nearer to same aged peers


This profile for progress category B may look like:

Progress Category C:

  • Children who improved functioning to a level nearer to same-aged peers but did not reach it

    • Acquired new skills but accelerated their rate of growth during their time in the program

    • Changed their growth trajectories & “narrowed the “gap”

    • Rated higher at exit than entry; AND

    • Rated 5 or below at exit

    • % of children who improved functioning to a level nearer to same aged peers, but did not reach it

The profile for progress category C may look like:

Progress Category D:

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

  • Children who were functioning below age expectations when they entered the program but were functioning at age expectations when they left

  • Started out below age expectations, but caught up while in services

The profile for progress category D may look like:





Progress Category E:

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

  • Children who were functioning below age expectations when they entered the program but were functioning at age expectations when they left

  • Started out below age expectations, but caught up while in services

  • Rated 6 or 7 at entry; AND

  • Rated 6 or 7 at exit

  • Children who improve functioning to reach a level comparable to same-aged peers

The profile for progress category E may look like:

Understanding How Programs are measured for Performance on Child Outcomes

In 2005, the Early Childhood Outcome Center created the Child Outcomes Summary Process as a way for states to summarize data on children for federal reporting purposes. States use the Child Outcomes Summary Form to document children's functioning in three outcome areas. Service providers/teachers must have information about children’s functioning at two time points (entry and exit) and have a way to compare their functioning to that of a same-age peer.

Programs are required to measure and report on the progress children make between the time they enter a program and the time they exit in each of the outcome areas. Data are to be reported for all children who stay in the program at least 6 months. Specifically, for each outcome, programs are to report the percentage of children who:

a. Did not improve functioning

b. Improved functioning, but not sufficiently to move nearer to functioning comparable to same-

aged peers

c. Improved functioning to a level nearer to same-aged peers, but did not reach it

d. Improved functioning to reach a level comparable to same-aged peers

e. Maintained functioning at a level comparable to same-aged peers

From these categories, data on two Summary Statements are computed. For each outcome, states report the following:



  1. Percentage of children who entered or exited the program below age expectations in each outcome who substantially increased their rate of growth by the time they turned 3 years of age or exited the program.

  • Concept behind this summary statement is “what percent of children changed their developmental trajectory as a result of their time in the program”.

  • Formula: Percent = ______(c) + (d)______ X 100

  1. + (b) + (c) + (d)

(Where each letter signifies the number of children reported in that progress category.)

  1. Percentage of children who were functioning within age expectations in each outcome by the time they turned 3 years of age or exited the program.

  • Concept behind this summary state is “what percent of children left the program functioning like a same-age peer”.

  • Formula= Percent = ______(d) + (e)_______ X 100

  1. + (b) + (c) + (d) + (e)

(Where each letter signifies the number of children reported in that progress category.)

States must set targets for each of the Summary Statements and report on their progress toward their targets. The data collected are aggregated to create an overall view of the progress made by all children in the state who received Part C or Part B Preschool services. No identifiable data on any particular child are included in these reports.




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