Though at times used interchangeably, perhaps carelessly, these terms are not equivalent. Educational evaluation determines a child’s abilities and challenges, the level of functioning in each area of development and, within this context, defines areas that may be a problem.
Within an educational model, the purpose of an evaluation of a preschool child is to generate information about the challenges that may interfere with that child’s ability to learn within the classroom, physically navigate the environment and engage with peers for social play. Evidence of developmental delay contributes to an overall understanding of the challenges that a child presents with, but developmental delays do not automatically imply that there is a problem. A child with developmental delays may be productively engaged within the classroom despite challenges. A child with no developmental delay, or indeed whose development may be exceptional/gifted, may still have challenges within the classroom.
Evaluation helps to unravel the relative impact of the child’s strengths and weaknesses, and devise an educational plan that may include practical suggestions and recommendations for supportive therapeutic services.