Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Outcomes Measurement: COS Form and Instructions

In this overview, frequently asked questions and answers illustrate the ECTA Center's thinking on the use of the Child Outcomes Summary Form.

  • Overview of the COS Process (revised September 2012)

The following paper provides instructions on how to use the Child Outcomes Summary Form including: basic directions for filling out the form, definitions of the outcomes ratings, and scoring methods and considerations.

  • Instructions on the use of the COSF (May 2009)

The following document provides definitions for each of the 7 ratings on one page. COS teams may wish to use the one-pager as a reference during rating discussions. The definitions were updated in September 2017, with input from the COS Training Consortium. The definitions are also available in the Instructions on the Use of the COS, as described above.

  • Outcomes Ratings Definitions (revised September 2017)

The Decision Tree

The decision tree was created as a tool for training in the use of the COS Form. The tree is a series of questions about the extent to which a child exhibits age-appropriate skills and behaviors in each outcome area. Responses guide the user to a specific rating category on the 7-point scale. The decision tree was updated in May 2009 based on input from the COS Training Consortium.

In January 2011, the decision tree without numbers was developed for programs wishing to de-emphasize the numbers on the scale, to be used in particular when families are directly involved in the team discussion that describes their child’s level of functioning. This version replicates the original decision tree with the exception that the numbers of the rating scale, 1-7, were removed.

Child Outcomes Summary (COS) Form

The Child Outcomes Summary (COS) Form affords a means by which providers can summarize information collected from multiple sources to address the three child outcomes. The form's 7-point rating scale is used to determine the extent to which a child's functioning on each outcome is appropriate given his or her age, and whether that child made progress toward age appropriate behavior. The summary form is intended for local, state, and federal data collection, reporting, and program improvement. The contents of the questions, rating scale, and definitions for the scale should not be adapted.

The Child Outcomes Summary (COS) Form with Evidence Organized by Level of Functioning

ECO developed the COS Form with Evidence Organized by Level of Functioning based on feedback from users of the original form who requested additional guidance in documenting the rating. Please see also Guidance for Documenting the Rating on the Childhood Outcomes Summary (COS) Form with Evidence Organized by Level of Functioning. This document guides the user in writing specific examples of functioning, depending upon the rating given, in the supporting evidence boxes.

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

  • CB 8040
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040
  • phone: 919.962.2001
  • fax: 919.966.7463
  • email: ectacenter@unc.edu

The ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P120002 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

  • FPG Child Development Institute
  • IDEAs that Work