Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Outcomes Measurement: Child Outcomes Summary Process


In 2005, the ECO 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.

Starting in 2011, the ECO Center began using the term "Child Outcomes Summary Process" (rather than the Child Outcomes Summary Form or COSF ) to emphasize that this measurement approach is a team process, not just a form. Our website still reflects both terms (COSF and COS) as we are currently revising our web pages and materials to reflect the change to the COS Process.

The outcomes team also produces an annual document highlighting the results from the last year's SPP/APR data analyses:

The full report with detailed methods and analysis processes is also available:

For additional materials related to the COS process, please visit the following pages:

Child Outcomes Summary (COS) Process Module: Collecting & Using Data to Improve Programs

This WWW: online learning module from ECTA Center and WWW: DaSy provides key information about the COS process, and the practices that contribute to consistent and meaningful COS decision-making. Over the course of multiple sessions, participants will learn about:

  • why child outcomes data are collected;
  • the key features of the COS process;
  • the essential knowledge needed to complete the COS process;
  • how the three child outcomes are measured through the process;
  • how to identify accurate COS ratings using a team-based process;
  • the importance of comparing children’s current functional performance to age-expected functioning;
  • when and how to measure progress in the three child outcome areas; and
  • how to document ratings and evidence to support those ratings in COS documentation.

The following sessions are currently available:

  • Session 1: So What's This All About?
  • Session 2: Overview of the Child Outcomes Summary (COS) Process
  • Session 3: Essential Knowledge for Completing the Child Outcomes Summary (COS) Process
  • Session 4: The 7-Point Scale
  • Session 5: Determining a Rating
  • Session 6: Good Teaming, Good Decisions

Please use the link below to register for the module. You will be automatically redirected to the module after registering. The module is self-paced, so you may access it as often as desired.

Icon: Register now! for module access

COS Form and Instructions

Overview 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 13, 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 26, 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 May 2009, 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 (May 21, 2009)

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.

  • COS Form with Evidence Organized by Level of Functioning (October 15, 2009)
  • Guidance for Documenting the Rating on the Childhood Outcomes Summary (COS) Form with Evidence Organized by Level of Functioning (September 13, 2012)
  • PDF: One-page documentation key (July 2016)
  • State Examples/Adaptations

For COS process training materials, please see the Professional Development Resources page and the State-Developed COS Materials page.

Calculating Progress

Professional Development

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

  • CB 8040
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040
  • phone: 919.962.2001
  • fax: 919.966.7463
  • email:

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.

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