Assessment in Early Childhood Education

Pearson New International Edition
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Sue C. Wortham
Sixth Edition
 

 
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Table of Contents
P E A R S O N C U S T O M L I B R A R Y
I
Glossary
1
1Sue C. Wortham
1. An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
7
7Sue C. Wortham
2. How Infants and Young Children Should be Assessed
35
35Sue C. Wortham
3. How Standardized Tests Are Used, Designed, and Selected
61
61Sue C. Wortham
4. Using and Reporting Standardized Test Results
91
91Sue C. Wortham
5. Observation
123
123Sue C. Wortham
6. Checklists, Rating Scales, and Rubrics
163
163Sue C. Wortham
7. Teacher-Designed Strategies
201
201Sue C. Wortham
8. Performance-Based Strategies
231
231Sue C. Wortham
9. Portfolio Assessment
261
261Sue C. Wortham
10. Communicating with Families
297
297Sue C. Wortham
313
313Index
 

 
II
 

 
Glossary
achievement test A test that measures the extent to which a person has acquired information or mastered certain skills, usually as a result of instruction or training.
alternative assessment An assessment that is different from traditional written or multiple-choice tests. Usually related to authentic and performance assessments.
alternative-form reliability The correlation between results on alternative forms of a test. Reliability is the extent to which the two forms are consistent in measuring the same attributes.
analytic rubric A rubric that provides diag- nostic feedback and is more specific than a holistic rubric.
anecdotal record A written description of an incident in a childs behavior that can be significant in understanding the child.
aptitude test A test designed to predict future learning or performance on some task if appropriate education or training is provided.
arena assessment An assessment process whereby a group of specialists in develop- mental disabilities observes a child in natural play and working situations. A profile of the child is developed by the group, comparing their individual observations of some facet of the childs behaviors.
assessment software Software that has been developed to enable children to be assessed using a computer. Textbook pub- lishers and developers of early childhood assessment tools make assessment
software available as an option alongside traditional assessment tools.
attitude measure An instrument that mea- sures how an individual is predisposed to feel or think about something (a referent). A teacher can design a scale to measure students attitudes toward reading or mathematics.
authentic achievement Learning that is real and meaningful. Achievement that is worthwhile.
authentic assessment An assessment that uses some type of performance by a child to demonstrate understanding.
authentic performance assessment See authentic assessment.
behavioral objective An educational or instructional statement that includes the behavior to be exhibited, the conditions under which the behavior will be exhibited, and the level of performance required for mastery.
checklist A sequence or hierarchy of concepts and/or skills organized in a format that can be used to plan instruction and keep records.
concurrent validity The extent to which test scores on two forms of a test measure are correlated when they are given at the same time.
construct validity The extent to which a test measures a psychological trait or con- struct. Tests of personality, verbal ability, and critical thinking are examples of tests with construct validity.
From Glossary of Assessment in Early Childhood Education, 6/e. Sue C. Wortham. Copyright 2012 by Pearson Education. All rights reserved.
1
 

 
content validity The extent to which the content of a test such as an achievement test represents the objectives of the instruc- tional program it is designed to measure.
contract An agreement between teacher and child about activities the child will complete to achieve a specific objective or purpose.
correctives Instructional materials and methods used with mastery learning that are implemented after formative evaluation to provide alternative learning strategies and resources.
criterion-referenced test A test designed to provide information on specific knowledge or skills possessed by a student. The test measures specific skills or instruc- tional objectives.
criterion-related validity To establish validity of a test, scores are correlated with an external criterion, such as another established test of the same type.
developmental checklist A checklist that emphasizes areas and levels of development in early childhood.
developmental rubric A rubric that is orga- nized using domains of development.
developmental screening Evaluation of the young child to determine whether development is proceeding normally. It is used to identify children whose develop- ment is delayed.
diagnostic evaluation An evaluation to analyze an individuals areas of weaknesses or strengths and to determine the nature and causes of the weaknesses.
diagnostic interview An interview to deter- mine a childs learning needs or assess weaknesses. May be part of a diagnostic evaluation.
directed assignment A specific assignment to assess a childs performance on a learning objective or skill.
direct performance measure A performance measure that requires the student to apply knowledge in an activity specified by the teacher.
documentation A process of documenting information about progress of project activities and recording information about
childrens interests, ideas, thinking, and problem solving within their activities.
electronic management of learning (EML) Resources available to early childhood programs for instructional experiences using the computer. The materials can include creative, skill development, and assessment software.
enrichment activity In the context of mastery learning, a challenging activity at a higher cognitive level on Blooms taxonomy than the instructional objective described on a table of specifications.
equivalent forms Alternative forms of a test that are parallel. The forms of the test measure the same domain or objectives, have the same format, and are of equal difficulty.
event sampling An observation strategy used to determine when a particular behavior is likely to occur. The setting in which the behavior occurs is more impor- tant than the time it is likely to occur.
formative assessment An assessment designed to measure progress on an objec- tive rather than to give a qualitative result.
formative evaluation Evaluation conducted during instruction to provide the teacher with information on the learning progress of the student and the effectiveness of instructional methods and materials.
formative test A test designed to evaluate progress on specific learning objectives or a unit of study.
game In the context of authentic assessment, a structured assessment whereby the students performance progress is evaluated through engagement with the game.
grade equivalent The grade level for which a given score on a standardized test is the estimated average. Grade-equivalent scores, commonly used for elementary achievement tests, are expressed in terms of the grade and month.
grade norms Norms on standardized tests based on the performance of students in given grades.
Glossary
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graphic rating scale A rating scale that can be used as a continuum. The rater marks characteristics by descriptors on the scale at any point along the continuum.
group test A test that can be administered to more than one person at a time.
holistic rubric A rubric with competency levels that indicate levels of performance. It assigns a single score to a students performance.
inclusion The process of including children with disabilities into a classroom where they would have been placed if they had not experienced a disability.
indirect performance measure A measure that assesses what a student knows about a topic. The teachers assessment is accom- plished by observing a student activity or examining a written test.
individualized instruction Instruction based on the learning needs of individual students. It may be based on criterion- related evaluation or diagnosis.
individual test A test that can be adminis- tered to only one person at a time. Many early childhood tests are individual tests because of the low maturity level of the examinees.
informal test A test that has not been standardized. Teacher-designed tests are an example.
instructional objective See behavioral objective.
integration Facilitating the participation of children with disabilities into the classroom with peers who do not have disabilities. The child is integrated with other children, and the needs of all children are met without treating some children as special.
intelligence quotient (IQ) An index of intelligence expressed as the ratio of men- tal age to chronological age. It is derived from an individuals performance on an intelligence test as compared with that of others of the same age.
intelligence test A test measuring developed abilities that are considered signs of intelligence. Intelligence is general potential independent of prior learning.
interest inventory A measure used to deter- mine interest in an occupation or vocation. Students interest in reading may be determined by such an inventory.
internal consistency The degree of relationship among items on a test. A type of reliability that indicates whether items on the test are positively correlated and measure the same trait or characteristic.
interview A discussion that the teacher con- ducts with a child to make an assessment.
item analysis The analysis of single test items to determine their difficulty value and discriminating power. Item analysis is conducted in the process of developing a standardized test.
learning disability A developmental difference or delay in a young or school-age child that interferes with the individuals ability to learn through regular methods of instruction.
mainstreaming A process of placing chil- dren with disabilities into regular classrooms for part of the school day with children who do not have disabilities. Mainstreaming is being replaced by inclu- sion or integration, in which the child with disabilities is not singled out as being different.
mastery testing Evaluation to determine the extent to which a test taker has mastered particular skills or learning objectives. Performance is compared to a predetermined standard of proficiency.
mean The arithmetic average of a set of test scores.
minimum-competency testing Evaluation to measure whether test takers have achieved a minimum level of proficiency in a given academic area.
multiple choice A type of test question in which the test taker must choose the best answer from among several options.
narrative report An alternative to report cards for reporting a childs progress. The teacher writes a narrative to describe the childs growth and accomplishments.
neonatologist A physician who specializes in babies less than 1 month old.
Glossary
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normal distribution The hypothetical dis- tribution of scores that has a bell-shaped appearance. This distribution is used as a model for many scoring systems and test statistics.
norm-referenced test A test in which the test takers performance is compared with the performance of people in a norm group.
norms Statistics that supply a frame of reference based on the actual performance of test takers in a norm group. A set of scores that represents the distribution of test performance in the norm group.
numerical rating scale A series of numerals, such as 1 to 5, that allows an observer to indicate the degree to which an individual possesses a particular characteristic.
obstetrician A physician who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth.
pediatrician A physician who specializes in the development, care, and diseases of young children.
percentile A point or score in a distribution at or below which falls the percentage of cases indicated by the percentile. The score scale on a normal distribution is divided into 100 segments, each containing the same number of scores.
percentile rank The test takers test score, as expressed in terms of its position within a group of 100 scores. The percentile rank is the percentage of scores equal to or lower than the test takers score.
performance assessment An assessment in which the child demonstrates knowledge by applying it to a task or a problem-solving activity.
performance-based assessment An assessment of development and/or learning that is based on the childs natural performance, rather than on contrived tests or tasks.
personality test A test designed to obtain information on the affective characteristics of an individual (emotional, motivational, or attitudinal). The test measures psychological makeup rather than intellectual abilities.
play-based assessment Assessment often used for children with disabilities that is conducted through observation in play environments. Play activities can be spon- taneous or planned. Play-based assessment can be conducted by an individual or through arena assessment.
portfolio A format for conducting an evaluation of a child. Portfolios are a collec- tion of a childs work, teacher assessments, and other information that contribute to a picture of the childs progress.
preassessment An assessment conducted before the beginning of the school year or prior to any instruction at the beginning of the school year.
project An authentic learning activity that can also be used to demonstrate student achievement.
rating scale A scale using categories that allow the observer to indicate the degree of a characteristic that the person possesses.
raw score The number of right answers a test taker obtains on a test.
reliability The extent to which a test is con- sistent in measuring over time what it is designed to measure.
rubric An instrument developed to measure authentic and performance assessments. Descriptions are given for qualitative charac- teristics on a scale.
running record A description of a sequence of events in a childs behavior that includes all behaviors observed over a period of time.
scope (sequence of skills) A list of learning objectives established for areas of learning and development at a particular age, grade level, or content area.
specimen record Detailed observational reports of childrens behavior over a period of time that are used for research purposes.
split-half reliability A measure of reliability whereby scores on equivalent sections of a single test are correlated for internal consistency.
standard deviation A measure of the varia- bility of a distribution of scores around the mean.
Glossary
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standard error of measurement An esti- mate of the possible magnitude of error present in test scores.
standardized test A test that has specified content, procedures for administration and scoring, and normative data for inter- preting scores.
standard score A transformed score that reports performance in terms of the num- ber of standard deviation units the raw score is from the mean.
stanine A scale on the normal curve divided into nine sections, with all divisions except the first and the last being 0.5 standard deviation wide.
structured interview A planned interview conducted by the teacher for assessment purposes.
structured performance assessment A performance assessment that has been planned by the teacher to include specific tasks or activities.
summative assessment A final assessment to assign a grade or determine mastery of an objective. Similar to summative evaluation.
summative evaluation An evaluation obtained at the end of a cycle of instruction to determine whether students have mastered the objectives and whether the instruction has been effective.
summative test A test to determine mastery of learning objectives administered for grading purposes.
T score A standard score scale with a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10.
table of specifications A table of curriculum objectives that have been analyzed to determine to what level of Blooms taxonomy of educational objectives the student must demonstrate mastery.
testretest reliability A type of reliability obtained by administering the same test a second time after a short interval and then correlating the two sets of scores.
time sampling Observation to determine the frequency of a behavior. The observer records how many times the behavior occurs during uniform time periods.
true score A hypothetical score on a test that is free of error. Because no standardi- zed test is free of measurement error, a true score can never be obtained.
unstructured interview An assessment interview conducted by the teacher as the result of a naturally occurring perfor- mance by a child. The interview is not planned.
unstructured performance assessment An assessment that is part of regular classroom activities.
validity The degree to which a test serves the purpose for which it is to be used.
work sample An example of a childs work. Work samples include products of all types of activities that can be used to evaluate the childs progress.
Z score A standard score that expresses performance in terms of the number of standard deviations from the mean.
Glossary
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6
 

 
An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
Chapter Objectives
As a result of reading this chapter, you will be able to
1. Understand the purposes of assessment in early childhood 2. Understand different meanings of the term assessment 3. Understand the history of tests and measurements in early childhood 4. Develop an awareness of issues in testing young children
From Chapter 1 of Assessment in Early Childhood Education, 6/e. Sue C. Wortham. Copyright 2012 by Pearson Education. All rights reserved.
Image 100
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U n d e r s t a n d i n g A s s e s s m e n t i n I n f a n c y a n d E a r l y C h i l d h o o d
Not too long ago, resources on early childhood assessment were limited to occa- sional articles in journals, chapters in textbooks on teaching in early childhood pro- grams, and a few small textbooks that were used as secondary texts in an early childhood education course. Very few teacher preparation programs offered a course devoted to assessment in early childhood. Now, in the 21st century, assessment of very young children has experienced a period of very rapid growth and expansion. In fact, it has been described as a virtual explosion of testing in public schools (Meisels & Atkins-Burnett, 2005, p. 1).
There has also been an explosion in the numbers of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in early childhood programs and the types of programs that serve them. Moreover, the diversity among these young children increases each year. Currently, Head Start programs serve children and families who speak at least 140 different languages. In some Head Start classrooms, ten different languages might be used. Head Start teaching teams may also be multilingual, also representing diversity (David, 2005).
What Is Assessment? What do we need to know about all these diverse children with all kinds of families, cultures, and languages? The study of individuals for measurement purposes begins before birth with assessment of fetal growth and development. At birth and throughout infancy and early childhood, various methods of measurement are used to evaluate the childs growth and development. Before a young child enters a preschool program, he or she is measured through med- ical examinations. Children are also measured through observations of develop- mental milestones, such as saying the first word or walking independently, by parents and other family members. Children might also be screened or evalu- ated for an early childhood program or service. Assessment is really a process. A current definition describes the assessment process: Assessment is the process of gathering information about children from several forms of evi- dence, then organizing and interpreting that information (McAfee, Leong, & Bodrova, 2004, p. 3).
Assessment of children from birth through the preschool years is different from assessment of older people. Not only can young children not write or read, but also the young developing child presents different challenges that influence the choice of measurement strategy, or how to measure or assess the child. Assessment methods must be matched with the level of mental, social, and physical develop- ment at each stage. Developmental change in young children is rapid, and there is a need to assess whether development is progressing normally. If development is not normal, the measurement and evaluation procedures used are important in making decisions regarding appropriate intervention services during infancy and the preschool years.
An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
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Purposes of Assessment Assessment is used for various purposes. We may want to learn about individual chil- dren. We may conduct an evaluation to assess a young childs development in language or mathematics. When we need to learn more, we may assess the child by asking her or him to describe what she or he has achieved. For example, a first-grade teacher may use measurement techniques to determine what reading skills have been mastered and what weaknesses exist that indicate a need for additional instruction.
Assessment strategies may be used for diagnosis. Just as a medical doctor conducts a physical examination of a child to diagnose an illness, psychologists, teachers, and other adults who work with children can conduct an informal or formal assessment to diagnose a developmental delay or identify causes for poor performance in learning.
If medical problems, birth defects, or developmental delays in motor, language, cognitive, or social development are discovered during the early, critical periods of development, steps can be taken to correct, minimize, or remediate them before the child enters school. For many developmental deficits or differences, the earlier they are detected and the earlier intervention is planned, the more likely the child will be able to overcome them or compensate for them. For example, if a serious hear- ing deficit is identified early, the child can learn other methods of communicating and acquiring information.
Assessment of young children is also used for placementto place them in infant or early childhood programs or to provide special services. To ensure that a child receives the best services, careful screening and more extensive testing may be conducted before selecting the combination of intervention programs and other services that will best serve the child.
Program planning is another purpose of assessment. After children have been identified and evaluated for an intervention program or service, assessment results can be used in planning the programs that will serve them. These programs, in turn, can be evaluated to determine their effectiveness.
Besides identifying and correcting developmental problems, assessment of very young children is conducted for other purposes. One purpose is research. Researchers study young children to better understand their behavior or to measure the appro- priateness of the experiences that are provided for them.
The National Early Childhood Assessment Resource Group summarized the purposes for appropriate uses of assessment in the early childhood years as follows:
Purpose 1: Assessing to promote childrens learning and development Purpose 2: Identifying children for health and social services Purpose 3: Monitoring trends and evaluating programs and services Purpose 4: Assessing academic achievement to hold individual students, teachers,
and schools accountable (Shepard, Kagan, Lynn, & Wurtz, 1998). (See Figure 2-1.)
How were these assessment strategies developed? In the next section, I describe how certain movements or factors, especially during the past century, have affected the development of testing instruments, procedures, and other measurement tech- niques that are used with infants and young children.
An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
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T h e E v o l u t i o n o f A s s e s s m e n t o f Y o u n g C h i l d r e n
Interest in studying young children to understand their growth and development dates back to the initial recognition of childhood as a separate period in the life cycle. Johann Pestalozzi, a pioneer in developing educational programs specifically for children, wrote about the development of his 31/2-year-old son in 1774 (Irwin & Bushnell, 1980). Early publications also reflected concern for the proper upbringing and education of young children. Some Thoughts Concerning Education by John Locke (1699), Emile (Rousseau, 1762/1911), and Frederick Froebels Education of Man (1896) were influential in focusing attention on the characteristics and needs of children in the 18th and 19th centuries. Rousseau believed that human nature was essentially good and that education must allow that goodness to unfold. He stated that more attention should be given to studying the child so that education could be adapted to meet individual needs (Weber, 1984). The study of children, as advocated by Rousseau, did not begin until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Scientists throughout the world used observation to measure human behaviors. Ivan Pavlov proposed a theory of conditioning to change behaviors. Alfred Binet devel- oped the concept of a normal mental age by studying memory, attention, and intel- ligence in children. Binet and Theophile Simon developed an intelligence scale to determine mental age that made it possible to differentiate the abilities of individual
Early Intervention for a Child with Hearing Impairment
J ulio, who is 2 years old, was born prematurely. He did not have regular checkupsduring his first year, but his mother took him to a community clinic when he had a cold and fever at about 9 months of age. When the doctor noticed that Julio did not
react to normal sounds in the examining room, she stood behind him and clapped her
hands near each ear. Because Julio did not turn toward the clapping sounds, the doctor
suspected that he had a hearing loss. She arranged for Julio to be examined by an
audiologist at an eye, ear, nose, and throat clinic.
Julio was found to have a significant hearing loss in both ears. He was fitted with
hearing aids and is attending a special program twice a week for children with hearing
deficits. Therapists in the program are teaching Julio to speak. They are also teaching
his mother how to make Julio aware of his surroundings and help him to develop a
vocabulary. Had Julio not received intervention services at an early age, he might have
entered school with severe cognitive and learning deficits that would have put him at a
higher risk for failing to learn.
An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
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children (Weber, 1984). American psychologists expanded these early efforts, devel- oping instruments for various types of measurement.
The study and measurement of young children today has evolved from the child study movement, the development of standardized tests, Head Start and other federal programs first funded in the 1960s, and the passage of Public Law 94-142 (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and Public Law 99-457 (an expansion of PL 94-142 to include infants). Currently, there is a movement toward more meaningful learning or authentic achievement and assessment (Newmann, 1996; Wiggins, 1993). At the same time, continuing progress is being made in identifying, diagnosing, and providing more appropriate intervention for infants and young children with disabilities (Meisels & Fenichel, 1996).
The Child Study Movement G. Stanley Hall, Charles Darwin, and Lawrence Frank were leaders in the develop- ment of the child study movement that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. Darwin, in suggesting that by studying the development of the infant one could glimpse the development of the human species, initiated the scientific study of the child (Kessen, 1965). Hall developed and extended methods of studying children. After he became president of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, he estab- lished a major center for child study. Halls studentsJohn Dewey, Arnold Gesell, and Lewis Termanall made major contributions to the study and measure- ment of children. Dewey advocated educational reform that affected the devel- opment of educational programs for young children. Gesell first described the b e h av i o r s t h a t e m e r g e d i n c h i l d r e n a t e a c h c h r o n o l o g i c a l a g e. Te r m a n b e came a leader in the development of mental tests (Irwin & Bushnell, 1980; Wortham, 2002).
Research in child rearing and child care was furthered by the establishment of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial child development grants. Under the leadership of Lawrence Frank, institutes for child development were funded by the Rockefeller grants at Columbia University Teachers College (New York), the University of Minnesota, the University of California at Berkeley, Arnold Gesells Clinic of Child Development at Yale University, the Iowa Child Welfare Station, and other locations.
With the establishment of child study at academic centers, preschool children could be observed in group settings, rather than as individuals in the home. With the development of laboratory schools and nursery schools in the home economics departments of colleges and universities, child study research could also include the family in broadening the understanding of child development. Researchers from many disciplines joined in an ongoing child study movement that originated strategies for observing and measuring development. The results of their research led to an abundant literature. Between the 1890s and the 1950s, hundreds of children were studied in academic settings throughout the United States (Weber, 1984). Thus, the child study movement has taught us to use observation and other strategies to as- sess the child. Investigators today continue to add new knowledge about child de- velopment and learning that aids parents, preschool teachers and staff members, and professionals in institutions and agencies that provide services to children and
An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
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families. In the last decade of the 20th century and in the 21st century, brain research has opened up a whole new perspective of the nature of cognitive development and the importance of the early years for optimum development and later learning (Begley, 1997; Shore, 1997). These new findings have caused early childhood edu- cators to reflect on the factors that affect early development and the implications for programming for children in infancy and early childhood.
Standardized Tests Standardized testing also began around 1900. When colleges and universities in the East sought applicants from other areas of the nation in the 1920s, they found the high school transcripts of these students difficult to evaluate. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was established to permit fairer comparisons of applicants seeking admission (Cronbach, 1990).
As public schools expanded to offer 12 years of education, a similar phenome- non occurred. To determine the level and pace of instruction and the grouping of students without regard for socioeconomic class, objective tests were developed (Gardner, 1961). These tests grew out of the need to sort, select, or otherwise make decisions about both children and adults.
The first efforts to design tests were informal. When a psychologist, researcher, or physician needed a method to observe a behavior, he or she developed a proce- dure to meet those needs. The procedure was often adopted by others with the same needs. When many people wanted to use a particular measurement strategy or test, the developer prepared printed copies for sale. As the demand for tests grew, textbook publishers and firms specializing in test development and production also began to create and sell tests (Cronbach, 1990).
American psychologists built on the work of Binet and Simon in developing the intelligence measures described earlier. Binets instrument, revised by Terman at Stanford University, came to be known as the StanfordBinet Intelligence Scale. Other Americans, particularly educators, welcomed the opportunity to use precise measurements to evaluate learning. Edward Thorndike and his students designed measures to evaluate achievement in reading, mathematics, spelling, and language ability (Weber, 1984). Because of the work of Terman and Thorndike, testing soon became a science (Scherer, 1999). By 1918, more than 100 standardized tests had been designed to measure school achievement (Monroe, 1918).
After World War II, the demand for dependable and technically refined tests grew, and people of all ages came to be tested. As individuals and institutions selected and developed their own tests, the use of testing became more centralized. Statewide tests were administered in schools, and tests were increasingly used at the national level.
The expanded use of tests resulted in the establishment of giant corporations that could assemble the resources to develop, publish, score, and report the results of testing to a large clientele. Centralization improved the quality of tests and the establishment of standards for test design. As individual researchers and teams of psychologists continue to design instruments to meet current needs, the high qual- ity of these newer tests can be attributed to the improvements and refinements made over the years and to the increased knowledge of test design and validation (Cronbach, 1990).
An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
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Head Start and the War on Poverty Prior to the 1960s, medical doctors, psychologists, and other professionals serving children developed tests for use with preschool children. Developmental measures, IQ tests, and specialized tests to measure developmental deficits were generally used for noneducational purposes. Child study researchers tended to use observational or unobtrusive methods to study the individual child or groups of children. School-age children were tested to measure school achievement, but this type of test was rarely used with preschool children.
After the federal government decided to improve the academic performance of children from low-income homes and those from non-English-speaking backgrounds, test developers moved quickly to design new measurement and evaluation instruments for these preschool and school-age populations.
In the late 1950s, there was concern about the consistently low academic perfor- mance of children from poor homes. As researchers investigated the problem, national interest in improving education led to massive funding for many programs designed to reduce the disparity in achievement between poor and middle-class chil- dren. The major program that involved preschool children was Head Start. Models of early childhood programs ranging from highly structured academic, child-centered developmental to more traditional nursery school models were designed and imple- mented throughout the United States (White, 1973; Zigler & Valentine, 1979).
All programs funded by the federal government had to be evaluated for effec- tiveness. As a result, new measures were developed to assess individual progress and the programs effectiveness (Laosa, 1982). The quality of these measures was uneven, as was comparative research designed to compare the overall effectiveness of Head Start. Nevertheless, the measures and strategies developed for use with Head Start projects added valuable resources for the assessment and evaluation of young chil- dren (Hoepfner, Stern, & Nummedal, 1971).
Other federally funded programs developed in the 1960s, such as bilingual pro- grams, Title I, the Emergency School Aid Act, Follow Through, and Home Start, were similar in effect to Head Start. The need for measurement strategies and tests to eval- uate these programs led to the improvement of existing tests and the development of new tests to evaluate their success accurately.
Legislation for Young Children With Disabilities PL 94-142
Perhaps the most significant law affecting the measurement of children was Public Law (PL) 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, passed in 1975. This law, later amended and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), guaranteed all children with disabilities the right to an appropriate edu- cation in a free public school and placement in the least restrictive learning environ- ment. The law further required the use of nondiscriminatory testing and evaluation of these children (McCollum & Maude, 1993).
The implications of the law were far reaching. Testing, identification, and place- ment of students with mental retardation and those with other disabilities were dif- ficult. Existing tests were no longer considered adequate for children with special
An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
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needs. Classroom teachers had to learn the techniques used to identify students with disabilities and determine how to meet their educational needs (Kaplan & Saccuzzo, 1989).
The law required that a team of teachers, parents, diagnosticians, school psychologists, medical personnel, and perhaps social workers or representatives of government agencies or institutions be used to identify and place students with disabilities. When appropriate, the child must also be included in the decision-making process. The team screens, tests, and develops an Individual Education Programme (IEP) for each child. Not all team members are involved in every step of the process, but they can influence the decisions made.
The term mainstreaming came to define the requirement that the child be placed in the least restrictive environment. This meant that as often as possible, the child would be placed with children developing normally, rather than in a segre- gated classroom for students in special education. How much mainstreaming was beneficial for the individual student? The question was difficult to answer. In addition, the ability of teachers to meet the needs of students with and without disabilities simultaneously in the same classroom is still debated. Nevertheless, classroom teachers were expected to develop and monitor the educational program prescribed for students with disabilities (Clark, 1976).
The identification and diagnosis of students with disabilities is the most com- plex aspect of PL 94-142. Many types of children need special education, including students with mental retardation, physical and visual disabilities, speech impair- ments, auditory disabilities, learning disabilities, and emotional disturbances, and
One Familys Experience with Head Start
R osa is a graduate of the Head Start program. For 2 years, she participated in a classhoused in James Brown School, a former inner-city school that had been closed and remodeled for other community services. Two Head Start classrooms were in the building,
which was shared with several other community agencies serving low-income families. In
addition to learning at James Brown School, Rosa went on many field trips, including trips
to the zoo, the botanical garden, the public library, and a nearby McDonalds restaurant.
This year Rosa is a kindergarten student at West Oaks Elementary School with her
older brothers, who also attended Head Start. Next year, Rosas younger sister, Luisa, will
begin the program. Luisa looks forward to Head Start. She has good memories of the
things she observed Rosa doing in the Head Start classroom while visiting the school
with her mother.
Luisas parents are also happy that she will be attending the Head Start program.
Luisas older brothers are good students, which they attribute to the background they
received in Head Start. From her work in kindergarten, it appears that Rosa will also do
well when she enters first grade.
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students who are gifted. Children may have a combination of disabilities. The iden- tification and comprehensive testing of children to determine what types of disabil- ities they have and how best to educate them requires a vast array of assessment techniques and instruments. Teachers, school nurses, and other staff members can be involved in initial screening and referral, but the extensive testing used for diag- nosis and prescription requires professionals who have been trained to administer psychological tests (Mehrens & Lehmann, 1991).
Under PL 94-142, all children with disabilities between ages 3 and 21 are enti- tled to free public education. This means that preschool programs must also be pro- vided for children under age 6. Public schools have implemented early childhood programs for children with disabilities, and Head Start programs are required to include them (Guralnick, 1982; Spodek & Saracho, 1994). Other institutions and agencies also provide programs for children with and without disabilities.
PL 99-457
Many of the shortcomings of PL 94-142 were addressed in PL 99-457 (Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments), passed in 1986. The newer law authorized two new programs: the Federal Preschool Program and the Early Intervention Program. Under PL 94-142, the state could choose whether to provide services to children with disabilities between ages 3 and 5. Under PL 99-457, states must prove that they are meeting the needs of all these children if they wish to receive federal funds under PL 94-142. The Federal Preschool Program extends the right of children with disabilities under PL 94-142 to all children with disabilities between ages 3 and 5.
The Early Intervention Program established early intervention services for all children between birth and age 2 who are developmentally delayed. All participat- ing states must now provide intervention services for all infants and toddlers with disabilities (McCollum & Maude, 1993; Meisels & Shonkoff, 1990).
How to measure and evaluate young children with disabilities and the pro- grams that serve them are a continuing challenge (Cicchetti & Wagner, 1990). The design of measures to screen, identify, and place preschool children in intervention programs began with the passage of PL 94-142 and was extended under PL 99-457. Many of these instruments and strategies, particularly those dealing with develop- mental delay, were also used with preschool programs serving children developing normally, as well as those with developmental delays or disabilities.
As children with disabilities were served in a larger variety of settings, such as preschools, Head Start programs, child-care settings, infant intervention programs, and hospitals, early childhood educators from diverse backgrounds were involved in determining whether infants and young children were eligible for services for special needs. Early childhood educators and other practitioners in the field were challenged to be knowledgeable in measurement and evaluation strategies for effec- tive identification, placement, and assessment of young children in integrated early childhood settings (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1993).
Many questions were raised about appropriately serving young children with diverse abilities. Meeting the developmental and educational needs of infants and preschool children with disabilities and at the same time providing mainstreaming were a complex task. How should these children be grouped for the best intervention services? When children with and without disabilities were grouped together, what
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were the effects when all of them were progressing through critical periods of development? Not only was identification of young children with disabilities more complex, but evaluation of the infant and preschool programs providing interven- tion services was also difficult.
PL 101-576
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990 (Stein, 1993), and the amendments to PL 94-142 (IDEA) have had an additional impact on the education of young children with disabilities. Under the ADA, all early childhood programs must be prepared to serve children with special needs. Facilities and accommoda- tions for young children, including outdoor play environments, must be designed, constructed, and altered appropriately to meet the needs of young children with dis- abilities. The PL 94-142 amendments, passed in 1991, require that the individual educational needs of young children with disabilities must be met in all early childhood programs (Deiner, 1993; McCollum & Maude, 1993; Wolery, Strain, & Bailey, 1992). These laws advance the civil rights of young children and have resulted in the inclusion of young children in preschool and school-age programs. As a result, the concept of mainstreaming is being replaced by integration, or inclusion, whereby all young children learn together with the goal that the individual needs of all chil- dren will be met (Krick, 1992; Wolery & Wilbers, 1994). The efforts of these pro- grams and their services must be assessed and evaluated to determine whether the needs of children are being met effectively.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004
The Congress reauthorized the Education for All Children Act of 1975 in 1997 (IDEA). The reauthorization of the 1997 law required special education students to participate in state tests, and states were to report results of those tests to the public. Many states were slow to comply with the law and there were no consequences for states that did not comply.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) required states to test at least 95% of their students with disabilities. Subsequently, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 was aligned with the requirements of NCLB. Final regulations of the law were officially published in August 2006. Three important rules addressed the impact of NCLB. A provision of NCLB was that highly qualified teachers must be hired. The regulations clarified this rule for spe- cial education teachers: states could create a state standard of evaluation for special education teachers.
NCLB specified that states could still use other methods of diagnosing children with learning disabilities. The response-to-intervention process involved providing intervention services for students. Students who did not respond could be referred for special education services. This process was clarified in the regulations, which stated that states could still use other methods of diagnosing children with learning disabilities. A third provision caused some controversy. This required that students in private schools would be provided services through the public schools. School districts were required to set aside a certain percentage of their federal funds for services to private school students (Education Week, n.d; Samuels, 2006; U.S. Department of Education, 2006).
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C u r r e n t I s s u e s a n d Tr e n d s i n A s s e s s m e n t i n E a r l y C h i l d h o o d E d u c a t i o n
The 1980s brought a new reform movement in education, accompanied by a new emphasis on testing. The effort to improve education at all levels included the use of standardized tests to provide accountability for what students are learning. Minimum competency tests, achievement tests, and screening instruments were used to ensure that students from preschool through college reached the desired educational goals and achieved the minimum standards of education that were established locally or by the state education agency. As we continue in a new century, these concerns have increased.
Trends in a New Century In the 1990s many schools improved the learning environment and achievement for all children; nevertheless, a large percentage of schools were still low performing in 2000 and 2001. Inadequate funding, teacher shortages, teachers with inadequate training, aging schools, and poor leadership affected quality education (Wortham, 2002).
During the 2000 presidential campaign, candidate George W. Bush named quality education as one of the goals of his presidency. After his election, President Bush worked for legislation that would improve education for all children. After months of dialogue and debate, Congress passed a new education act in December 2001. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), signed into law on January 8, 2002, had an impact on testing required by individual states. In addition to other provi- sions, all states were required to administer tests developed by the state and to set and monitor adequate yearly progress (Moscosco, 2001; Wortham, 2002).
President Bush was also committed to strengthening early childhood programs. In 2002, several projects were conducted to support early childhood programs. Under the Sunshine Schools program, the U.S. Department of Education focused on what is work- ing in early childhood education and gave attention to highly effective state, district, city, county, and campus programs (Grissom, personal communication, April 4, 2002).
Another Bush initiative, Good Start, Grow Smart, was intended to strengthen Head Start and improve the quality of experiences for children. The initiative pro- vided the following:
Training for nearly 50,000 Head Start teachers on the best techniques Assurance that preschool programs are more closely coordinated with K12
educational programs A research effort to identify effective early literacy programs and practices
(Grissom, personal communication, April 4, 2002).
In July 2001, the White House hosted the White House Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development. The Early ChildhoodHead Start Task Force formed following the summit published a new guide, Teaching Our Youngest (Grissom, personal communication, April 4, 2002).
The early childhood education projects initiated by the Bush administration to improve education stressed the importance of improving early childhood programs;
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nevertheless, there is no doubt that mandates for increased standards-based testing will continue in the future in spite of concerns of their relevancy, especially for young children. Fortunately, child-outcome standards have also been developed by professional organizations in addition to state education agencies. The National Council for the Social Studies issued Curriculum Standards for the Social Studies (National Council for the Social Studies, 1994). Improved Head Start Performance Standards published in 1996 included children from birth to age 5 (Early Head Start, 2000). These standards and others provide guidelines for early childhood educators as they strive to improve programs and experiences for young children. By 2005, standards that included early childhood were available in many states. Some were in response to NCLB, but others were part of the emerging efforts to establish state and national standards for development and learning (Seefeldt, 2005).
Individual states are continuing to develop, implement, and review early learn- ing guidelines as the set standards for preschool curriculum. All states except for Hawaii were engaged in or had completed the process in 2009 (National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center [NCCIC], 2009).
T h e A c c o u n t a b i l i t y E r a The major issue in education today is the idea of accountability. Even before the rules and regulations surrounding the legislation for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) were issued, there were growing concerns about accountability. The interest in developing more responsibility for student results evolved from a perception that
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
NCLB requires states to do the following (U.S. Department of Education, 2001):
Provide public school choice and supplemental services for students in failing
schools as early as fall 2002.
Integrate scientifically based reading research into comprehensive instruction for
young children.
Set and monitor adequate yearly progress, based on baseline 20012002 data.
Issue annual report cards on school performance and statewide test results by
20022003.
Implement annual, standards-based assessments in reading and math for grades
3 to 8 by 20052006.
Assure that all classes are taught by a qualified teacher by 20052006.
U.S. Department of Education (2001). Retrieved February 14, 2007, from
http://www.ed.gov/aclb/overview/intro/factsheet/html.
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states had been evaluating school systems on the basis of available resources rather than student performance. NCLB addressed student performance, public reporting of achievement results, consequences for poor student performance, and continu- ous improvement (Edweek, 2004). Individual states were also responding to the need for accountability by moving from a focus on curriculum offerings and funding levels to standards-based accountability. States now have set standards, developed assessment systems, and assigned responsibilities for meeting the goals and designating rewards and sanctions to achievement levels. If states want to continue getting benefits under NCLB, they have to follow the new policies for accountability (National Council of State Legislatures, 2009).
Emerging Issues With NCLB The requirements of NCLB were to be implemented by 2006. In the summer of 2006 it was evident that there were difficulties in complying with the law.
An early issue was the requirement that schools report test scores by racial subgroup. Nearly two dozen states had been granted waivers in reporting by subgroups. Other schools avoided the problem by determining that numbers of students in racial subgroups were too small to be statistically significant. Their scores were not included (Rebora, 2006).
The law also provided that states would implement standards-based assess- ments in reading and math by 2006. Ten states were notified in 2006 that a portion of state administrative funds would be withheld for failing to comply fully with NCLB. Twenty-five states might also lose a portion of their aid if they didnt comply fully with NCLB and comply with the testing requirement by the end of the school year. The monetary penalties caught many states by surprise. In addition, states had difficulty providing the extensive documentation required to demonstrate that the tests met that states academic standards (Olson, 2006). Further, states had to
An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
Assessments can be conducted while young children engage in independent work. Anne Vega/Merrill
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demonstrate how they were including students with disabilities and English language learners (ELLs) in their testing system. This included developing alterna- tive assessments when needed. When combined with concerns about testing young children in the early childhood years, NCLB had an impact on all populations of students, including those in the preschool years.
The reauthorization of NCLB was due in 2007. Congress had already blocked action on the reauthorization until after the 2008 election. The Obama administra- tion indicated in 2009 that the rewriting of the law would focus on teacher quality, academic standards, and more attention given to help failing schools and s t u dents. The Commission on No Child Left Behind (2009) urged Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to retain some core elements of NCLB. Regardless of the direction of continuing reform in education, the federal government would continue to expand its influence on accountability and would also encourage the movement from individual state standards to national standards (Dillon, 2009; The New York Times, 2009).
Concerns About Testing Young Children in Early Childhood Settings The increased use of testing at all levels has been an issue in American education, but the testing of young children is of particular concern. Standardized tests and other assessment measures are now being used in preschool, kindergarten, and pri- mary grades to determine whether children will be admitted to preschool programs, promoted to the next grade, or retained. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, tests were used to determine whether students should be promoted from kindergarten to first grade or placed in a transitional first grade. Although this practice is now less popular, it persists in some school districts and states (Smith, 1999). In 2000, the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS/SDE) was concerned about the continuing trend to deny chil- drens entry to kindergarten and first grade. They issued a position statement, Still! Unacceptable Trends in Kindergarten Entry and Placement (National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education [NAECS/SDE], 2000). This continuing effort to advocate appropriate assessment of very young chil- dren was endorsed by the Governing Board of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, 2001).
By 2006, states used a wide range of types of assessments with young children entering public school. Screening tests were in use in many states for hearing and vision as well as developmental assessments and readiness tests. Many states conducted screening to identify children at risk for failing to succeed in school and/or developmental disorders or disabilities. Some states met the criteria for developmentally appropriate assessments, while others did not. For example, California required observation and portfolio materials in preschool assessments. On the other hand, Georgia students were tested for first-grade readiness at the end of the kindergarten year to determine grade placement (Education Commission of the States, 2006). More information on these topics will be provided in later chapters.
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The announcement by President Bush in 2003 that all Head Start students would be given a national standardized test assessment raised new concerns. At issue were validity and reliability of tests for preschool children (Nagle, 2000) and whether such high-stakes testing should be used to evaluate the quality of Head Start pro- grams (Shepard et al., 1998). Policy makers had to address these and other concerns about appropriate assessment of young children in their decisions about how to evaluate preschool programs that receive federal funding (McMaken, 2003).
In February 2003, a large group of early childhood experts wrote to their congres- sional representatives to express their concerns about the impending test. They made the following points:
1. The test is too narrow. 2. The test may reduce the comprehensive services that ensure the success of Head
Start. 3. The test is shifting resources away from other needs within Head Start. 4. Testing should be used to strengthen teaching practices, not evaluate a
program, and should in no way be linked to program funding (Fair Test, 2003; NAEYC, 2004).
In September 2003, the new test, the National Reporting System (NRS) (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] Head Start Bureau, 2003), was administered by the Head Start Bureau in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families to more than 400,000 children ages 4 and 5, and continues to be administered each year. In 2005, when Head Start funding was being considered, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on the NRS. The report said that the NRS had not shown that it provided reliable information on childrens progress during the Head Start pro- gram year, especially for Spanish-speaking children. Moreover, the NRS had not shown that its results were valid measures of the learning that took place in the pro- gram. In its recommendations, the GAO required that the Head Start Bureau estab- lish validity and reliability for the NRS. As a result the NRS was not to be used for accountability purposes related to program funding (Crawford, 2005; Government Accountability Office [GAO], 2005). Because the Bush administration reportedly intended to use the NRS to establish accountability requirements similar to NCLB, this GAO finding essentially halted the use of the test for that purpose.
Concerns About Testing Young Children With Cultural and Language Differences A concurrent concern related to current trends and practices in the assessment of young children is the question of how appropriate our tests and assessment strate- gies are in terms of the diversity of young children attending early childhood programs. Socioeconomic groups are changing dramatically and rapidly in our society, with an expansion of the poorer class and a corresponding shrinking of the middle class (Raymond & McIntosh, 1992). At the same time, an increase in minority citizens has occurred as the result of the continuing influx of people from other
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countries, especially Southeast Asia and Central and South America. Moreover, Hispanic families are no longer concentrated in the Southwest; their growth in many parts of the country has caused new communities to have unprecedented high percentages of Hispanic children. Seventy-nine percent of young ELLs in public schools speak Spanish. In addition, approximately 460 languages are represented in schools and programs in the United States, including Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Armenian, and Hmong (Biggar, 2005; Lopez, Salas, & Flores, 2005). Assessment of the developmental progress of children from these groups is particularly important if their learning needs are to be identified and addressed.
Evidence shows that standardized test scores have had a high correlation to par- ents occupations, level of education, the location of the students elementary school, and the familys income bracket. Moreover, students from limited English backgrounds tend to score lower on reading and language fluency tests in English. They typically perform better on computational portions of mathematics tests (Wesson, 2001). The fairness of existing tests for children who are school disadvan- taged and linguistically and culturally diverse indicates the need for alternative assessment strategies for young children (Biggar, 2005; Goodwin & Goodwin, 1993, 1997). A major issue in the 21st century is appropriate measurement and evaluation strategies that will enhance, rather than diminish, the potential for achievement.
The history of assessment of minorities who are bilingual students or learning English as a second language is one of potential bias. Children have been and con- tinue to be tested in their nondominant language (English) or with instruments that were validated on an Anglo, middle-class sample of children. As a result, many Hispanic preschool children were and are still regularly diagnosed as developmen- tally delayed and placed in special education (Lopez et al., 2005). The issue of appropriate assessment of these children was addressed by court cases such as Diana v. California State Board of Education (1968) and Lau v. Nichols (1974). More recently, NCLB and the Head Start NRS have addressed the issue of testing ELLs (Crawford, 2005; David, 2005; GAO, 2005).
The overidentification of minority students for special education is often related to language and cultural differences. Some of the issues addressed in the rising numbers of minority children being referred to special education were traced in one study to inconsistent methods of determining home language and English profi- ciency, confusion as to the purpose of language screening instruments, and a need for more training for teachers in meeting the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse children and families (Abebe & Hailemariam, 2008; Hardin, Roach-Scott, & Peisner-Feinberg, 2007).
Increasing concerns about overidentification of minority children is addressed in two significant books. Why Are So Many Minority Students in Special Education? Understanding Race and Disability in Schools (Harry & Klingner, 2005) is one effort to explain the problem. The authors address the issue of the disproportionate repre- sentation of minorities in special education. Racial Inequity in Education (Loren & Orfield, 2002) addresses many factors that include language, high-stakes testing, inappropriate and inadequate special education for minority children, and the role of the federal government.
Another concern about testing children with cultural and language differences is the process of screening preschool children who fit into this category. A problem of correctly screening young children who are learning English may lead to the
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underidentification of children who have special needs or overidentification of special needs because English language delays are misdiagnosed as a disability (NAEYC, 2005a). Recommendations were made for appropriate screening and assessment and program accountability for correctly serving young children in English.
The impact of NCLB on testing ELLs has resulted in the development of new English language proficiency tests based on new standards adopted by each state. More importantly, the tests measure the reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills of ELLs (Zehr, 2006). In summer 2006, five states had failed to meet the Department of Educations deadline to have tests in place. While some states designed their own tests, other states adopted tests designed by consortia or testing corporations. Nevertheless, because test development and implementation were still in the beginning stages, little was known about the validity and reliability of the tests and whether the tests met the requirements of the law. The New York example reveals the complexity of the assess- ment of ELLs. The New York State test was designed to measure language acquisition, while the tests meeting NCLB measured English language skills. This was true for bilingual and ELL programs throughout the United States prior to NCLB. It would take many years to develop and validate tests that would resolve how to assess the language skills of limited-English speakers that were comparable with tests for English-speaking students.
Assessment of young children who are from families that are culturally and lin- guistically diverse must include many dimensions of diversity. It is not useful to pro- ceed with assessment that is culturally fair for Hispanic or Asian populations generally. The many variations within communities and cultures must be consid- ered, among them the educational background of the parents and the culture of the immediate community of the family. Congruence between the individual cultural perceptions of the assessors and the children being assessed, even when both are from the same culture or language population, must also be considered (Barrera, 1996). Many types of information, including the childs background and the use of assessments, must be combined to determine a picture of the child that reflects individual, group, and family cultural characteristics (Lopez et al., 2005).
Concerns About Testing Young Children With Disabilities The use of testing for infants and young children with disabilities cannot be avoided. Indeed, Meisels, Steele, and Quinn-Leering (1993) reflected that not all tests used are bad. Nevertheless, Greenspan, Meisels, and others (1996) believe that assessments used with infants and young children have been borrowed from assessment methodology used with older children and do not represent meaningful information about their developmental achievements and capacities. Misleading test scores are being used for decisions about services, educational placements, and intervention programs. These developmental psychologists propose that assessment should be based on current understanding of development and use structured tests as one part of an integrated approach that includes observing the childs interactions with trusted caregivers. Assessment should be based on multiple sources of information that reflect the childs capacities and competencies and better indicate what learning environ- ments will best provide intervention services for the childs optimal development.
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Play-based assessment is one major source of information among the multiple sources recommended. Play assessment is nonthreatening and can be done unob- trusively. Moreover, during play, children can demonstrate skills and abilities that might not be apparent in other forms of assessment. Childrens ability to initiate and carry out play schemes and use play materials can add significant information (Fewell & Rich, 1987; Segal & Webber, 1996). In transdisciplinary play-based assess- ment, a team that includes parents observes a child at play. Each member of the team observes an area of development. During the assessment the childs developmental level, learning styles, patterns of interaction, and other behaviors are observed (Linder, 1993).
NCLB has had an impact on curriculum and assessment of children with dis- abilities. While identification of children can begin very early in life, the needs of the children as they enter public education are not usually identified until first grade. However, during the last 10 years, the nature and objectives of kindergarten have changed because of advances in knowledge about what young children are capable of learning and the advent of the standards-based accountability move- ment. Kindergarteners are taught and tested on the mastery of academic standards. This change in expectations has affected the kindergarten year for children at risk for learning disabilities. The kindergarten year formerly was used to work with at-risk children and refer them for testing at the end of the year. When they reached first grade they would be referred for identification and possible special education ser- vices. Children with disabilities or who are at risk for learning problems now need identification and services earlier than first grade. Identification of disabilities and referral for services should now be considered for the kindergarten year, even if some disabilities are difficult to identify in early childhood (Litty & Hatch, 2006).
NCLB also added accountability measures to IDEA, as described earlier in the chapter. School districts must test at least 95% of students with disabilities and incorporate their test scores into school ratings. There has been strong public reac- tion to the inclusion of special education students in state testing and reporting. Some policy makers see this provision as an important step in every child receiving a high-quality education. Critics worry that the law is not flexible enough to meet individual needs of students with disabilities. Many teachers felt that special educa- tion students should not be expected to meet the same set of academic content stan- dards as regular education students. These issues were yet to be resolved when the final regulations were published in August 2006 for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (Education Week, n.d.; U.S. Department of Education, 2006).
Since 2006, work has continued to address the issue of identifying and serving students with learning disabilities. The focus of this effort has been to find more flexible and research-based strategies for both identifying students who need inter- vention services and better serving students with quality instruction and evaluation (Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children, 2007). Two models for a more inclusive instructional process for all students are Response to Intervention (RTI) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
Response to Intervention addresses all student needs whether or not they have been identified as learning disabled. RTI is implemented through a three-tiered process of responding to the needs of all children (Burns & Coolong-Chaffin, 2006; Millard, 2004). All students begin at the first tier. Students who need more targeted
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education are served in the second tier. Students who need intensive intervention are served in the third tier. This tier can include special education services.
The RTI model seeks to match students with the most effective instruction. The core features of RTI are high-quality classroom instruction, research-based instruc- tion, classroom performance, universal screening, continuous progress monitoring during interventions, and fidelity measures (Millard, 2004).
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) also seeks to include all kinds of students, including students with learning disabilities, English language barriers, emotional or behavior problems, lack of interest or engagement, or sensory and physical dis- abilities. UDL is based on the need for multiple approaches to instruction that meet the needs of diverse students (Center for Applied Special Technology [CAST], 2009). It applies recent research on neuroscience and uses technology to make learning more effective for all students. The curriculum includes customized teaching that includes multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expres- sion, and multiple means of engagement (CAST, 2009).
Authentic and Performance Assessment Assessment is in a period of transition. Teachers of young children are moving from more traditional strategies of assessing for knowledge and facts to assessing the stu- dents ability to reason and solve problems. Despite the demands for accountability for addressing early childhood standards, assessments provide a variety of methods for children to demonstrate what they understand and can do.
A broader view of assessment has incorporated a multidimensional approach to measurement, as described earlier in the sections on concerns for assessment of children from diverse populations and children with disabilities. It is now felt that too much attention has been given to the use of standardized tests, rather than a multidimensional approach that uses many sources of information. The more inclusive practice of assessment, which includes work samples, observation results, and teaching report forms, is called alternative assessment. These alternatives to standardized tests measure how students can apply the knowledge they have learned (Blum & Arter, 1996; Maeroff, 1991). Within this evolution in the purposes for assessment and interpretation of assessments is the move to authentic and per- formance assessments. Authentic assessments must have some connection to the real world; that is, they must have a meaningful context. They are contextual in that they emerge from the childs accomplishments. Performance assessments permit the child to demonstrate what is understood through the performance of a task or activity (Wortham, 1998).
Performance assessment as applied through the use of portfolios provides a multifaceted view of what the young child can understand and use. Performance as- sessment is used because teachers in early childhood programs seek information about the childs development and accomplishments in all domains. Performance assessment combined with other assessments provides a longitudinal record of change in development, rather than an assessment of a limited range of skills at a particular time. It is appropriately used with infants, young children, school-age children, children from diverse populations, and children with disabilities (Barrera, 1996; Meisels, 1996; Wortham, 1998).
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Documentation is another form of performance assessment. First developed in Reggio Emilia schools in Italy and now widely used in the United States, documen- tation is a process of collecting and displaying childrens work on projects (Wurm, 2005). More about documentation will be discussed in chapter 8.
This broader view of assessment in early childhood programs is echoed by the organizations that endorsed and supported the Guidelines for Appropriate Curriculum Content and Assessment in Programs Serving Children Ages 3 Through 8, a position statement of the NAEYC and the NAECS/SDE adopted in 1990 and renewed in 2000 and 2001 (NAEYC,1992; NAECS/SDE, 2000). These guidelines proposed that the purpose of assessment is to benefit individual children and to improve early childhood programs. Appropriate assessment should help enhance curricu- lum choices, help teachers collaborate with parents, and help ensure that the needs of children are addressed appropriately. Rather than being narrowly defined as testing, assessment should link curriculum and instruction with pro- gram objectives for young children (Hills, 1992). Authentic and performance assessments provide dynamic assessment approaches that benefit the child, parents, caregivers, and teachers.
Standards for Beginning Teachers The era of accountability includes expectations for the appropriate preparation of teachers. Just as states set standards for student curriculum and assessment for diverse children, there are standards for preparing and assessing whether beginning teachers are qualified to teach young children.
The Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) includes state education agencies and national education organizations. The consortium believes that each states education system should have a teacher licensing policy that requires teachers to know and be able to effectively help all students achieve the state standards for students (Council of State School Officers, 2007, 2009).
An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
The Mission of INTASC
T he mission of INTASC is to provide a forum for its member states to learn andcollaborate in the development of Compatible educational policy on teaching among the states.
New accountability requirements for teacher preparation programs.
New techniques to assess the performance of teachers for licensing and
evaluation.
New programs to enhance the professional development of teachers (Council of
Chief State School Officers, 2007, p. 1).
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An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
The licensing standards for early childhood teachers has been addressed by three organizations: the Association of Teacher Education (ATE), the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI). A position statement on early childhood teachers was issued by ATE and NAEYC in 1991 (ATE & NAEYC, 1991). The position statement also calls for state early childhood organizations and agencies to develop policies leading to certification that is distinct from policies related to elementary and secondary certification. In addition, policies for early childhood teachers should be congruent across the 50 states.
The Position Paper on the Preparation of Early Childhood Education Teachers was issued by ACEI in 1998 (Association for Childhood Education International [ACEI], 1998). It calls for early childhood specialization to be developed within broader policies for teacher preparation. Early childhood teachers should have a broad and liberal education. Experiences should also include foundations of early childhood education, child development, the teaching and learning process, and provisions for professional laboratory experiences.
NAEYC also developed a position statement on ethical conduct (NAEYC, 2005). Standards of ethical behavior by early childhood care and education teachers are based on a commitment to
Appreciate childhood as a unique and valuable stage of the human life cycle. Base our work on knowledge of how children develop and learn. Appreciate and support the bond between child and family. Recognize that children are best understood and supported in the context of
family, culture, community, and society. Respect the dignity, worth, and uniqueness of each individual (child, family
member, and colleague). Respect diversity in children, families, and colleagues. Recognize that children and adults achieve their full potential in the context of
relationships that are based on trust and respect (NAEYC, 2005b, p. 1).
S u m m a r y The measurement and assessment of children begins very early in the life span. Newborns are tested for their neonatal status, and infant tests designed to assess development begin the trend for testing and assessment in the early childhood years. Assessments in the early childhood years have many purposes; some are beneficial for young children, and others are detrimental.
The advent of measures to assess and evaluate young childrens development and learning occurred at the beginning of the 20th century. As the decades passed, significant trends in the study of young children and services and pro- grams implemented for young children have driven the need to develop stan- dardized tests and other measures to evaluate childrens progress and program effectiveness.
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An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
Many issues surround the testing of young children. Some educators question the validity and reliability of standardized tests used with young children, as well as the purposes for administering tests to children who are culturally and linguistically diverse. At the same time, the use of individual testing and evaluation to identify children with disabilities and provide services for them continues to serve a valu- able purpose.
R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S
1. Why are very young children measured in infancy and in the preschool years? Give examples.
2. Explain developmental deficits. How are develop- mental deficits identified and treated?
3. Why is research conducted on the development of very young children? How can such research be used?
4. How were Pestalozzi and Rousseau pivotal in the ori- gins of understanding and measuring young children?
5. Why has the child study movement been the major resource for understanding child development?
6. How does the history of standardized testing in- clude testing with infants and young children? What kinds of standardized tests are beneficial for children under age 6?
7. Why were standardized tests developed for Head Start? How were they used?
8. Why were standardized tests developed as a result of legislation for young children with disabilities? How are they used?
9. Why is it difficult to develop assessments for chil- dren who are culturally and linguistically different? What factors must be addressed in their assessment?
10. What are some of the weaknesses in assessments of young children with disabilities? How can these difficulties be overcome?
11. How is authentic assessment different from assessment using standardized tests?
S U G G E S T E D A C T I V I T I E S
1. Review a recent journal article on a topic related to current issues in the testing and assessment of young children. The article should have been published within the past 5 years. Describe the major points in the article and your response. Be prepared to share in small groups.
2. What are the policies followed in your state regarding the use of standardized tests? What
tests are administered in the primary grades? How are they chosen? How are the results used?
3. How does the school district in your community screen preschool children for possible disabilities? What types of assessments are used? If children need further testing to identify specific needs, what process is used? Who conducts the tests with the child?
K E Y T E R M S
alternative assessment authentic assessment documentation inclusion
integration mainstreaming performance assessment
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An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
S E L E C T E D W E B S I T E S
National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center http://nccic.acf.hhs.gov
National Conference of State Legislatures http://www.ncsl.org
Association for Childhood Education International http://www.acei.org
National Association for the Education of Young Children http://www.naeyc.org
Council of Chief State School Officers http://www.ccsso.org
R E F E R E N C E S
Abebe, S., & Hailemariam, A. (2008). Factors influencing teachers decisions to refer students for special education evaluation. Retrieved July 15, 2009, from http://ERICWebPortal/custom/ portlets/recordED503139
Association of Childhood Education International. (1998). ACEI position paper. Preparation of early childhood education teachers. Retrieved July 16, 2009, from http://www.acei.org/prepec.htm
Association of Teacher Educators & National Association for the Education of Young Children (1991, July/August). Early childhood teacher certification. A position statement of the Association of Teacher Educators and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
Barrera, I. (1996). Thoughts on the assessment of young children whose sociocultural background is unfamiliar to the assessor. In S. J. Meisels & E. Fenichel (Eds.), New visions for the developmental assessment of infants and young children (pp. 6984). Washington, DC: Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families.
Begley, S. (1997, Spring/Summer). How to build a babys brain. Newsweek Special Edition, 2832.
Biggar, H. (2005). NAEYC recommendations on screen- ing and assessment of young English-language learners. Young Children, 60(6), 4447.
Blum, R. E., & Arter, J. A. (1996). Setting the stage. In R. E. Blum & J. A. Arter (Eds.), A handbook for stu- dent performance assessment in an era of restructuring (pp. I:1I:2). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Burns, M. K., & Coolong-Chaffin, M. (2006, November). Response to intervention: The rate of and effect on school psychology. School Psychology Forum: Research in Practice,1, 315.
Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). (2009). What is Universal Design for Learning? Retrieved July 15, 2009, from http://www.cast.org/research/ wd/index.html.
Cicchetti, D., & Wagner, S. (1990). Alternative assessment strategies for the evaluation of infants and toddlers: An organizational perspective. In S. J. Meisels & J. P. Shonkoff (Eds.), Handbook of early childhood intervention (pp. 246277). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Clark, E. A. (1976). Teacher attitudes toward integra- tion of children with handicaps. Education and Training of the Mentally Retarded, 11, 333335.
Commission on No Child Left Behind. The Aspen Institute. (2009, July 13). Commission urges Duncan to uphold core NCLB elements in the law. Retrieved July 21, 2009, from http://www. aspeninstitute.org/2009/07/13/commission
Council of Chief State School Officers. (2007). Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC). Retrieved July 16, 2009, from http://www. ccsso.org/Projects/interstate_new_teacher_assessment
Council of Chief State School Officers. (2009). INTASC Standards Development. Retrieved July 16, 2009, from http://www.ccsso.org/ projects/Interstate_ new_teacher_assessment
Crawford, J. (2005, May/June). Test driven. NABE News, 28, 1.
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An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood
Cronbach, L. J. (1990). Essentials of psychological testing (5th ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
David, J. (2005). Head Start embraces language diver- sity. Young Children, 60(6), 4043.
Deiner, P. L. (1993). Resources for teaching children with diverse abilities. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Dillon, S. (2009, April 14). Education standards likely to see toughening. The New York Times.com (14). Retrieved July 2, 2009, from http://www.nytimes. com/2009/04/15/education
Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children. (2007). Promoting positive outcomes for children with disabilities. Missoula, MT: Author
Early Head Start. (2000, December). What Is Early Head Start? Retrieved January 29, 2007, from http://www.ehsnrc.org/Aboutus/ehs.htm
Education Commission of the States. (2006). Kindergarten screening and assessment require- ments. Retrieved January 29, 2007, from http:// mb2.ecs.org/reports/Report.aspx?id=31
Education Week. (2009, July 15). Accountability. Retrieved July 15, 2009, from http://www. edweek.org/re/issues/accountability/
Education Week. (n.d.) Special education. Retrieved January 29, 2007, from http://www.edweek.org/ rc/issues/special_education
Fair Test. (2003). Head Start Letter. Retrieved January 29, 2007, from http://www.fairtest.org/nattest/ Head_Start_Letter.html
Fewell, R. R., & Rich, J. (1987). Play assessment as a procedure for examining cognitive, communica- tion, and social skills in multihandicapped chil- dren. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 2, 107118.
Froebel, F. (1896). Education of man. New York: Appleton.
Gardner, J. W. (1961). Excellence: Can we be equal and excellent too? New York: Harper & Row.
Goodwin, W. L., & Goodwin, L. D. (1993). Young children and measurement: Standardized and nonstandardized instruments in early childhood education. In B. Spodek (Ed.), Handbook of research on the education of young children (pp. 441463). New York: Macmillan.
Goodwin, W. L., & Goodwin, L. D. (1997). Using standardized measures for evaluating young
childrens learning. In B. Spodek & O. N. Saracho (Eds.), Issues in early childhood educational assess- ment and evaluation (pp. 92107). New York: Teachers College Press.
Government Accountability Office. (2005, May). Further development could allow results of new test to be used for decision making. Retrieved January 29, 2007, from http://www.gao.gov/new. items/d05343.pdf
Greenspan, S. I., Meisels, S. J., & the Zero to Three Work Group on Developmental Assessment. (1996). Toward a new vision for the developmen- tal assessment of infants and young children. In S. J. Meisels & E. Fenichel (Eds.), New visions for the developmental assessment of infants and young children (pp. 1126). Washington, DC: Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families.
Guralnick, M. J. (1982). Mainstreaming young handi- capped children: A public policy and ecological systems analysis. In B. Spodek (Ed.), Handbook of research in early childhood education (pp. 456500). New York: Free Press.
Hardin, B. J., Roach-Scott, M., & Peisner-Feinberg, E. S. (2007). Special education referral evaluation and placement practices for preschool English language learners. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 22, 3954.
Harry, B., & Klingner, J. (2005). Why are so many minor- ity students in special education? Understanding race and disability in schools. New York: Teachers College Press.
Hills, T. W. (1992). Reaching potentials through appro- priate assessment. In S. Bredekamp & T. Rosegrant (Eds.), Reaching potentials: Appropriate curriculum and assessment for young children (pp. 4364). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Hoepfner, R., Stern, C., & Nummedal, S. (Eds.). (1971). CSE-ECRC preschool/kindergarten test evaluations. Los Angeles: University of California, Graduate School of Education.
Irwin, D. M., & Bushnell, M. M. (1980). Observational strategies for child study. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Kaplan, R. M., & Saccuzzo, D. P. (1989). Psychological testing: Principles, applications, and issues (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

 

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