Issues in Early Childhood Education Assessments (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Apr 23, 2014

Teachers’ administration of tests affects their validity and reliability. Teachers interpret test items—“Look at the picture again, you know, it’s the fluffy dog”—or fail to follow standardized procedures because of a lack of training and the failure of school systems to monitor consistent procedures. Children’s performance on standardized tests depends on their background of experiences. Designers of standardized tests recognize this and have tried to base the selection of test items on experiences common to the group for whom the test will be used. But sometimes this view is narrow and limited and, many critics claim, based on an urban middle-class American culture. It is also true that standardized tests of readiness, achievement, and intelligence, reflecting middle-class culture, are highly verbal and abstract and emphasize speed, competition, and doing “one’s best.”

Standardized tests, unlike authentic assessment (which is ongoing and related to the curriculum), provide information only about what a given child can do at a given moment in time. Just as most of us can recall a “bad hair day,” each of us remembers taking a test when we were not feeling our best, were upset about a personal problem, or were just tired. Some college professors, recognizing this, permit students to remove one test score, grade, or an assignment by replacing it with some other task as a means of accommodating these bad test days.

Standardized tests also are limited in informing teachers about individual children’s needs. They give teachers a score on a test and a percentile ranking that tells them only how this individual child stands in relation to the children in the norming group. This is not very useful in helping teachers plan to meet the needs of an individual child.

Thus, no one form of assessment can stand alone in making decisions about a child’s learning, strengths, or weaknesses (Jones, 2003). No one standardized test score or one set of observations offers sufficient information for teachers, their principals, or the school system to determine the following:

  • Children’s access to kindergarten
  • Placement in remedial, developmental, transitional, or special classes
  • Retention in kindergarten
  • Placement in a homogeneous group on the basis of a single test score or any other form of assessment

Denying children access to kindergarten or placing them in developmental or other transitional classrooms before or following kindergarten to ready them for the next grade placement (Bredekamp & Shepard, 1989; Shepard, 2000) has a major impact on children’s lives and can never be made on the basis of any one assessment or evaluation alone (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997, p. 133).

For this reason and for general ethical concerns, parents must be informed before their children are assessed or evaluated in any way. When authentic evaluation and assessment is linked to the curriculum, informed consent is not necessary. Because they are tied to the curriculum, the findings from authentic evaluation are usually shared with parents. However, if the findings of authentic evaluation are to be placed in children’s permanent records or used in making life-altering decisions, then the parents should be informed.

Claiming that standardized tests and other assessments are necessary tools of accountability, school systems usually do not require informed consent in order to use the findings of assessments. Regardless, parents must be informed of the type of evaluation or assessment, notified when it is to take place, and given copies of the test results.

Most school systems accommodate the individual needs of young children, ensuring that all children succeed at their own pace. Thus, it is rare that placement decisions will take place. Even so, there are special cases when decisions must be made about children’s grade placement. When this occurs, multiple sources of information must be considered. This includes, but is not limited to, information obtained from observations by teachers, standardized test results, school specialists, other authorities, and most of all children’s parents and other family members.

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