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Standardized Tests in Early Learning Programs (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Achievement Tests

Achievement tests are designed to assess what a child has been taught or has learned in a given area of instruction, or at least determine a sample of what a child is able to do at the time. A wide range of achievement tests are available and widely used in schools for young children. With an achievement test, the standing of an individual child or children in different programs or schools can be compared using the common base of an achievement test. Children’s progress over time can also be compared.

Some achievement tests are norm-referenced tests. This means that the test results tell you how the child’s performance on that test compares with that of other children of the same age and grade. Other tests are criterion-referenced tests that inform teachers how well the child has mastered a set of instructional goals and objectives with the criteria specified. These are usually designed by a school system and inform teachers how well a child has mastered specific material, not how well the child is doing in comparison with other children of the same age.

Examples of norm-referenced tests used in schools for young children are the Boehm Test of Basic Concepts (Boehm, 2000), California Achievement Test (CTB/McGraw-Hill, 2000), and the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (Woodcock & Johnson, 2003).

Screening and Diagnostic Tests

Under law, schools are responsible for identifying potential learning problems and to provide remediation for young children at risk. Diagnosis and screening consist of a brief assessment procedure designed to identify children who may need further evaluation and educational intervention. Standardized tests of achievement may be used to diagnose children; however, these are not used to assess children’s achievement. Rather, they “identify the existence of a disability or specific area of academic weakness in a child. Test results are used to suggest possible causes for the disability or academic weakness as well as suggest potential remediation strategies” (Gullo, 1994, p. 40).

Screening measures can be categorized into three groups. The first is visual-motor and adaptive skills. This involves control of fine motor movements, eye-hand coordination, and the ability to recall sequences and reproduce forms. The second area is related to language skills, comprehension, and thinking, and the third includes gross motor skills.

Frequently used screening and diagnostic tests include the Denver Developmental Screening Test (DDST; Frankenburg, Dodds, Fandal, Kazuk, & Cohrs, 2000) and the Developmental Indicators for Assessment of Learning (Revised) (DIAL-R; Mardell-Czudnowski & Goldenberg, 1998).

Intelligence Tests

Intelligence tests differ from achievement, readiness, or diagnostic tests. Although they may be used as a part of a diagnostic or readiness battery, intelligence tests purport to assess a child’s general ability, not what a child has learned. Typically, this means that they measure abstract intelligence—the ability to see relations, make generalizations, and relate and organize ideas represented in symbolic form. Children’s scores are expressed as a mental age. This describes the level at which the child is performing.

Intelligence tests can be administered individually or to groups of children. The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (Roid, 2000) and the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (Revised) (Wechsler, 2000) are two prevalently used intelligence tests that are individually administered.

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