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Assessments for Young Children

By: ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation (1999)

What is assessment?

Assessment is the process of gathering information about a student in order to make decisions about his or her education. One kind of assessment procedure is testing. In elementary and secondary schools, tests are given routinely to measure the extent to which we profit from instruction. We may have taken intelligence, aptitude, interest, personality tests or any number of other kinds of tests. Testing means presenting a person with a set of questions or tasks in order to obtain a measure of performance often represented by a score. The score is intended to help answer questions and produce information about the person tested.

Formal vs. informal assessment

Increasingly, educators are finding new ways to evaluate students' school performances using informal rather than formal, or standardized, assessment procedures. Collection of information by means of observation is often thought of as informal assessment, as is information gathered from interviews with parents or past teachers and by using teacher-constructed tests.

Over the past few years, some districts have increased the use of curriculum-based measurements (CBM). Several samples of a student's performance are collected, using items drawn from the local curriculum, usually in basic skill subjects of reading, math, spelling and written expression. Such brief tests are called "probes." Student performances are measured by a frequency count of, for example, words read, written or sequenced correctly, or math problems answered correctly. The norms used to compare a student's performance have been previously determined by testing random groups of students at each grade level. CBM has been used as part of the overall assessment program for purposes of screening, program placement, instructional planning and monitoring student progress. Curriculum-based measurement provides the teacher with a relatively fast and frequent method to measure student progress in the regular school subjects. Both group and individual administration are used, depending on the school subject being tested.

The following are some examples of the two categories:

Formal Assessments Informal/ Natural Assessments
Norm-referenced tests Observation
Criterion-referenced tests Play-based
  Check lists and rating scales
  Parent interviews

Formal assessments:

Norm-referenced tests have standardized, formal procedures for administering, timing and scoring. They have been "normed" or administered to a representative sample of similar age or grade level students so that final test results can be compared to students of similar characteristics. Test results indicate a person's relative performance in the group. These standardized tests must be administered as specified in the manual to ensure valid and reliable results.

Criterion-referenced tests

Criterion-referenced tests (CRT) measure what the person is able to do and indicate what skills have been mastered. CRT compare a person's performance with his or her own past performance. An example is the number of spelling words correct. If Molly spells 15 of 20 words correct, that is 75% correct, higher than the past week when her score was 60% correct. In criterion-referenced measurement, the emphasis is on assessing specific and relevant behaviors that have been mastered rather than indicating the relative standing in the group.

Informal/natural assessments:

Play-based assessment is a tool used while a child is playing usually in his/her natural environment. The observer is able to see the interactions between the child and peers as well as noting speech and language, and motor abilities.

Checklists and rating scales

Checklists and rating scales are used to make judgments about children's behavior. The two should be used in different settings to determine patterns in behavior (Lerner, Lowenthal, & Egan, 1998).

Parent interviews are judgments based upon the observations of significant people in the child's life.

Types of assessment for developmental areas

Cognition:

  • Battelle Developmental Inventory: The Riverside Publishing Company. This test is designed for children birth though age eight. It tests in several different developmental domains such as cognition, motor, self-help, language, and social skills.
  • Bayley Scales of Infant Development: The Psychological Corporation. The Bayley is designed for children ages one month through 42 months. The test assesses areas of mental, motor and behavior development.
  • Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale: Fourth Edition. The Riverside Publishing Company. The Stanford-Binet tests individuals ages 2-23. The test measures general intelligence. It focuses on the areas of verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, abstract/visual reasoning, and short term memory.
  • Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence- Revised (WPPSI-R): The Psychological Corporation. A standardized test for children ages 41/2 to 6. It assesses areas of language and perception.
  • McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities: The Psychological Corporation. The McCarthy tests children ages 2 1/2-8 1/2. The purpose of the test is to evaluate the general intelligence level of children. It also identifies strengths and weaknesses in several ability areas. These areas include: verbal, perceptual-performance, quantitative, memory, motor, and general cognitive skills.
  • Transdisciplinary Play-Based Assessment (TBA): Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company. This informal assessment is for children birth through 6. Through play children can be assessed in areas of cognition, social-emotional, communication and language and sensorimotor.

Language/communication:

  • Sequenced Inventory for Communication Development- Revised (SICD): Slosson Educational Publications. The SICD assesses children ages 4 months to 4 years. The test assesses areas of expressive and receptive language skills.
  • Preschool Language Scale - 3 (PLS-3): The Psychological Corporation. This test is designed for children ages birth through 6. The test assesses areas of language including auditory comprehension and expressive communication.
  • Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamental- Preschool: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company. The assessment identifies nature and degree of language disabilities in the language areas of processing, production, and speech sounds.
  • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-R): American Guidance Service. The Peabody tests ages 2 1/2 to age 40. The purpose of the test is to measure vocabulary in English and non-verbal receptive (hearing). The test uses picture recognition for single word vocabulary.
  • Test of Early Language Development (TELD): The TELD assesses children ages three through seven on language development.
  • Transdisciplinary Play-Based Assessment (TBA): Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company. This informal assessment is for children birth through 6. Through play children can be assessed in areas of cognition, social-emotional, communication and language and sensorimotor.

Motor:

  • Peabody Developmental Motor Scales: The Riverside Publishing Company. The Peabody assesses children ages birth to seven years. The test measures gross-motor and fine-motor development skills.
  • Bayley Scales of Infant Development: The Psychological Corporation. The Bayley is designed for children ages one month through 42 months. The test assesses areas of mental, motor and behavior development.
  • Transdisciplinary Play-Based Assessment (TBA): Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company. This informal assessment is for children birth through 6. Through play children can be assessed in areas of cognition, social-emotional, communication and language and sensorimotor.

Social/emotional:

  • Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), This behavior rating scale assesses behaviors associated with learning disabilities. The checklist is designed for children ages 2 through 18. It contains a parent and a teacher checklist.
  • Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (VABS) The Vineland tests infants to children ages 18 and 11 months. The purpose of the test is to assess social competence. The areas of assessment include: communication, daily living, socialization, and motor skills.
  • California Preschool Social Competency Scale: This test assesses children ages 3-6 on self-help and social development.
  • Burks' Behavior Rating Scales: The rating scale is designed for children ages 3-6, which assesses the social area of development.
  • Transdisciplinary Play-Based Assessment (TBA): Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company. This informal assessment is for children birth through 6. Through play children can be assessed in areas of cognition, social-emotional, communication and language and sensorimotor.

Self-help/adaptive:

  • Battelle Developmental Inventory: The Riverside Publishing Company. This test is designed for children birth though age eight. It tests in several different developmental domains such as self-help, motor, cognition, language, and social skills.
  • Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (VABS) The Vineland is for ages birth to 19. The purpose of the test is to assess social competence. The areas of assessment include: communication, daily living, socialization, and motor skills.
  • Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP) This test is for children ages birth through age three. The HELP is a criterion-referenced tests which assesses children in the developmental areas of self-help, motor, cognition, language, speech, and social development.

For more information concerning tests and assessments visit ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation

References

References

Click the "References" link above to hide these references.

J. Lerner, B. Lowenthal, R. Egan (1998). Preschool Children with Special Needs: Children At-risk and Children with Disabilities. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

E. Hean Hosterman, Ed. (1989). Special Education Tests: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals. Minneapolis, Minnesota, PACER Center, Inc.

For more information concerning tests and assessments visit ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation