William J. Wilson once said, “The person who scored well on an SAT will not necessarily be the best doctor or the best lawyer or the best businessman. These tests do not measure character, leadership, creativity, or perseverance”. Why do we test students? What is the purpose of assessments? Do these tests and assessments benefit the students? These are questions educators have been asking for years. It is impossible for one to determine a child’s academic abilities based solely on a test.
Yet there still needs to be some form of assessments performed in order to evaluate the academic level each student has reached. But how much assessing is too much? How heavily do educators rely on the results of these assessments? The main issues, when it comes to assessing early childhood students, are the consequences of the assessment results and how they affect the child. According to The National Academies of Sciences, there are two key principles that support the success of assessment. The first is that the purpose of an assessment should be a guide for assessment decisions.
“The purpose for any assessment must be determined and clearly communicated to all stake- holders before the assessment is designed or implemented. Most important, assessment designed for programs should not be used to assess individual children. Because different purposes require different kinds of assessments, the purpose should drive assessment design and implementation decisions” (The National Academies of Sciences, 2008). The second principle is that any assessment performed should be completed in a “coherent system of health, educational, and family support services that promote optimal development for all children.
Assessment should be an integral part of a coherent system of early childhood care and education that includes a range of services and resources” (The National Academies of Sciences, 2008). These two principles explain the main purpose of why assessing is important and how assessments should be conducted. After having an understanding of the purpose of assessments, why is it so important to begin evaluations at such a young age? What is the purpose of evaluating infants and toddlers?
Author Sue Wortham explains evaluating toddlers and infants determine whether the child is developing normally or if they show any signs of delay and need assistance. All in all, the main purpose of assessment is to benefit the child (Wortham, p. 32). The NAEYC believes that during a child’s early years, evaluating and assessing their development should be the primary focus. They want to study how young children grown and learn. All the “results of assessment are used to inform the planning and implementation of experiences, to communicate with the child’s family, and to evaluate and improve teachers’ and program’s effectiveness” (Wortham, p.34).
Teachers also use assessment results to in order to plan their curriculum accordingly. So exactly do assessments search for? Assessments look not only for what the child is already capable of doing independently but also what they can do with the help of a teacher or another student (Wortham, p. 35). So how are they assessed exactly? There are many different assessments given to children across the U. S. everyday. These may be administered orally or as written works, such as questionnaires, surveys, or tests. These may include: standardized tests, observations, checklists, rating scales, rubrics, interviews, or portfolios.
Each of these serve a different purpose in order to give different pieces of information needed to evaluate the child in question. Standardized tests, though many disagree with them, are meant to measure individual characteristics. Observations, on the other hand, are one of the most effective ways to measure students’ characteristics. When children are young, it can be hard at times to determine if there are any developmental delays (Wortham, p. 39). Developmental checklists, or scopes, are mainly used at all levels of education.
These checklists are lists of the learning objectives that have been established by the teacher in order to keep track of their learning and development. Items on a checklist are rated with a negative or positive response from the teacher. Rating scales, unlike checklists, provide measurement on a continuum and are used when a collection of criteria is needed to attain specific information. Another form of assessment teachers commonly use is Rubrics. Rubrics were created to “evaluate authentic and performance assessments” (Wortham, p. 41). Rubrics, like rating scales, have a range of criteria that must be met.
However, unlike rating scales, rubrics can be used to not only determine the quality of performance required, but are also used to assign grades. Rubrics make it easy for students to understand what is expected and is makes it easier for teachers to grade assignments. The final types of assessments that are most frequently used are performance and portfolio assessments. These evaluations might be administered through interviews given directly by the teacher in order to understand the child’s thinking and understanding (Wortham, p. 41). Teachers may present these evaluations through directed assignments, activities, or games.
The performance results are typically kept in a student or teacher portfolio. These portfolios contain samples of student’s work and are used as a sort of progress report card. Keeping detailed reports of student’s work in the portfolios help teachers keep track of their student’s progress and help determine which areas of learning are lacking attention (Wortham, p. 41). Overall, according to Wortham, these tests, whether administered to an individual child or a group of students, are meant to determine a student’s “abilities, achievements, aptitudes, interests, attitudes, values, and personality characteristics” (Wortham, p.39).
Now having an understanding of the different types of assessments used to evaluate students and the purpose, let us turn to the negative and positive effects of these evaluations. It is crucial for educators to administer tests and evaluations carefully, because it they are poorly articulated, it can lead to decisions that are unfair or unclear, and they may do harm to programs, teachers, and, most importantly, children (Snow, C. E. & Van Hemel, S. B. , p. 341-342). Evaluations and assessments are not meant to punish a child, and therefore, should never be overseen lightly.
It is important that the information gathered outweighs any negative effects. Editors of Early Childhood Assessment: Why, What, and How, Catherine E. Snow and Susan B. Van Hemel, explain that “although the same measure may be used for more than one purpose, prior consideration of all potential purposes is essential, as is careful analysis of the actual content of the assessment instrument. Direct examination of the assessment items is important because the title of a measure does not always reflect the content” (Snow, C. E. & Van Hemel, S. B. , p. 346).
So what are some negative effects? Negative consequences of assessment findings may include program de-funding, closing a center, firing a teacher, mislabeling a child, or a reduction in program resources (The National Academies of Sciences, 2008). These effects, such as mislabeling a student, can follow students for the rest of their education career. Once a child is entered into a program, it can be difficult at time for teachers to look past that label. Children all develop at different his or her own pace. No one child will develop and learn the same way as another child.
They all grow up and develop at different stages. Yet educational theorists have been able to observed and gather enough information to conclude that children, if divided in age groups, do tend to follow a certain development pattern. The problem is, it is hard to determine which children are the outliers in these results without carefully administering proper assessments. Assessments are not used to necessarily judge student or punish them. Their main purpose is to help students, teachers, and parents. So what are some positive effects of assessment and evaluations?
Students that benefit from assessments and evaluations are those that are properly observed and tested. Teachers also benefit from the use of assessments because it helps them create an appropriate curriculum for their students. Evaluating children at a young age can have a positive effect if a delay or disability is in fact found, and because it was caught early, the student has a better chance of exceeding their potential in school. Catching developmental delays or disabilities at a young age is the same as finding cancer at an early stage in the sense that the earlier the cancer is found; the chances of survival are greater.
Assessment results are used to plan for instruction, evaluate instructional programs, and report student progress. These are all positive results of assessments. Without the results of assessments and test, how can educators determine what to teach their students? Evaluations, if planned and administered properly, can be more beneficial than harmful. Unfortunately, not all teachers evaluate children fairly or appropriately. So it is important for parents to stay involved in their children’s education in the event that the results of an evaluation do not match the potential of their child.
Parents should know the norms and abnormalities of their child’s behavior. Therefore, it is always beneficial to the child for parents and teachers to communicate. This way if a child is acting up in class, and the teacher notifies the parent, the parent may confirm any fears right away by simply saying, “that isn’t like him” or “he’s just nervous”. Avoiding drastic measures and not jumping to conclusions is the proper way to evaluate a child fairly. What are the predicted long-term benefits to Early Childhood Assessments? Are assessments and student evaluations accurate?
Should teachers be required to assess and evaluate students as much as they already do? These are just a few of the questions that plagued educators for years. Too much assessing has placed so much pressure on students and teachers, inevitably taking away a child’s desire to learn for the sake of learning. The purpose of assessments and evaluations is a great concept, but placing too much pressure and emphasis on the test results is tainting the original purpose of learning. References Bers, T. H. & Mittler, M. L. (1994). New Directions for Community Colleges.
Assessment & Testing Myths and Realities: A Critical Review of Student Assessment Options, 69-83. Brink, M. (2002). Involving Parents in Early Childhood Assessment: Perspectives from an Early Intervention Instructor. Early Childhood Education Journal, 29(4), 251-7. Retrieved from Education Full Text database Early, D. M. , McKenna, M. , & Slentz, K. L. (2008). A Guide to Assessment in Early Childhood; Infancy to Age Eight. Washington State: Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The National Academies of Sciences (2008). Early Childhood Assessment: Why, What, And How.
Retrieved October 19, 2011 from http://www. bocyf. org/head_start_brief. pdf. Early Learning Standards Task Force and Kindergarten Assessment Work Group. (2005). Early Childhood Assessment For Children From Birth To Age 8 (Grade 3). Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania’s Departments of Education and Public Welfare. Snow, C. E. & Van Hemel, S. B. (2008). Early Childhood Assessment: Why, What, And How. Washington, D. C. : The National Research Council Of The National Academies Wortham, S. (2012). Assessment in Early Childhood Education, (6th ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.