9 781292 041070

ISBN 978-1-29204-107-0

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
S u e C . Wo r t h a m
S i x t h E d i t i o n




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Pearson New International Edition

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Assessment in Early Childhood Education
Sue C. Wortham

Sixth Edition

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ISBN 13: 978-1-269-37450-7

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Table of Contents





1Sue C. Wortham

1. An Overview of Assessment in Early Childhood


7Sue C. Wortham

2. How Infants and Young Children Should be Assessed


35Sue C. Wortham

3. How Standardized Tests Are Used, Designed, and Selected


61Sue C. Wortham

4. Using and Reporting Standardized Test Results


91Sue C. Wortham

5. Observation


123Sue C. Wortham

6. Checklists, Rating Scales, and Rubrics


163Sue C. Wortham

7. Teacher-Designed Strategies


201Sue C. Wortham

8. Performance-Based Strategies


231Sue C. Wortham

9. Portfolio Assessment


261Sue C. Wortham

10. Communicating with Families


297Sue C. Wortham





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 child’s 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

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 child’s 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

authentic achievement Learning that is
real and meaningful. Achievement that is

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.


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 individual’s areas of
weaknesses or strengths and to determine
the nature and causes of the weaknesses.

diagnostic interview An interview to deter-
mine a child’s learning needs or assess
weaknesses. May be part of a diagnostic

directed assignment A specific assignment
to assess a child’s 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

documentation A process of documenting
information about progress of project
activities and recording information about

children’s 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 Bloom’s 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

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 student’s 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.



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 student’s

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 teacher’s 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

informal test A test that has not been
standardized. Teacher-designed tests are
an example.

instructional objective See behavioral

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 individual’s 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 individual’s
ability to learn through regular methods of

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

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

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 child’s progress. The
teacher writes a narrative to describe the
child’s growth and accomplishments.

neonatologist A physician who specializes
in babies less than 1 month old.



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

norm-referenced test A test in which the
test taker’s performance is compared with
the performance of people in a norm

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 taker’s 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 taker’s score.

performance assessment An assessment in
which the child demonstrates knowledge
by applying it to a task or a problem-solving

performance-based assessment An
assessment of development and/or learning
that is based on the child’s 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

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 child’s work, teacher assessments,
and other information that contribute to a
picture of the child’s 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

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 child’s 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 children’s 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

standard deviation A measure of the varia-
bility of a distribution of scores around the



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

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 Bloom’s taxonomy of educational
objectives the student must demonstrate

test–retest 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

unstructured performance assessment An
assessment that is part of regular classroom

validity The degree to which a test serves
the purpose for which it is to be used.

work sample An example of a child’s work.
Work samples include products of all types
of activities that can be used to evaluate
the child’s progress.

Z score A standard score that expresses
performance in terms of the number of
standard deviations from the mean.




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


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 child’s 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


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 child’s 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 placement—to 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 children’s 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


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 Froebel’s 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


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 …

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