Eager to Learn: Educating Our PreschoolersCopyright National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.233Assessment inEarly Childhood Education6THEUSEOFTESTSANDASSESSMENTS1as instruments of educationpolicy and practice is growing. Throughout the school years,tests are used to make decisions about tracking, promotion orretention, placement, and graduation. Many teachers use tests orassessments to identify learning differences among students or toinform instructional planning. Widespread public concern to raiseeducation standards has led states increasingly to use large-scaleachievement tests as instruments of accountability (National Re-search Council, 1999a). Given their prevalence in the educationsystem as a whole, it is not entirely surprising that the use of tests1Although the terms are not mutually exclusive, the word “test” tends to beused to refer to standardized instruments, formally administered, and designedto minimize all differences in the conditions of testing presented to test takers.There are both individually administered and group-administered standardizedtests. The group-administered multiple-choice format is what people often havein mind when the term is used. Assessments embrace a wide array of formats(observations, performance measures, portfolios, essays). The term “assessment”is often used to communicate the intention to build a richer picture of the ways inwhich people think, learn, and work. They frequently are conducted over a longerperiod of time than group tests permit. Standardized tests focus on individualdifferences, answering the question “How does this individual compare with allothers in the reference population?” Assessments reflect the interest of moderncognitive theory in the processes of learning and knowing in a given individual.
Eager to Learn: Educating Our PreschoolersCopyright National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.