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Teachers should monitor the progress of individual children in grades pre-K to 3 to improve the quality and appropriateness of instruction. Such assessments should be conducted at multiple points in time, in children's natural settings, and should use direct assessments, portfolios, checklists, and other work sampling devices. The assessments should measure all domains of children's development, particularly social development, reading, and mathematics.
Schools should be accountable for promoting high levels of reading and mathematics performance for primary grade students. For school accountability in grades 1 and 2, states and districts should gauge school quality through the use of representative sampling, rather than the assessment of every pupil.
Federal research units, foundations, and other funding agencies should promote research that advances knowledge of how to assess early reading and mathematics performance for both instructional and accountability purposes.
Questions to Ask
Do teachers regularly assess the progress of students in early grades for the purpose of instructional improvement?
Is there in place a comprehensive assessment to hold schools accountable for the performance of children before grade 3? Does the assessment include measures of children's physical well-being and motor skills, approaches to learning, and language and cognitive development?
Does the assessment in the early grades measure performance of a representative sample of students? Or is an “audit” used to monitor a sample of teacher-administered and teacher-scored assessments?
Assessments for young children should follow the same criteria used for assessments generally, which were described above. In addition, such assessments should also meet additional criteria based on the unique problems associated with testing children from birth to age 8. The committee recommends that, in developing an assessment system for young children, states and districts should adhere to the following criteria: