Appropriateness. Assessments should reflect the unique developmental needs and characteristics of young children, and should be used only for the purposes for which they are intended. Information should be collected at multiple points in time in settings that are not threatening to young children.
Coherence. The assessment of young children should provide schools and districts with information about student performance that is related to the instructional goals for older students.
The following examples describe two approaches to measuring the performance of young children that provide information on the progress of students in early grades toward standards with methods that are appropriate and that yield valid and reliable information. The assessments also contribute to instructional improvement by providing teachers with information about their own students' performance. The South Brunswick assessment measures literacy skills; districts and states should supplement such an assessment with indicators of physical and motor development.
The South Brunswick, New Jersey Public Schools have developed and implemented an early literacy portfolio assessment for students in grades K-2. Under the system, students collect work in a portfolio that they carry with them all three years. Teachers rate the work on a 1-to-6 developmental scale; the ratings are moderated by ratings by another teacher. The ratings are aggregated by school and reported to the district. The district's goal is for all students to be at the 5.5–6 level by the end of 2nd grade.
The portfolio system was developed to follow two key principles. First, teachers believe that no high-stakes decision about a child or a teacher should be based on a single form of evidence. They therefore designed the system so that it includes various forms of assessment, such as observations of children's activities, work samples, and “test-like activities”—that is, on-demand responses to prompts. Second, they believe that the assessment should serve both a means of professional development and as an accountability measure. This system accomplishes this dual goal by allowing teachers to see information about student performance as work in a portfolio, not as points on a scale, and thus understand how to teach their own students, and by allowing the district to monitor school performance through the aggregated scores.
The Work Sampling System, which is in use in a number of districts, is an authentic, curriculum-embedded performance assessment. Developed at the University of Michigan, the assessment is based on teachers' observations of children at work in the class-