and assessments is increasingly common in preschool settings as well.
In the current early childhood education milieu, there are four primary reasons for assessment (Shepard et al., 1998):
Assessment to support learning,
Assessment for identification of special needs,
Assessment for program evaluation and monitoring trends, and
Assessment for school accountability.
Assessment to support learning, the first and most important of these purposes, refers to the use of assessments to provide teachers with information that can serve as a basis for pedagogical and curriculum decisions. Information presented in earlier chapters— about early learning, about the episodic course of development in any given child and the enormous variability among young children in background and preparation for school, about the centrality of adult responsiveness to healthy cognitive and emotional development—leads to the conclusion that what preschool teachers do to promote learning needs to be based on what each child brings to the interaction. Assessment broadly conceived is a set of tools for finding this out. The second reason for assessing young children is to diagnose suspected mental, physical, or emotional difficulties that may require special services. The final two purposes can be combined under the rubric of assessment to make policy decisions.
Each of these purposes represents an important opportunity for test or assessment data to inform judgment—if the tests or assessments are used carefully and well. No single type of assessment can serve all of these purposes; the intended purpose will determine what sort of assessment is most appropriate. There is much to be learned from the experience in other educational settings about the uses, misuses, and unintended consequences of testing (e.g., Haertel, 1989; Gifford, 1993; National Research Council, 1982a; U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, 1992; Shepard, 1991). And there is much to remember about the developmental status of young children, including the nascent state of their attention and self-regulation abilities, that makes as-