There are a number of scoring rubrics and rating systems that teachers can apply to children's performance samples in order to evaluate their status and progress. Among the most widely used are checklists and rating scales (see methods for observing and recording ), structured interviews, miscue analysis of reading performance, scoring or coding rubrics for written language, and developmental continua.
Checklists and rating scales involve social and learning behaviors based on either typical behaviors of normal children of similar ages or behaviors consistent with the curricular objectives of the class. Both the Child Observation Record (High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 1992) and the Work Sampling System (Meisels, 1992) incorporate checklists for teachers to use after they have observed and recorded children's behavior in a wide variety of learning situations and collected and examined their work samples. Clay's (1972, 1985) Concepts of Print test, administered as a structured interview in a standard situation, is widely used to assess children's knowledge of printed language. (The three examples cited are standardized instruments.)
As Shepard (1994) points out, teachers who have adequate knowledge of the way children develop concepts and skills can use typical classroom tasks for assessing their progress. Using a developmental continuum for acquisition of writing, for example, a teacher can track a child's movement from scribbles, letter forms mixed with scribbles, a mix of drawing and random letters, and on to sound-symbol correspondence, often beginning letters first, initial, and final letters, followed by initial, medial, and final letters. Although such developmental continua are not universal, typical patterns can be used for reference.
The Primary Program: Growing and Learning in the Heartland (Nebraska Department of Education & Iowa Department of Education, 1993) has identified widely held expectations for children 3 to 5, 5 to 7, and 7 to 9 in aesthetic and artistic development, emotional and social development, intellectual development, physical development, and development of responsibility. In addition, this guidebook offers widely held expectations for the acquisition of concepts and skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. These lists constitute an example of children's achievements from which teachers can extrapolate continua of growth that will help them to chart children's progress and plan next steps in instruction.
Model Learner Outcomes for Early Childhood Education Programs, Birth to 8 Years (Minnesota Department of Education, 1990) focuses on the breadth of learning and growth that occurs during the first eight years of life. The major attainments of those years are summarized as outcomes in social/personal, physical, cognitive, aesthetic/creative, and communication domains. Behavioral indicators (ways children demonstrate particular skills and knowledge) illustrate appropriate expectations for young children's development and learning in those domains. These domains and indicators can guide teachers in recognizing not only the outcomes of learning and instruction but also progressive steps in achievement.
Wood (1994) offers brief lists of abilities, interests, and growth characteristics of normally developing children, ages 4 through 12. He points out that a two-year span is normal within any domain of a child's development--physical, social, and intellectual, as well as language. The lists are offered as general expectations rather than standards for given ages. He also provides developmental continua in reading, writing, and mathematics for the same ages, which may be of help to teachers in interpreting children's progress and communicating with parents.
According to Shepard (1994), the rich research literature documenting patterns of emergent literacy and numeracy is not yet matched by corresponding assessment materials. While more standardized materials that support authentic teaching and learning are being developed, she recommends that teams of classroom teachers work cooperatively, pooling what they know about the curriculum and the children they teach:
"The best procedure appears to be having grade-level teams and then cross-grade teams meet to discuss expectations and evaluation criteria. These conversations will be more productive if, for each dimension to be assessed, teachers collect student work and use marker papers to illustrate continua of performance. Several papers might be used at each stage to reflect the tremendous variety in children's responses, even when following the same general progression." (Shepard, 1994, pp. 210-211)
As a result, teachers can invent assessments that yield valid and reliable information for planning instruction and communicating with parents.