Alternative assessment is a term used to indicate alternatives to standardized testing. Of the several labels used, Worthen (1993) notes that "the most common include 'direct assessment,' 'authentic assessment,' 'performance assessment,' and the more generic 'alternative assessment' " (p. 445).
Rothman (1995) describes various approaches to alternative assessment:
"As alternatives to traditional tests, the reformers endorse methods that fall generally into three categories: performance-based assessments, projects, and portfolios. While these methods of measuring student performance are not completely new--they have been tried in classrooms and in research settings for many years--they do represent a substantial departure for most schools, particularly when applied to the external testing that has increasingly influenced instructional practice and the public's view of schooling." (p. 70)
Assessment of young children relies primarily on observation-based approaches, as indicated in the following guiding principles (National Association for the Education of Young Children & National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education, 1990):