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Early Childhood Assessment: Why, What, and How
related to the potential for, and continued perpetuation of, unfair discriminatory practices and outcomes for minority children. The topic has struck political, legal, and emotional chords, with many in the minority population holding deep-seated skepticism about the positive benefits of assessing their children (Green, 1980; Reynolds, 1983). Some of the features that distinguish minority children in United States include racial/ethnic background, socioeconomic status (SES), cultural values, dialect/linguistic differences, historical and current discrimination, current geographic isolation, and other characteristics that marginalize a population to the majority society. In this section we provide a brief overview of the concerns about assessment of young minority children and examine the available empirical evidence on potential bias in assessing young children from birth to age 5.
The primary concerns about the assessment of this population are fairness and equality across groups. That is, there is concern that assessment tools, by their inherent properties, could contribute to the over- or underidentification of children differently across different minority population groups. Since the first assessment tools were developed, there has been long-standing concern that test scores may not necessarily reflect differences in ability or developmental milestones among children and the populations they represent, but rather demonstrate problems in the construction, design, administration, and interpretation of the assessment tests that lead them to be unfair and untrustworthy (Brown, Reynolds, and Whitaker, 1999; Garcia and Pearson, 1994; Gipps, 1999; National Association of Test Directors, 2004; Skiba, Knesting, and Bush, 2002). Most of what is known about potential bias in assessing minority children is based on school-age children and youth. Less is known about children younger than age 5 and assessment score differences between whites and blacks (Brooks-Gunn et al., 2003). Children ages 5-14 are the most extensively examined for cultural bias, mostly in intelligence testing, with most of the empirical focus on ages 7-11 (Valencia and Suzuki, 2001).
It is important for us to clarify the many definitions of “unfair”