can lead to decisions that are unfair or unclear, and they may do harm to programs, teachers, and, most importantly, children.

In this chapter, we present a set of guidelines that should be useful to a broad range of organizations charged with the assessment of children and of programs providing care and education to young children. These guidelines are organized around the major themes of the report and flow from the perspective that any assessment decision should be made in the context of a larger, coherent assessment system, which is in turn embedded in a network of medical, educational, and family support systems designed to ensure optimal development for all children.

Thus, though we briefly recap our rationale, based on our review of the literature, and present our guidelines following the order of topics in the volume, we hope the reader interprets our discussion of purposes, targets, and procedures for assessment as different specific topics subordinated to the notion of an assessment system. In compliance with our charge, we have also included a section presenting a recommended agenda for research on the assessment of young children, following the detailed guidelines.

These guidelines should be useful to anyone contemplating the selection or implementation of an assessment for young children, including medical and educational service providers, classroom practitioners, federal, state, and local governments and private agencies operating or regulating child care and early childhood education programs, and those interested in expanding the knowledge base about child development and the conditions of childhood. To make our guidance more pointed and practical, the chapter ends with a list of high-priority actions by members of specific groups engaged in the assessment of young children, which can be taken quickly and should provide maximum payoffs.

PURPOSES AND USES OF ASSESSMENT

Rationale

In recent years, the purposes for which young children are being assessed have expanded, with more children being assessed than ever before. Young children have been assessed to screen for



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