Assessments help parents and schools track student development and academic progress. The purpose of the assessment frequently determines the most useful test format. Formative assessment, for example, identifies what children know before beginning study, while summative assessments include a detailed test to determine what kids learned from the lessons. Typical childhood assessments ask children to answer questions using picture discussions, demonstrations, oral question and answer, paper evaluations and exams using technology.
Conversation assessments use a teacher or an exam administrator to direct the discussion. The answers to a list of preset questions determine the child's knowledge and understanding level. Conversations typically involve only one or two children so the test facilitator can make notes or use a checklist during the exam. Education counselors frequently use this assessment as a tool to make student school placements or determine the need for remediation in a content subject.
Picture identification assessments help determine the knowledge of young children who lack complex language skills. Educators also use this exam format as a preliminary sorting tool to quickly assess large groups of children. Once the initial assessment divides students into basic categories, teachers then give students other exam forms to provide more detailed information about student knowledge or skills. Evaluators frequently use image identification assessments as an inexpensive alternative to standardized written exams to evaluate children from homes speaking a language other than English. This eliminates the need to create separate written exams in dozens of languages.
Demonstrations ask kids to complete a physical action. Examples of demonstration assessments include identifying words, completing math problems and writing a word, sentence, paragraph or short essay, depending on the age of the child. More complex demonstrations ask students to give a speech, perform a reading from a play or complete a football pass. Some schools film and store student demonstrations in portfolios to use as documentation of student progress over time.
Observation assessments ask students to work while an adult trained as an evaluator watches. A formal checklist directs the observer to look for special skills or evidence of knowledge. This type of assessment evaluates practical skills and uses broad scoring that groups kids into advanced, satisfactory or needs improvement categories. Primary schools frequently use this observation assessment for report cards in subject areas such as art, music and handwriting, areas typically excluded from formal content evaluation.
Standardized exams form the core of traditional childhood assessments. Teachers use standardized exams created by education districts, school departments and textbook companies. Most standardized tests use paper and pencil or computerized programs asking children to answer a set of multiple-choice questions. School districts also use this evaluation format to meet grant-reporting requirements. Federal and state education grants typically ask districts to show student progress to qualify for categorical funding. Colleges and universities ask students to submit standardized exam scores, including SAT and ACT reports, when applying for school admission. The College Board reported that 1.66 million secondary students took the SAT exam in 2012.