Because of the psychometric bias in much of the work on assessment, much attention has been focused on the technical aspects of assessment to the exclusion of other aspects of the overall literacy context. In particular, little attention has been paid to test users, especially in classroom settings. To date, little is known about teachers' beliefs and everyday practices regarding assessment. There is even less known about how various factors such as professional background might influence these beliefs and practices. This information is important, especially in light of the changing paradigms impacting educational practice and the increasing linguistic and cultural diversity in many classrooms.
Given this knowledge gap, the present study investigated teachers' belief systems or mental models and everyday practices regarding the nature, function, and uses of assessment with a special focus on reading with Latino language minority students. These mental models can be seen as integrated systems of concepts, scripts, and scenes which function to lend meaning to the action systems of classrooms.
Three groups of teachers (special education pull-out, bilingual credentialed, and bilingual waivered) of Latino language minority students were included in the study (n = 18 per group). Multiple methods were used in the investigation, including semi-structured interviews, a written questionnaire, classroom observation, and analysis of documents and classroom products related to assessment.
It was found that there were clear differences among the groups with the special education teachers most unlike the other two groups. In addition, there was a general discrepancy between the belief systems of a significant proportion of the teachers studied and the more constructivist and socioculturally-based principles underlying many recent theoretical and reform-based initiatives. The results are discussed in the context of both educational reform and teacher training efforts.