The early childhood educational field has garnered attention with initiatives to foster skill acquisition in young children prior to kindergarten entry. These initiatives, in conjunction with the rigorous demands of curricular reform and a burgeoning accountability movement, invoke questions regarding the adequacy of the instruments used to assess young children and the inherent difficulties in conducting such assessments. Because the effectiveness of education relies critically on the sound diagnoses of children's readiness for learning and the measurement of their subsequent progression throughout the schooling process, critical issues in early assessment must be addressed. An examination of past practices was synthesized with recent research to focus awareness on the insufficient content domain, restrictive context, adverse timing and questionable psychometric properties, specifically the inappropriate norms and low predictive validity, of many instruments. Both the implications of and compensatory strategies for each issue are considered. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Psychol Schs 41: 737–749, 2004.