Assessment Questions, Steps, and Purposes (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Oct 25, 2010

Step 2. Making a Referral

Prereferral decisions  Questions about a student are referred to an assistance team, which usually comprises regular classroom teachers and special educators in the school building. The team may be a student assistance team (SAT), teacher assistance team, or intervention assistance team. In addition to questions about individual student behaviors or academic work, this team enables teachers, both regular and special education, to help one another with general academic or discipline concerns including making accommodations to instruction and assessment. During this stage, response to intervention (RTI) activities, usually occur, depending on the student's needs. When interventions are not successful, teachers document the interventions tried and the student responses in a written referral.

Referral decisions The IEP team, which is different from the assistance team, receives the written referral form. Based on the referral information about the student, the team recommends specific assessment approaches or assessment instruments to be used in determining eligibility.

Step 3. Determining Eligibility

To determine student eligibility for special education services, the assessment questions focus on "Does the student have a disability? What disability does the student have? Does the student meet the criteria for services?" The purpose of this step is to examine the assessment information to make a determination regarding the student's eligibility for special education and related services according to state and federal (IDEA) guidelines for children and youth.

As specified in IDEA, a multidisciplinary team conducts assessment for the purposes of eligibility. Thus, a student's assessment covers all areas related to the suspected disability including, if appropriate, health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communication, and motor abilities. For example, a student who is nonverbal may have a multidisciplinary evaluation that includes meeting with (1) an audiologist to determine the extent, if any, of a hearing loss; (2) a speech and language pathologist to assess understanding of language (receptive language) and communication skills; (3) a special educator to assess academic and functional skills; (4) a vocational rehabilitation counselor to identify interests and abilities; and (5) a psychologist to determine intellectual functioning. The team will use various approaches, including, for example, observations, norm-referenced instruments, and performance assessments. The team will ask the student's parent(s) to provide information, too. All of these individuals work together to view and analyze the assessment information, with all contributing expertise from their respective disciplines.

Team members share the assessment information during the IEP meeting and determine the student's eligibility to receive special education and related services. As active members of the team, parents may have questions and collect various types of information such as medical records or developmental history.

Because the team bases its decisions on assessment information and data, they must choose and use appropriate assessment approaches carefully. Evaluators must have appropriate training, take responsibility in evaluating the adequacy of the approach, follow professional standards and ethical principles, and be knowledgeable about the limitations of specific approaches. In the chapters that follow we will discuss these approaches in more detail.

Step 4. Program Planning

In program planning, the assessment questions focus on "What should be included in the student's individualized program? If behavior impedes learning, what strategies, including positive behavioral interventions, should the team write in the plan? What supplemental aids, services, and assistive technology does the student need? What types of accommodations and/or modifications should team members make to the curriculum? Where should instruction begin? What supports for school personnel does the student need?" The purposes are to (1) determine the student's current level of functioning and (2) plan the instructional program. Much of the information gathered in Step 4 will be useful in planning the instruction and developing realistic goals.

What should program planning include? Program planning includes assessing the student's current level of functioning and determining where instruction should begin. Members of the IEP team identify the special education and related services they will include in the student's program. The team plans accommodations and/or modifications to the curriculum and to the classroom environment. Team members utilize commercially published norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests, checklists, observations, or curriculum-based assessments, as well as other assessment approaches.

Connecting assessment with instruction  Connecting assessment with instruction is part of both program planning and Step 5, monitoring individual progress. Connecting assessment with instruction provides rich, ongoing information about a student's current level of achievement, which allows the teacher to make informed decisions regarding the student's instructional program. A teacher uses this type of assessment in planning daily teaching and learning activities to address the special needs of students. "Good classroom assessment tells us more than `Knows it; doesn't know it.' It also tells us why" (Shepard, 1996). Connecting assessment with instruction is one of the most important aspects of the assessment process. In later chapters we will examine a variety of assessment approaches that link instruction with assessment.

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