Evaluation

Heather Corey

Johnson State College

EDU 6330

June 28, 2015

According to Dr. Robert Schultz, “Assessment is an ongoing process of gathering information for the purpose of making decisions.” As practitioners in the field of education, it is imperative that we demonstrate ethical assessment strategies, since our decisions affect how money is allocated for students, how the students’ levels of need are determined, and whether or not students are eligible for special education.

Evaluating students for special education is a legal matter. According to the US Department of Education’s website, Federal laws “prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive Federal funds from the Department of Education. These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin, sex, disability, and on the basis of age.” As stated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act section 300.101(c): “a free appropriate public education (FAPE) must be available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services,” (http://idea.ed.gov/download/finalregulations.html).

Based on what we know about our legal obligations as educators, there are several insights from our class Evaluating Characteristics of Diverse Learners that can be applied to our practice in order to provide ethical and legally-sound assessment strategies. The over-arching concept is that students have complex and diverse characteristics that vary from student-to-student, and we must use what we know about their characteristics in the following areas of assessment: 1) Test selection, 2) Test administration, 3) Test Scoring, 4) Test Analysis, and 5) Application.

  • Test Selection: Choose the most appropriate test based on the characteristics of the student. For example, if a student struggles with reading, it would not be appropriate to select a test that is only for math. Also, before applying any time-consuming, costly, and potentially grueling tests, the evaluator should first determine whether or not the instruction methods in the regular classroom are appropriate. Teachers should assess their techniques. The Condermin/Hedin Instructional Assessment Cycle is a good tool to understand this process.
  • Test Administration: Conduct tests with supportive environmental conditions. For example, use 1:1 settings, break the test up over several days, and speak clearly and slowly. Also, consider tools such as speech-to-text, and make sure the administrator is the most bias-free person to administer the test.
  • Test Scoring: Make sure the evaluator is trained to score the test competently. Double-check scores, including within the report that is submitted to the team. It would be a severe professional blunder to reflect the wrong score, since this may or may not make a student eligible for special education.
  • Test Analysis: Determine what the scores mean. Ask whether or not the scores make sense. For example, if the student has low scores, but is not eligible for services, then still recommend accommodations to the classroom teachers in concerning areas. Consult with other professionals to make the best analysis possible. Make sure to not only include areas of concern in the report, but also the areas of strength. Finally, do the results fit the student profile? Is it possible that they may have done better with a different test or accommodation, like a translated version of the test in the student’s dominant language?
  • Application: After determining the student’s level of performance, what can the team do in order to support the student in the most inclusive way possible, whether they are eligible for services or not? How can the regular classroom change in order to include more student profiles and characteristics and keep students with their peers? Lastly, use SMART practice to write appropriate IEP goals.

Finally, I will quote a previous reflection, to describe the importance of assessment as a way to not only analyze a student’s performance, but to analyze our behavior as educators: “We must evaluate what we know about our students, seek out what we still need to learn, and then apply our understanding to match how we instruct and assess according to the culture of our classrooms. Only then can we grow and support others, and eventually provide classrooms in which everyone is included.”

I found the following class activities to be the most useful: Article Analysis, the textbook, the in-class student profile assignments to practice and analyze scoring, the IEP goals assignment, and definitely the student seminars.

In the future, I would consider discussing Carl Sundberg’s VB-MAPP assessment. It is a tool that behavior analysts use, and would be cool to show future special educators and regular classroom teachers how behavior analysts use them to write appropriate behavior procedures.

HYPOTHESIS

Hypothesis

One thought has kept

Us pulled towards each other,

One question, one purpose,

Making two otherwise

Very different variables

Become somehow connected.

I, the stubborn one,

Thinking I was independent,

Continued to behave

In the shape and the form

that I have such a long history with.

But you were persistent

And reliable,

Showing up randomly

When I was most comfortable

In familiar settings,

Making me change

In quantifiable measurements

That were “dynamic and ongoing.” 1

I resisted your influence

As much as I could

With giant bursts of activity,

Wanting to behave in familiar ways.

But over time, I relented

And began to show stability,

And when you finally decided to

Remain with me everyday,

I became even more

Subdued,

Steady,

And invariable.

I became dependent.

Now it is clear.

There is a connection between us.

A functional relation

That makes me react to you.

People come together

And try to analyze

Our relationship

And when they look at the bigger picture

It is clear that you’ve changed me; Because

I am controlled.

I am dependent.

I am predictable,

As if our correlation to each other

Was somehow determined.

1 Cooper, J., Heron, T., Heward, W. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis. Upper Saddle

River, N.J.: Pearson Education, Inc., p. 127.

You should see from this poem, that there is a functional relation between the independent variable and the dependent variable, and that the change can only be seen over time, through measure and analytic display. Research must begin with a question and a purpose, but as a practitioner, I must think carefully about the ethical considerations of manipulating the dependent variable and the social validity of making this change.

Individualized Learning

Individualizing Learning

Many years ago I gave up the idea of becoming a classroom teacher.  I was discouraged by the look on so many teachers’ faces that sent the message that they had failed.  With so many things to battle just in one classroom, it didn’t seem worth all the many hours of planning and meeting, just to be up against the thankless attitudes of parents, staff, and the students themselves.  Through paraprofessional job positions, I saw how challenging students’ behaviors could be, and how so few teachers were capable of dealing with challenging behaviors. I gave up and instead found myself in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In ABA, the strategies in place are effective and evidence-based. On most days the work is often very rewarding.  While it is usually more specific to the 1:1 setting and usually involves very intense behaviors, the field holds promise in upward movement, and involves less direct service and more consultant work.  That is the role of the behavior analyst; a role that many who are in, do not carry the same defeated face like many classroom teachers.

The work as a behavior analyst involves designing behavior modification programs that are child-specific.  An analyst will create one program around very specific goals to meet the needs of the individual in their home and/or school environments. Analysts use extrinsic motivators to change children’s behaviors across all levels of functioning: cognitive, social, emotional, communication, adaptive, and physical. These programs can be based around any behaviors such as dressing, spelling, eating a variety of foods, saying hello, decreasing aggressive behaviors, or even increasing the duration of time spent in the classroom environment.  By using a variety of modalities and finding what is motivating to the students, analysts can help students make significant gains allowing them to function better in society.

While, typically most of these jobs involve contracting with an outside agency, there is a steady increase in the creation of full-time positions in schools.  It is not unusual to find a behavior analyst working in the school, overseeing many para-professionals who work with the students.  Schools are becoming more open to adopting behavior modification strategies like ABA, because they have found that they are working.

Ironically, the basis of this work comes from a variety of evidence-based practices that are now in the form of an entirely new teaching model called The Universal Design for Learning.  The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) embeds inclusive practices in the entire classroom curriculum and environment design, (Raymond, 2012). The model is divided into five design principles: multiple & flexible representations, multiple and flexible expressions, multiple and flexible means of engagement, creating a community of learners, and offering a positive climate. Within each principle, there are methods to structuring the environment and curriculum so that all learners benefit and no one is stigmatized.

“Those who see disability from a social constructivist point of view suggest that focusing on the problem within a social context, rather than looking for a fault in the individual learner, is more likely to result in understanding the problem and coming up with a resolution,” (Raymond, 2012).  Rather than looking for what is wrong with students, teachers can instead think more critically about the environment. Changing the environment to include all learners eliminates many of the barriers to student success. “The environment is the most visible aspect of the work done in schools by all the protagonists.  It conveys the message that this is a place where adults have thought about the quality and the instructive power of space,” (Gandini, L. as cited in Curtis & Carter, 2003).

The following is an example of using UDL to support students whose strengths are in rote auditory memory and receptive language skill and whose challenges are in reading. These examples demonstrate ways that teachers can capitalize on students’ strengths by using a variety of representations:

  • Memorize poems aloud as a group, by repeating after the teacher.
  • Once they have memorized, show them the words in print.
  • Change the print to have a bigger or darker font.
  • Highlight important words in different colors.
  • Use texts that are repetitive so that the predictability naturally scaffolds reading strategies.
  • Give the class flashcards of tricky words that have textured text and practice reading the cards with partners before and/or after reading the poem aloud as a group.

For students that present challenges with problem solving, social interactions, and self-expression, teachers can enhance the climate and the community to surpass those challenges in the following ways:

  • Students could be paired up to use the computer for problem-solving games in math.
  • Students could continue to work with their partners to solve a mathematical problem using tangible items like pictures, blocks, etc…
  • Then the pairs could take turns sharing their problem-solving solutions on an overhead projector.
  • One partner could do the talking, while the other one manipulates the objects or draws the pictures, etc….
  • The student who is less comfortable speaking could manipulate the objects, while the partner does the talking.
  • By repeating this activity frequently, students can become familiar with the routine, make social connections, and begin to build their confidence by expressing themselves in front of the class.

“It is not enough to simply place these children in inclusive contexts.  For children to be successful, it is necessary to plan for and provide individualized supports based on their unique needs and disabilities,” (Grisham-Brown, Hemmeter, & Pretti-Frontczak).  If these supports are already embedded in the classroom environment and curriculum, students will feel more successful, more socially accepted, and less stigmatized.  However, it takes a lot of careful planning to make that happen.  Luckily, UDL provides a model that is well organized and easy to follow.

According to the US Department of Education’s website, Federal laws “prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive Federal funds from the Department of Education. These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin, sex, disability, and on the basis of age.”  Without finding ways for students to become successful they will have no motivation to learn.  This repeated cycle of failure diminishes self-esteem and impairs students’ relationships with their teachers. When students feel unappreciated and unable to be taught, they have little reason to trust their teachers, which will lead to maladaptive behaviors. Until teachers construct classrooms that demonstrate equitable learning, children will continue to engage in negative behaviors and struggle to succeed. “Children who have positive relationships with adults and peers, who are engaged in meaningful activities that are appropriately challenging, and who have the social-emotional skills to communicate and cooperate are less likely to engage in challenging behavior,” (Grisham-Brown, Hemmeter, & Pretti-Frontczak, 2005, p. 246).

Applied Behavior Analysis demonstrates this understanding by tailoring programs specific to children’s needs and interests.  By finding what is meaningful for students and creating tasks appropriately to produce success, students are motivated to learn. The Universal Design for Learning offers this same approach to learning and brings promise to teaching all learners in the environment that is most appropriate for them: in the classroom amongst their peers.  “Children’s cognition is contextualized; it emerges and derives meaning from particular activities and social experiences,” (Berk, 2001, p.35-36).

References

Berk, L. (2001). Awakening Children’s Minds: How Parents and Teachers Can Make

a Difference. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Curtis, D. & Carter, M. (2003). Designs for Living and Learning. St. Paul, MN:

Redleaf Press.

Grisham-Brown, J., Hemmeter, M., Pretti-Frontczak, K. (Eds.).(2005). Blended Practices

for Teaching Young Children in Inclusive Settings. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

Raymond, B., E (2012). Learner’s With Mild Disabilities A Characteristics

Approach (4th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. (2012). Know Your

Rights. Retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/know.html.