Johnson State College
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.