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Assessment & Evaluation

Figuring out the problem is the first step to finding a solution, but the assessment process can be difficult! These questions will point you in the right direction.

Click below for answers to the following assessment questions:

Question 1: How do I set up an IEP for my child with ADHD?
Question 2: I think my child may have a learning disability but I'm not sure how to describe to the school exactly what I want assessed.What should I do?
Question 3: My child's school says that my child is very bright, but they want to hold him back because of his poor reading skills. I want him tested for a reading disability. What should I do?
Question 4: How can I find a professional who can diagnose a student's learning disability?
Question 5: My child was tested in kindergarten for dyslexia but they didn't find anything. What should I do now that he is in 3rd grade and still struggling with reading and writing?
Question 6: My son is far behind in school both academically and developmentally. Should he stay back a grade?
Question 7: If a child has been identified as having a learning disability and is currently receiving special education for reading, math, writing, and language development, how should this be placed within a school wide reading framework? Specifically, should this c
Question 8: How long should an intervention be tried with little or no progress? Also, should two interventions be tried at the same time if both are beneficial and the student is progressing? Isn't the whole point progress?
Question 9: There seem to be few commercial progress monitoring tools available for secondary students. What are the names of any existing tools that progress monitor in the areas of reading and math for grades 9-12? Do you know if any other tools are coming availabl
Question 10: I am a reading specialist and I teach in an elementary school. We began a 3 tier model of support last year. My question is about assessment. What assessments are the best cocktail for progress monitoring and benchmark assessment? We use DIBELS and CORE.
Question 11: I've started using new media tools (blogs, wikis, etc.) in my classroom to differentiate instruction, and have recently begun to explore the use of virtual worlds and social networking with my kids. They seem to really enjoy using technology, and I'm seei
Question 12: Our reports cards require that we give students a grade for achievement and effort in each subject area. I like this configuration because some of my kids work hard, and I can reward them through their effort grade. But some of my colleagues are arguing f
Question 13: How does RTI fit in with other policy initiatives?
Question 14: So I've been collecting progress monitoring data, when do I know it's time to make an intervention change?

Question:

How do I set up an IEP for my child with ADHD?

Answer:

All parents should start in the school's front office. Ask to speak with an administrator and bring any type of documentation and work samples you may have. In order for an individual to receive any type of accommodations, the individual must provide documentation of a specific disability. For a valid and accurate diagnosis, an individual needs a full psycho-educational evaluation through a licensed or otherwise qualified professional. Ask the school for this type of screening/evaluation.

Note: A diagnosis of ADHD is not enough to qualify a child as learning disabled. In cases where students receive services for an ADHD diagnosis, either through an IEP or a 504 Plan, the coding is usually Other Health Impaired (OHI). The following articles from LD OnLine relate to diagnosis of ADHD and might be useful to you.

Finally, you may wish to contact any of the following organizations who specialize in advocacy and legal rights of parents:


Question:

I think my child may have a learning disability but I'm not sure how to describe to the school exactly what I want assessed.What should I do?

Answer:

If it is hard to verbalize your concerns, bring your child's work samples with you to the school to show what is hard to articulate. A full psycho-educational assessment should provide you with more complete answers.

Before going elsewhere, you might want to find out exactly what services the school system could offer you – and when. If the time-frame or suggestions for providing needed services are unacceptable to you, there are independent educational testers that you can go to privately. The following articles will give you an idea of what to expect from the testing process:

There are several national organizations that can help you through this process and provide referrals to local professionals. You can contact the International Dyslexia Association or the Learning Disabilities Association. LD Online has a Yellow Pages service, Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy has a useful nationwide search tool. Use it to locate psychologists, educational diagnosticians, consultants, therapists, tutors, and advocates in your area. Browse their comprehensive directory of parent training and information centers for more resources, or to find educational consultants and advocates to help you through the process locally.

You can also contact the Parent Educational Advocacy Resource Center in your state, or look in your local phone book for “educational testing” or “psycho-educational testing” for someone close to you.

Be a good consumer in this process. Ask potential testers, tutors, and consultants about their experiences and specialization before you choose a provider. You want to make sure that the person you choose is a good match for your child.


Question:

My child's school says that my child is very bright, but they want to hold him back because of his poor reading skills. I want him tested for a reading disability. What should I do?

Answer:

Because your child is bright yet still struggles with reading, it can be challenging to offer the right support. You can refer to the following articles to see the characteristics that some children with learning disabilities exhibit:

If you recognize your child's reading struggles in these articles, voice these specific concerns to professionals at his school and request that your child receive an educational evaluation. This evaluation is free and within your legal rights as a parent to request. This article will give you an overview of the evaluation process:

The article below has suggestions on how to be your child's most effective and informed advocate for his educational needs:

Whether or not he is found eligible for special services, the evaluation will help determine your child's academic strengths and weaknesses and how he best learns. This should guide you in supporting your child academically and emotionally in the years to come.

Because your child is bright, he may currently be able to compensate for his learning difficulties. But as he gets older and the reading material in school gets more challenging, it may become increasingly difficult to compensate, and he may fall further behind as a result. But the earlier the cause of his reading weaknesses is determined and addressed, the better chance your child has of truly reaching his academic potential.


Question:

How can I find a professional who can diagnose a student's learning disability?

Answer:

First, find out from a school administrator exactly what services the school system can offer and when they could provide them. Express your concerns and find out the procedures involved in going through a screening process for your child. If the timeframe or suggestions are unacceptable, there are independent educational testers that you can go to privately. The following articles might be helpful to you:

There are several national organizations that can help families through this process and give local professional referrals. They might also have information about financial assistance for testing. You might want to contact:

Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy has a useful nationwide search tool. Use it to locate professionals in your area. You can also contact the Parent Educational Advocacy Resource Center in your state for more options.

In addition, you can look in your local phone book for “educational testing” or “psycho-educational testing” for someone in your area. LD OnLine also has a Yellow Pages service that might be helpful. Search by state for organizations, or find a parent advocacy group near you.

Be sure to ask potential testers, tutors, and consultants about their experiences and specializations before choosing a provider.A full psycho-educational assessment provides information about the way a student learns and how to best meet that student's needs.


Question:

My child was tested in kindergarten for dyslexia but they didn't find anything. What should I do now that he is in 3rd grade and still struggling with reading and writing?

Answer:

It is often challenging to detect learning difficulties in very young children. When your child was tested in kindergarten, he may have been able to compensate for his learning challenges to the point where there was little discrepancy between his ability and achievement. In order to be diagnosed with a learning disability and receive special education services, a child must exhibit both a processing deficit and a discrepancy between what he is capable of doing and what he is actually achieving in school.

As your child gets older, it may become increasingly difficult for him to compensate, and the gap between his ability and potential achievement may widen. If your child does have a learning disability, it will be easier to detect now than when he was in kindergarten. The following articles describe characteristics common to children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Look through them to see if you recognize any of your child’s challenges in these descriptions:

If you see some of these characteristics in your child, you may want to request that his school give him an educational evaluation. It is within your rights as a parent to request a free evaluation and to have a vote throughout the evaluation process.

The educational evaluation will help you and the school better understand your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses and how he learns best. The following articles will give you a clearer understanding of the evaluation process:

Please be sure to share any of the interventions that you have been trying at home and the concerns you have. The following articles may give you some insight as to how you can make the most of the local screening meeting and subsequent meetings in this process:

Your willingness to help your child at home will go a long way in giving him academic and emotional support, as well as the comfort of knowing that he is not alone in his struggles. The articles below suggest ways you and your child can work together at home:

Remember that you are the strongest and most knowledgeable advocate for your son, so trust your instincts and don’t give up! The sooner your son receives the assistance he needs and the quicker you and his teachers work together to develop a plan for home and school, the closer he will be to fully realizing his academic potential.


Question:

My son is far behind in school both academically and developmentally. Should he stay back a grade?

Answer:

Your question about retention at grade level is a challenging one. Most of the research done on the subject points to damaging social effects as well as a lack of long term academic improvement for most children. That said, given the way most schools are currently structured, moving students on to higher grades who are lacking skills and knowledge is also unlikely to ensure academic success. The following article may help you understand the challenges involved in that decision process and proposed strategies to overcome the issue.

If your school is one in which 1) at-risk students are given intensified learning experiences; 2) differentiated instruction is provided; 3) teachers are continually improving their skills; 4) lessons are geared to ongoing performance assessments; and 5) very young students receive the help they need early and often – you can safely support promotion for your child. If you are not convinced that your child will get the support he needs to succeed in the next grade, you may want to strongly support his retention. In addition to academic factors, it is important to weigh the child's age, size, emotional maturity and physical development when considering retention. Also examine the program that will be offered – it should be a new, challenging experience not a repeat of the same lessons and texts.


Question:

If a child has been identified as having a learning disability and is currently receiving special education for reading, math, writing, and language development, how should this be placed within a school wide reading framework? Specifically, should this c

Answer:

We have research to indicate that when a student is performing below the level of the reading instruction being delivered in the general education program, the classroom program has little effect on the target student. Instead, tutoring accounts for the student's growth. Therefore, when classroom instruction is not aligned to the skill level of the target student, I don't think it's necessary for the student to be in the classroom for reading instruction. It's better to maximize time in tutoring. (If, on the other hand, classroom instruction can be aligned to the student's needs in meaningful ways, there is evidence, at least in math, to suggest that the student benefits from participating both in the general education program as well as tutoring. Even then, however, the tutoring program accounts for the greater amount of progress.) A student's ongoing progress monitoring (i.e., weekly or biweekly assessment) should be conducted at instruction level, not grade-appropriate material. (For benchmarking [i.e., 3-4 times per year], measurement should occur at both levels.)

Question:

How long should an intervention be tried with little or no progress? Also, should two interventions be tried at the same time if both are beneficial and the student is progressing? Isn't the whole point progress?

Answer:

Based on our research and others' research, we recommend 10-20 weeks of a validated tutoring program. We don't generally recommend two programs at the same time because (a) due to costs, reduces the number of students who can be tutored successfully and (b) it's possible that the two tutoring programs use different sequences/methods, which may be counterproductive.

Question:

There seem to be few commercial progress monitoring tools available for secondary students. What are the names of any existing tools that progress monitor in the areas of reading and math for grades 9-12? Do you know if any other tools are coming availabl

Answer:

You're right. There are few commercial programs for progress monitoring at the secondary level, although a few do go through grade 7 in reading or through algebra and geometry in math. I suggest you go to the tools chart on National Center on Student Progress Monitoring or National Center on Response to Intervention for options. Again, there are not many.

Question:

I am a reading specialist and I teach in an elementary school. We began a 3 tier model of support last year. My question is about assessment. What assessments are the best cocktail for progress monitoring and benchmark assessment? We use DIBELS and CORE.

Answer:

The tools chart on National Center on Student Progress Monitoring or National Center on Response to Intervention provides technical information, in a consumer report format, on progress monitoring and screening assessments that (a) have been submitted for technical review and (b) for which the authors/vendors agreed to have the results posted.

Question:

I've started using new media tools (blogs, wikis, etc.) in my classroom to differentiate instruction, and have recently begun to explore the use of virtual worlds and social networking with my kids. They seem to really enjoy using technology, and I'm seei

Answer:

Technology and media skills have increasingly been recognized as a necessary component of education for today's students. As more and more teachers integrate 21st century skills, new media, and web 2.0 tools into their classrooms, the challenge of assessing these skills has become a hot topic among educators. In looking for ways to assess your students' learning with technology tools, start with the groups that are at the forefront of determining technology standards and practice: the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Both organizations have written extensively on what children must know to be productive members of a technological society. Both groups have also produced guidance on assessing technology skills. A number of teachers have used these materials to create their own rubrics and ideas for assessing student blogs, Twitter use, or wiki creation. Digital Age Assessments lists a variety of rubric suggestions; the forums in Classroom 2.0 can also be an excellent place to confer with other teachers about how they assess their students' work with technology.

Question:

Our reports cards require that we give students a grade for achievement and effort in each subject area. I like this configuration because some of my kids work hard, and I can reward them through their effort grade. But some of my colleagues are arguing f

Answer:

I would retain the effort grade, for two reasons. First, it's useful feedback for the child and for parents. There is good evidence that determination, and perseverance are hugely important to many school outcomes that most people care about. And as described in the book, there is also evidence that students' beliefs about effort are important. When students believe that effort leads to achievement, they are more likely to work hard, and not to get discouraged by failure, because they believe that, with more effort, they might succeed. If, in contrast, they believe effort doesn't matter much and what really counts is ability, then failure is very discouraging because it indicates that they lack ability, and there is nothing that they can do about it. A second reason to retain the effort grade is that it can provide useful feedback for teachers. If the two grades for a given child are very dissimilar, that seems important to me. The child who is getting high grades in achievement and low grades in effort would seem to need more challenging work. The child showing the opposite pattern needs less challenging work. I'd like to know why your colleagues want the effort grade eliminated. My hunch is that they don't want kids to get the message that achievement doesn't matter much and all that matters is trying hard. I'm sympathetic to that. Perhaps there is a way that effort can be acknowledged and praised, without diminishing the importance of reaching goals. The relative importance of grades should be explicit and can also be signaled visually on a report card by the size and positioning of the grades.

Question:

How does RTI fit in with other policy initiatives?

Answer:

Response from Evelyn Johnson

So, I think it's important that instead of asking how RTI fits in with other policy initiatives you ask, "What is the purpose of our school?" And while we might get a lot of variability across schools when we ask that, ultimately most schools would probably give some answer that related to improved academic, social, and emotional outcomes for the students that they serve. In that regard, RTI and PBS and tiered service delivery models in general provide a really nice framework for thinking about how to fit all of the various initiatives and research-based practices that we know are highly effective for students really well, and they do that by focusing our attention on first improving the core instructional program for our students. We can do that by evaluation of our performance benchmarks, our academic assessments, our behavioral assessments, and taking a good, hard look at whether what we are doing is generally effective for most of our students before we proceed with interventions for those kids who are at risk for not meeting our academic and behavioral outcomes.

So, in evaluating our core instructional program, what the RTI framework does for us is gets us as a staff to look at what things are going really well for us and what things aren't going so well for us. We primarily look at assessment data in order to start those decisions but we don't stop with assessment data. When we find that there's a problem, for example, let's say we see that most of our students are not meeting our academic outcomes in the area of math. We don't just look at ways to immediately improve math test scores, instead we take a look at the curriculum, we take a look at the instruction, we maybe take a look at the qualifications of our teachers. We may have really terrific elementary school teachers but they may all specialize in the area of reading and writing and not have strengths in math. So, that would indicate a need for a professional development in those areas, and so through that systems approach the RTI framework really allows a school then to consider which policy interventions, which pieces of the research knowledge base would be most appropriate for solving their particular problems in order to help them reach those goals of improved academic and behavioral outcomes for their students.


Question:

So I've been collecting progress monitoring data, when do I know it's time to make an intervention change?

Answer:

Response from Erica Lembke

I think this is a really good question because too often teachers are collecting progress monitoring data, but they are not really utilizing the data and we know that that is really the key to seeing change, positive change, in your student's performance is really utilizing that data. So, it's an excellent question and teachers should be looking at and attending to the data all the time. It's interesting, sort of an interesting tangent is, who is the person that should be attending to and looking at this data and thinking about the change that should be made? I get asked this, should it be the general ed classroom teacher, should it be the interventionist, should it be the special education teacher and so it's important to think about in your school, in your district, who the person is that provides that primary reading instruction to the student. Sometimes that's the gen ed teacher, sometimes that's the special education teacher and that's the person I would recommend collect that progress monitoring data and think about making those changes in instruction because that's the person that is primarily responsible then for that instruction, ultimately.

We have to go back and remember that progress monitoring data; that data is not just to tell you, oh students good or bad, that data is to inform teachers instruction. That's really the key behind that. So, after you've collected some progress monitoring data, it's important to collect enough data so that you let the intervention play out long enough and when we think about the differences in how quickly we make a change when we have behavioral data, graphed behavioral data, or graph academic data, it's not all synchronous. Behavior data, you might have a student that has challenging behavior and we may go in and make a change much more quickly based on that data than we do with an academic intervention. So the general recommendation or guideline from the field is that we need at least, most researchers would say, at least eight data points. Some would say as many as ten to twelve data points before we go in and look at the data and make a change in instruction. And I want to back up and say of course you are looking at the data each time you graph and enter that data however in looking at it to really think about whether an intervention change is needed.

The reason we suggest collecting so many data points, because some of you may say wow that's a long time to wait for a particular student, but the reason we suggest waiting a while to make that change is because we want a really stable indicator, or stable slope of how the student is performing. Eight data points collected across at least four to six weeks gives you a nice, stable trend of student performance. That really brings me to how do I make that decision; there's a couple of ways that you can utilize to make an instructional decision.

One would be, and these are just some basic guidelines, one might be the four point rule where you actually look back at the four most recent data points that were collected, again understanding that we are talking about three to four weeks of data, eight or so data points, look back at the most recent four data points. If all four data points are below the goal line make a change in instruction. All four points are above the goal line raise the goal. That's a great situation; the child is doing really well. Data points both above and below the goal line continue with your current instruction. And it's important to pick a decision-making rule like this and stick with it because you do see graph data sometimes where a child, I saw it recently, I saw a graph where a child had three or so, almost four data points sort of heading downwards and then kind of was back up on the upswing. However, this was a child, a seventh-grade girl, reading in the third-grade level, goals set very low, you know, and so if we didn't have a decision-making goal the tendency might be to eyeball that data, and say "oh she's goal, she's back up on the upswing" you know "I think we'll wait a few data points longer," when in actuality when we looked back at that data, her data points were indicating her performance had been low for a while. So it's important as teams, and as teacher teams, that we have those clear, sort of concise decision making rules, and that we stick with them.

Another example of a decision making rule that is more accurate, maybe in some cases a little bit more difficult to calculate, would be the Trend Line Rule. We look back essentially at the eight data points or so that we collected so far, we map a trend line or a line of best fit onto that data. Some of your computerized CBM programs now actually put that trend line in for you. You look back, and you compare once again, just like we did in the four point rule, to the goal line. So you are comparing trend of student performance with goal that was set for the child. If the trend of student performance is less steep than the goal line it's time to make a change, an instructional change. If the trend of student performance is greater than the goal line, great situation again, student is doing better than we thought, maybe raise the goal line. If the trend is about parallel and close to the goal line we can continue with our current instruction. The reason that the trend line, that method of data utilization is more accurate is that we are actually using more of the data to make our decision. We are not just using the previous four points; we are using a lot of the data to make that decision. I've actually put those types of rules, those choices I guess for decision making rules and kind of put those into a rubric that helps teacher look at academic performance, behavior in the classroom, data from other assessments, to make decisions about movement between tiers. Because, again, we don't want that to be an arbitrary decision either.

We want to systematize this process and so we think about any time, and this is a really critical point, we think about, not just, oh okay I'm going to go in and make a change now but before we ever make a change we want to think about has the instruction been delivered with fidelity, have I been as intense as I've needed to be as about instruction. Perhaps I wanted to deliver intervention for thirty minutes, you know, four or five times a week and intervention time is right next to recess and then I only get to do intervention for 15 minutes you know each day. Intensity, fidelity, specificity of instruction, do the teachers understand the specifics of how that lesson should be taught? So it sort of goes back to effective teaching behaviors so before we ever make that change then we want to be careful to look at, and address some of those questions as we utilize that progress monitoring data.

"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio