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UNDERSTANDING EVALUATION REPORTSA Guide for Parents Michael J. Connolly, Esq. Stephen J. Jacobson, Esq., Psy. D. Connolly, Jacobson & John, LLP
The Special Education Process • Identification/Child Find • Evaluation (ER/RR) • Program (IEP) • Placement (NOREP)
Evaluation • Student is evaluated by a variety of assessment tools, and a written psychoeducational report is developed • In school setting called an Evaluation Report (“ER”) or multidisciplinary evaluation • What is the purpose of the initial ER? • Who conducts? • What goes into the ER?
What is the Purpose of an Evaluation Report (ER)? 1. ER establishes needs for a child: • Academic/Functional/Behavioral 2. Determine if by virtue of those needs whether child is eligible for special education under IDEA 3. If eligible, make instructional / support recommendations to the multidisciplinary/IEP team
Eligibility Under the IDEA • A student is eligible if he or she has one or more specified disabilities AND • As a result thereof requires specially designed instruction (SDI)
IDEA Eligibility Categories • Autism • Deafness • Deaf-blindness • Emotional Disturbance • Hearing Impairment • Mental Retardation • Multiple Disabilities • Orthopedic Impairment • Other Health Impairment • Specific Learning Disability • Speech or Language Impairment • Traumatic Brain Injury • Visual Impairment including Blindness
What Goes Into an ER? • School must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental and academic information about a child • Assessment tools and strategies must be technically sound, unbiased, valid and reliable, and administered by trained personnel • Review of relevant existing data – including observations, classroom-based / State assessments • Information from parents • A determination of whether additional data are needed • Based on this information, eligibility is determined
Possible Areas to Evaluate: • Developmental history • Medical condition/health impairment • Speech/ hearing/ vision/ visual-motor • Intellectual functioning • Organization • Achievement • Behavioral / emotional functioning • Social abilities • Attention • Gross / fine motor skills • Environment
Relevant Considerations: • Child getting outside tutoring help? • Spending inordinate amounts of time each night to complete homework? • Receiving therapy of any kind (e.g. psychological services, occupational therapy, speech and language, etc.)? • Had support from outside agencies (e.g. MH/MR)? • Had an independent evaluation (IEE)? Was it recent? • Is the school district aware?
Common Evaluation Tools 1. Observations 2. Interviews / Checklists / Parent Input 3. Norm-referenced testing– performance is evaluated in terms of being better or worse than others who took the test (e.g. most intelligence and achievement tests) 4. Criterion-referenced testing– performance is evaluated by how much a person learned of a specific skill set or body of knowledge (e.g. classroom tests and quizzes)
Norm-Referenced Testing (Usually More Formal) • Standardized on a clearly defined group called a “norm group” selected by age, gender, ethnicity, etc. representative of the larger population. • “Standardized” refers to standard methods of administration, scoring and interpreting – WAS IT? • Specific question in ER/RR • Individual score on a test is ranked in comparison with a “norm group” (i.e. relative to others who took the same test).
The Problem with Raw Test Scores • A raw score is the actual number a person gets right • However, raw scores are somewhat meaningless when trying to compare scores between individuals (e.g. 75 right may be great on one test but poor on another, depending on the difficulty level of the test) • How do we address this?
Standard Scores A standard score is a statistical conversion that indicates how many “standard deviations” that score is above or below the average score that the norm group obtained. Major advantages of standard scores are 1) statistical soundness, and 2) the comparability of the scores between different tests Standard score comparisons/analysis often basis of specific learning disability eligibility
Red Flags: Major Fluctuations • 2001 – Full Scale IQ = 105: not eligible • Other scores in roughly the same range • Age 8 • 2007 – Full Scale IQ = 76: eligible • Other scores all over the place • Age 14
Red Flag – Are these IQ scores the same? WISC IV Full Scale IQ of 92 Index scores: Verbal Comprehension (112) Perceptual Reasoning (77) Working Memory (88) Processing Speed (94) Vs. WISC IV Full Scale IQ of 92 Index scores: Verbal Comprehension (93) Perceptual Reasoning (90) Working Memory (88) Processing Speed (94)
Same with Achievement Scores – What if IQ is 90? WIAT-III TOTAL READING score of 87 Subtest scores: Early Reading (91) Word Reading (90) Pseudoword Decoding (89) Reading Comprehension (85) Oral Reading Fluency (88) Vs. WIAT-III TOTAL READING score of 87 Subtest scores: Early Reading (102) Word Reading (71) Pseudoword Decoding (77) Reading Comprehension (97) Oral Reading Fluency (101)
IQ and Achievement Scores • Is the person who gave the test(s) qualified to do so? • Was the entire test given? • Are there standout scores high or low? Are they significant? • Are scores consistent across measures? Within measures? • Are some areas assessed more subjectively? • Does processing speed play a factor? How about impulsivity? Attention? • Were age or grade norms used? • Where there are peculiarities has there been any discussion or analysis?
Does the same standard score for a child over time constitute progress? • It depends . . . • For example, if we are talking IQ, we would ordinarily not expect great fluctuations, as IQ is relatively stable over time (big IQ fluctuations usually suggest a need for further investigation to find out why) • With achievement testing, as your comparison to the norm group changes over time, you have to perform better and better to achieve the same standard score year to year – is that progress? Enough progress?
How do “Percentiles” fit into this? • The term percentile (and the related term percentile rank) are often used in the reporting of scores from norm-referenced tests. • A percentile is the value of a variable below which a certain percent of scores fall. • For example, a student at the 30th percentile achieved a score greater than or equal to 30 percent of the norm group • What is the average range?
SHIFTING GEARS: Criterion-Referenced Testing • Measures the learning of specific skills or base of knowledge (e.g. classroom spelling words) • Not concerned with how other people performed on the test, only how much the individual learned of whatever was trying to be taught or studied • It is possible that everyone taking test does great and gets an “A” (or does poorly and gets an “F”)
Examples of Criterion-Referenced Testing Classroom tests and quizzes (most curriculum-based assessments) Informal reading inventories PSSA/Keystone Exams Should help inform how much a child is learning relative to specific standards and curriculum – (but also need to consider mastery, retention & generalization of the skills) Does it matter if a child is getting supported in some way on these tests?
Less useful, as not nearly as statistically sound as standard scores Grade and age equivalents are based on raw scores for particular age or grade level (so no standard scores) Less useful as grade increases and as instruction varies from grade to grade + can be misleading Are grade and age equivalents ever useful? Yes - can serve to supplement to other data, or even as a benchmark if that is all you have What about Grade/Age Equivalents?
Norm-referenced testing Snapshot of an individual on that particular day – what if it’s a bad day (or non-representative day)? Based on statistical norms, performance just a comparison to a standardized norm group Questions being asked / tasks to be accomplished not tied to any curriculum, nor take into account scope / sequence of how skills may be being taught in a given school Criterion-referenced testing Less of a “snapshot” effect, as typically given multiple times over assessment period Measures the learning of specific skills and base of knowledge, not against how other people performed on the test Can be tailored to curriculum and specifically to assess individual acquisition of what is being taught (e.g. CBA’s) In sum:
Overall Consider: • Does the evaluation accurately reflect parent input and/or concerns? • Does the evaluation take into account potential social, emotional and behavioral issues? • How is the student’s described in the evaluation? Is it consistent with what teachers/other staff have reported? Report cards? Outside experiences? • Does the evaluation make general sense?
At the end of the day: • An evaluation needs to paint an accurate picture of a child, determine eligibility and identify the child’s needs in a comprehensive and reasonable way
ER Procedural Requirements • A school district evaluation is a legally required first step for special education eligibility • It is not enough to have a diagnosis from a doctor/psychiatrist/psychologist • It is not enough to give the school an independent evaluation (IEE), even if it is a great one
Re-evaluations • Different notice and consent requirements • Re-evaluations must take place every three years (for children with intellectual disability, re-evaluations must occur every two years) • Purpose of re-evaluation • Can be waived
Also • ER/RR Must be completed within 60 calendar days (but excludes summer months) • A meeting to discuss ER/RR not legally required, but many schools will have one, or are willing to have one if requested • Parents have 10 days to review ER/RR, but can elect to waive timeline
Did you know? • All school psychologists can legally diagnose disabilities such as ADHD and autistic spectrum disorders, a doctor’s order is not required. • But, ironically, if a school psychologist says they can’t, they probably can’t • It is the district’s responsibility to fund if they believe doctor’s order needed for eligibility
Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE) • If parents request an IEE atpublicexpense: • District must either agree and provide choice of evaluators OR • Initiate a due process hearing if refusing IEE request • Prospective v. After-the-Fact requests • District must CONSIDER results of any IEE submitted by parents regardless of whether at public expense or not, which is not the same as accepting IEE recommendations
Failing to do a comprehensive assessment (especially re-evals) “Over focusing” on referral question only Not following up on recommendations made for further testing. Failing to perform an FBA if behavior issue Timeline problems Failing to fully understand needs of child Failing to include classroom teachers in the process / observing (or requesting to) Failing to discuss / consider seemingly relevant points (e.g. apparent data inconsistencies) Failing to consider Section 504 if not IDEA (IEP) eligible Common Evaluation Problems
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Thank you for participating in today’s webinar! For additional information and support please contact: Parent Education Network (PEN) 2107 Industrial Hwy York, PA 17402 717-600-0100 or 800-522-5827 V/TTY Spanish: 800-441-5028 Fax: 717-600-8101 E-mail: email@example.com Web: www.parentednet.org www.facebook.com/ParentEducationNetworkYork twitter.com/PENYork