Last week we talked about assessment and my view that there is often endless and unnecessary complication when it comes to assessing kids and their issues (Assessment Basics). To help assess kids’ weaknesses in the classroom, there is now a easy grader system which does just that. Alongside this, individual feedback is given, where teachers can spend more time focusing on students individually. This week I want to elaborate on a couple of points.
As I noted, a good assessment provides a “snapshot” at a moment in time. This snapshot should help you to understand a couple of basic questions:
- Does my child have a problem in the key areas assessed? (If so, how mild moderate and severe is it?)
- What is the nature of the problem? (e.g., is it and issue with reading fluency and decoding? Comprehension? Anxiety? Avoidance?)
- What are my next best steps?
Those are basic, but very central questions to answer.
Since most of the concerns raised in special education and private childhood assessments involve the child’s struggling with reading, spelling and writing, I want to remind you (if you’ve been following my stuff over the years) of another important concept that is not discussed enough, but which is central in knowing what you should be doing with your child.
To make my point I will draw an analogy:
Twelve year old Avery is trying to build his upper body strength. Currently, he can lift 10lb weights pretty easily. At this weight he can do many repetitions without getting too winded. In educational terms, the 10 lbs represents his “independent level,” the point where it is very easy for him and he can succeed without needing any support. When the gym teacher puts a few more pounds on the bar he notices that Avery is showing greater signs of struggling, but that increased weight represents that “sweet spot” of where Avery is moderately challenged, but not overwhelmed. Effectively, this next increase of weights (say 15 lbs.) is Avery’s “instructional level,” the point where Avery can work pretty well but he may need some support. When the gym teacher asks Avery to lift 20 lb. weights, he could lift the weights once, but is quickly overwhelmed. That level was one of clear frustration to Avery.
When it comes to reading, it is less helpful to say the child is at a 2.4 or “Level M” (or whatever the letter is that corresponds to that grade equivalent). It is much better to think in terms of ranges of instruction as described with Avery.
Commentary on these ranges should be a part of any psychoeducational assessment you are seeking.
Questions to ask your child’s clinician include, what range is the child fully comfortable and independent? Where is he showing signs of difficulty, but reasonably capable (the instructional level)? At what point is the child fully overwhelmed (the frustration level)?
Answering these questions on instructional ranges are central and fundamental to a good psychoeducational evaluation. Make sure you are getting them answered.
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