Recently we talked about assessment and my perspective that there is often endless and unnecessary complication when it comes to assessing kids and their issues (see Assessment Basics).
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 understand a couple of basic questions, such as:
- Does my child have a problem in the key areas assessed? (If so, how mild moderate and severe is the problem?)
- What is the nature of the problem? (i.e., Is it and issue with decoding? Comprehension? Anxiety? Avoidance? Where does the problem lie?)
- What are my next best steps?
Those are basic, but very central questions to answer. In my opinion they are the essence of what should be asked within any assessment.
Beyond these questions another issue to consider, not discussed enough in my opinion, is the one of instructional levels.
To illustrate, I will paint a picture for you from a different facet of life – weight lifting. (Not speaking from persona experience, I might add.)
Twelve year old Jason is trying to build his upper body strength. Currently, he can lift 20lb weights pretty easily. At this weight he can do many repetitions without getting too tired or overwhelmed. Effectively, 20 lbs are easy for Jason.
In instructional 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 Jason is showing signs of struggling, but that increased weight represents that “sweet spot” of where Jason is moderately challenged, but not overwhelmed.
Effectively, this next increase of weights (say, to 25 lbs.) is Jason’s “instructional level,” the point where Jason can lift pretty well, but it’s getting tough. When the gym teacher asks Jason to lift 30 lb. weights, he could lift the weights, but with a great deal of effort. He is quickly overwhelmed. That level was simply to hard and a point of clear frustration to Jason.
When it comes to reading (and spelling and writing, for that matter), 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 Jason lifting weights. That is, where is it easy for the child, where is it starting to get more difficult, and where is it simply to hard. These are also essential questions to have answered.
Commentary on these ranges should be a part of any assessment that you are seeking. In other words in the snapshot, where is the child comfortable (independent) and where is he/she reasonably comfortable, but starting to getting “winded” or overwhelmed.
Answering these questions on instructional ranges are central and fundamental to a good evaluation. Make sure you are getting them answered.
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