Tag Archives: measure

New Video: Understanding Special Education Assessment Reports

Now is the time to start preparing for next school year’s IEPs.

Our latest video is one hour and ten minutes packed full of information regarding the purpose of special education assessment, the special education assessment process, the types of tests that can be used, and what to look for in a report’s interpretation of its data.

The low one-time purchase price of $8.99 helps cover our costs of producing parent training videos and providing services to families who otherwise can’t afford our help.

 

This video will give you important guidance about special education assessments so you can make informed decisions as the most important member of your child’s IEP team: the parent. Protect your right to informed consent and meaningful parent participation in the IEP process by educating yourself as much as possible about your child’s unique needs and the special education process. We are proud to bring you this resource and hope you find special education assessments a lot easier to understand once you’ve watched it.

Science-Based Decision-Making in Special Ed

Last month, I wrote an article for Special Education Advisor, a blog operated by some folks located in Chatsworth, CA who are?dedicated to helping parents of children with special needs. You can see the article by clicking here.

The title of the article is “Tying the Science of Special Education to the Law.” Both science and law are fact-based disciplines (or are supposed to be), so this is a big issue for KPS4Parents, these days.?I’m not going to repeat the whole thing here. You can link to it to see what I wrote.

The point is that there is a huge disconnect between the science of special education and the law of special education. As KPS4Parents approaches its 10th year of operation, we are looking at how best to focus our efforts based on what we’ve learned so far and this seems to be the critical nexus where our attention should be focused.

Somebody scientific informed the development of the IDEA. Congress couldn’t have come up with language like “measurable annual goals” and “present levels of performance” without someone who understands the science of it all chipping in.

One of the issues we’re looking to combat on a systemic level is the watering down of the term “measurable” by the public education system. There is only one definition of “measurable” and it doesn’t include ballpark estimations framed as percentages of accuracy. Real percentages are calculated from measurable data. IEPs are required to be reasonably calculated to render meaningful educational benefit, which, again, means using reliable empiricism.

School districts try to argue that they are not bound by the same degree of rigor as scientific research, but the term “measurable” comes from the use of empirical methods ??la science. Hello!!!!!

It has always killed me that our public schools expect 3rd graders to produce science fair exhibits that include a hypothesis, methods (including for measurement), and results in a manner consistent with scientific method but the same school districts that teach this will do everything they can to exempt themselves from the same standards of accuracy when it comes to their duties to educate children with disabilities. Why specialists with advanced degrees think they are?held to a lower standard of technical accuracy than the average 3rd grader is beyond me.

In any event, this is going to be something to which I’ll be devoting a lot of attention. I’ll be doing a lot of research and posting my findings as I go along. I may also be assisting in the development of a legal treatise on the subject, which could be constructive in preventing and resolving special education legal disputes in which measurability is at issue.

If you have any background knowledge on how the scientific terminology of the IDEA ended up in the regulations, please share! You can post your feedback below.

The Roles of District Assessors in Visual Processing Assessments

Click here to download the podcast version of this article.

Depth PerceptionThere is much confusion in many school districts about the assessment of visual processing disorders and appropriate remedies for needs that arise from visual processing disorders in special education students.

Many school districts do not provide expert assessment in visual processing at all, mostly because they don’t understand when expert assessment becomes necessary in order to render a FAPE. But, there is also an underlying fear that is sometimes very overt and other times left unspoken out of shame and guilt; it is the fear of the costs of any services that expert assessment may reveal is necessary for a given student.

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Data Sheets for IEP Goals Must be Individualized, Too


09/25/2011 – UPDATE! Instead of resorting to paper-based data tracking sheets, consider using Goalbook instead. Now in beta – sign up for your free account today at http://goalbookapp.com.


One of the most common search queries that puts people on our web site is for data sheets to use to measure a child’s progress towards his/her IEP goals. The fact that people are looking for pre-written data sheets speaks to the larger issue of anything in IEPs being canned or pre-written.

The term “IEP” stands for Individualized Education Plan. Individualized. As in, tailored to the individual. You don’t tailor an IEP by using pre-written, canned content.

That isn’t to say that you can’t use a basic skeleton of pre-written material as your starting point, but just as goals have to be tailored to the individual needs of the child, the data sheets that measure progress towards that goal must also be tailored to suit the goal. It depends on how the goal is formatted as to how the data sheet should be devised.

For example, if you had a goal that read: “When given a worksheet of 10 single digit subtraction problems per trial, [Student] will accurately calculate the correct answers with at least 80% accuracy in 4 of 5 consecutive trials within a 2-week period as measured by work samples,” then you don’t need a data sheet, per se. You’re using work samples to measure progress towards the goals.

That said, the scores on each assigned worksheet could be conveniently tracked on a single data sheet just to keep the outcomes all in one place. If the worksheets are already required of the student as part of his/her math curriculum, then presumably the grades on each will be recorded by the teacher in a grade book or a computer-based grade tracking system, as well.

But, if you have a “stranger danger” goal that reads: “Following the pre-teaching of one social story per trial, where each social story pertains to a unique situation that calls for [Student] to determine when he should say something to another person, [Student] will appropriately role play speaking or refraining from speaking to the other person as appropriate and what he should say when speaking in 4 of 5 consecutive trials within a three-week period as measured by data collection,” you’re going to have to have a data sheet.

A data sheet could include a table that has a column for the social story titles, a column for the date that each social story was presented and role played, a column indicating how many role-plays it took for the student to correctly give an appropriate response, a column indicating how many prompts were necessary for the student to correctly give an appropriate response, and a column for teacher comments. It might look like this:

Title Date # Role Plays # Prompts Comments
Stranger Wants Money for Beer 09/12/09 2 3 verbal, 1 gestural The first time through, [Student] needed prompting, but after we discussed how he might have handled the situation differently following 1st role play, he was able to complete 2nd role play w/o prompting.
Clown is Giving Out Balloons at the Mall 09/15/09 4 5 verbal [Student] had a hard time grasping that, at age 18, getting a balloon from a clown in the toddler play area at the mall is not age-appropriate. He understood what the role-play required, but he really wanted the balloon and it took 4 role-plays before he demonstrated the desired response. I’m not sure he would respond appropriately in the actual situation.

Just as goal-writing can be likened to science experiments, so can data sheets. Think about every science fair experiment you did as a kid in school. What was required? You had to delineate the steps of each experimental trial and collect data on your outcomes. This is no different. Your data sheets should collect data on what you’re trying to measure, which means you’re going to have to tailor them to each goal for which they are written.

Click here to download a podcast version of this blog article.


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Writing Measurable Annual Goals – Part 1

In our last posting, we talked about present levels of performance. If you haven’t read that yet, read it first before reading today’s posting because you have to understand present levels before you can understand goals. More to the point, you have to understand what a child’s present levels of performance are before you can start even thinking about writing goals.

As stated before, your present levels of performance are your stepping-off points. If an IEP were a race, your present levels would be the starting line and the annual goals would tell you where the finish line is. The annual goals of an IEP describe your desired outcomes- what it is the IEP team believes a child is capable of learning over the course of a year.

Goals are written every year but assessment is only required once every three years. This means that unless additional assessment is done in between triennial assessments, you’re only going to have fresh baseline data from standardized assessments once every three years. The other two years, you’re going to have to pull your present levels from informal assessments and the child’s progress towards the prior year’s IEP’s goals. I’m going to start out with the very beginning of the process, when a child gets an IEP for the first time and move forward from there.

Beginning with the initial assessment data, the IEP team has a fresh body of data to work with that, if the assessment was done properly, tells you pretty much everything that’s going on with a particular child. It will identify the child’s relative strengths and weaknesses, including the areas of deficit that need to be tackled by the IEP. The goals should tackle the areas of deficit for sure.

Some challenges a student faces may not warrant specialized instruction so much as they may simply require accommodation. For example, a child with a circadian rhythm disorder may receive as an accommodation an alternative schedule to the regular school day. That by itself has no bearing on the content of the child’s instruction. The curriculum doesn’t change on the basis of the child’s disrupted sleep/wake cycle. But,when instruction is provided is changed on that basis.

If the same child also happens to be severely autistic, then you’re looking at the content of the instructional component and not just when it’s being offered. Goals address what it is that you’re trying to teach the child. Accommodations help you get around obstacles that would otherwise interfere with pursuit of the goals.

For example, let’s say you have a 5th grade student with average to above-average intelligence who has an auditory processing disorder, a visual processing disorder, ADHD, and a physical anomaly of his hands – he’s missing the distal interphalangeal joints (top knuckles) of his index and middle fingers on both hands. Let’s say that this child also has a history of behavioral challenges in the classroom.

Comprehensive assessment reveals that the student has problems with visual tracking and saccadic eye movements This means that as he reads, his eyes do not smoothly jump from word to word. He has to visually re-orient every time he leaves one word and tries to fixate on the next. This also impacts his writing as he tracks what he’s trying to put down on paper.

However, his writing is further compounded by the physical anomaly of his hands. So, as he’s trying to watch his words go down on paper, his whole arm starts to hurt because he can’t do the fine finger manipulations necessary to achieve letter formation. He’s got to move his whole arm and upper body.

However, yet again, these combined processes are even further compounded by the fact that the child has an auditory processing disorder. Reading is an auditory process until the reader has memorized enough words on sight, thereby building a huge sight-word vocabulary. Children still learning to read or with relatively low reading skills will still have to think about how a relatively complex word sounds when they write it.

All of us do that to a point. We all can throw down “the” and “is” without any thought, but “sphygmomanometer” is another issue. Even after all these years following my 11th grade vocabulary class, I have to sound that one out.

So, imagine this child trying to receptively read the questions on a worksheet while his eyes are jumping everywhere but where he needs to look and process what the visual symbols sound like (which is an unnatural act in the first place) when he has a hard time processing sounds. It’s a gamble as to how much of what he read he’ll comprehend accurately.

Then have him write something about what he just read while trying to formulate his output based on the sounds of language in his head, which he has to translate into visual symbols that he writes backwards and upside-down because that’s how he saw them, while also trying to move his fingers, hand, wrist, and arm in a way that will produce legible handwriting.

Add in the distractibility, impulsivity, and inattentiveness inherent in ADHD, and then ask yourself why this child engages in behavioral outbursts every time he’s given a paper-pencil task. He’s attempting to avoid a tortuous experience. He’d rather get in trouble and get sent to the office than be put through that hell.

The goals you write for a child with needs like this are multifaceted. The problem a parent can face with a child with these kinds of needs is that you run up against a bias on the basis that he’s actually a pretty smart kid and?it may be?easier for the adults at school conclude that he’s just a poorly behaved little monster and nothing more. None of his multiple disabilities by themselves are all that severe. But, when you put them all together,?they create a recipe for disaster.

A child with these kinds of issues needs therapeutic intervention to address the underlying foundational skills that support academics. His goals need to include visual tracking, cross-Corpus Callosum communication of data presented through the auditory array, and exercises to build strength in his arm to withstand the additional work the arm has to do to support handwriting (taking into account that accommodations will also be provided to eliminate handwriting where it’s not necessary to the mastery of the curriculum). He also needs goals in reading, written expression, math (particularly for lining up problems properly so that calculations are accurate), keyboarding, organizational skills, self-advocacy, and behavior.

Because services are only provided to support IEP goals, it is imperative that all areas where services may be needed are discussed in terms of whether or not a student needs goals in those areas. If you’re thinking the student might need speech-language services, then you have to ask “What deficits does the child have in speech-language? What skills need to be taught in order to eliminate or reduce those deficits?” The answer to the second question gives you your material for your goals. If you can’t think of a skill in a particular domain that needs to be taught, then there isn’t a goal to propose. If there’s no goal to propose, there’s no service in that domain to provide.

Better yet, don’t go in thinking about what services a child needs. Figure out the goals first and then figure out what services are going to be necessary to see the goals met. That’s the proper format, anyway.

My point here is that not all goals are going to be rooted in academia and it’s not esoteric to write goals that tackle things like cross-Corpus Callosum communications. The brain is divided into two hemispheres?- the left and right. The two hemispheres are joined together by a neurological bridge of sorts called the Corpus Callosum. When both sides of the brain are involved in processing, the data between the two sides travels back and forth across the Corpus Callosum. This is also referred to as interhemispheric communications or interhemispheric processing.

If a child struggles with tasks that require cross-Corpus Callosum communications between the two hemispheres of the brain, as is often the case with auditory processing, then exercises that cause the brain to practice that kind of neurological activity are therapeutically warranted. This can include having the child bounce on a personal exercise-style trampoline while alternating between hands throwing balls up in the air and catching them. The child could also use a program such as Earobics, Fast Forword?, or Interactive Metronome.

But, if any programs are used, such as those mentioned above, goals need to be written describing what the desired outcome is for the use of each program. The goals will need to target the deficit areas for which the program is being provided based on the baselines that were measured during assessment.

Once you get a solid IEP written with sound, measurable goals, then it’s just a matter of providing the services that will see the goals met and collecting sufficient data along the way to measure how much progress the child is making. Once the year is up and it’s time to write a new IEP, the child’s present levels should be known in terms of the progress made towards the goals worked on for the last year. If you had a sufficient body of goals in all areas of unique educational need that were well-written and generated empirical data that tells you exactly where the child stands versus where he was a year ago, you’re in pretty good shape for writing the IEP for the year coming up.

If the child has made so much progress that it’s time to tackle a whole new skill set that’s the next level up from the goals he just finished, you may need to collect new baseline data in the area of the next skill set. When you’re scaffolding up from foundational skills such as letter-sound recognition, for example, to putting series of letters together to form sounds that are parts of words, you’re really jumping from one type of mental processing to another.

It is one thing to figure out the respective sounds made by “T” and “P” but it’s another thing to stick a vowel in there, string them all together, and come up with top, tip, and tap. Heaven help you when someone throws in an “S” or an “R” and you’ve got to do consonant blends like stop and trap. Because these next-level steps call upon the brain to do something more complex than what it did before, you’ve got to figure out exactly how well the brain can handle that kind of processing before embarking upon a goal so you know how much complexity is reasonable to expect at the end of a year’s worth of work.

Our next posting will actually focus on measurability, specifically. We already talked about this quite a bit when we covered Present Levels of Performance. In our next posting, though, we’ll focus on the formatting of properly written goals and share some resources with you for goal writing.


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KPS4Parents is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, tax ID 65-1195513.
All donations are tax-deductible.