Emerging Learner-Centered Principles of Assessment
1. The fundamental purpose of any educational assessment of students should be to promote meaningful learning.
2. The design of standards of excellence and assessment systems should be negotiated by the participants; including parents, teachers, administrators and students; in districts and states in order to insure commitment and ownership among primary stakeholders.
3. Assessment should elicit student's genuine effort, motivation and commitment to the goals of assessment and foster self-appraisal and self-regulated learning.
4. The strategies, skills and knowledge required to excel on academic assessments should be the same as those required to master the curriculum on a daily basis.
5. Assessments should be based on authentic and meaningful tasks that are aligned with the regular curriculum and instruction provided in the classroom.
6. Assessment should provide credibility and legitimacy to a broad range of talents and accomplishments of students across the curriculum.
7. A single national test of academic achievement should be avoided because it cannot do justice to the diversity of student's accomplishments in our heterogeneous and multicultural society.
8. Assessments should be fair and equitable to all students regardless of prior achievement, gender, race, language or cultural background.
9. Assessments should provide for periodic review and revision among the participants and consumers of assessment information.
10. Assessment should occur continuously in classrooms in order to provide longitudinal evidence of individual growth and progress.
11. Assessments should measure student's motivations, attitudes, and affective reactions about the curriculum as well as their cognitive skills, strategies and knowledge.
12. Assessments should include exhibits, portfolios, and performances to demonstrate achievement in addition to traditional paper and pencil tests.
13. The results of assessment should provide clear, comprehensible and immediate feedback to the participants.
14. Assessments need to include provisions for multiple plausible responses and growth in understanding through "errors."
15. Assessment can allow for creative and self-determining constructions and expressions of knowledge, rather than continuously focusing on predetermined problem and answer sets.
16. Design assessment strategies that provide information about how learners are learning as well as information about what they have learned. Include instructional strategies that will provide information about how learning is taking place.
17. Assessment information may be utilized to plan further learning activities that build on student strengths and meet their needs for further growth. Help students evaluate progress towards their own learning goals based on diagnostic information about individual student learning.
18. Assessments may include planned subjective tests that students do in a cooperative learning style (groups of two). Variations include working without a text and discussing opinions and facts, sharing ideas and using the texts and notes to justify answers or perspectives,
19. Assessments may include access to technology, educational media, and materials for all students to develop accessing skills, and problem solving strategies.
20. Assessment can foster personal learning goals and outcomes as redefine success for each individual student and teacher, and students may participate as team members in the assessment, evaluation, and communication processes.
The choices might include types of products for demonstrating achievement of educational standard measures for student growth, which allow for the highest levels of performance on developmentally appropriate standards. Standards are formulated in such a way that every student has an opportunity to excel at something, which promotes students' self-reflection on their growth by providing opportunities for self-assessment and thoughtful feedback on the learning process.
Consider alternative scoring and reporting strategies that focus on individual achievement of valued standards rather than normative grading practices, which will lead to the desire for all students to participate fully and successfully in our society as lifelong learners.
Click on the link for a recent article from the Educational Researcher Magazine by author Robert Linn. The article is an interesting history of assessments and accountability from 1950 to current times.
Assessment of students with learning differences is serious business as Salem-Keizer School District found out from twelve (12) parents. Please click here for more on the Gifted and Talented students at the Salem-Keizer District of Oregon.
Other reasons for assessments in special educational settings include: Screening and identification: to screen children and identify those who may be experiencing delays or learning problems
Eligibility and diagnosis is most commonly used to determine whether a child has a disability and is eligible for special education services, and to diagnose the specific nature of the student's problems or disability
Know what you want from an assessment. Another way to think about it is to answer the question, "What do I want to know about the student upon completion of the assessment?"
Two common goals include:
Individualized Education Program (IEP) development and placement: to provide detailed information so that an IEP may be developed and appropriate decisions may be made about the child's educational placement;
Instructional planning: to develop and plan instruction appropriate to the child's special needs; and Evaluation: to evaluate student progress.
There are “Alternative” methods that educators can utilize to enhance the spirit of “Exceptional Learner/Gifted/Talented” students and challenge the minds of all other youngsters within the same classroom on the same day. Some of the characteristics teachers might use to identify with in an exceptional learner who is gifted or talented include the following:
Click here to get ideas and read “True Stories” of regular classroom teachers who today look at inclusion and assessments through a new window of opportunity:
A web site of ideas for curriculum alternatives to motivate gifted and talented students:
Although a child may be gifted in many areas they are not covered by the regulations of IDEA 97. Many believe that schools can usually provide these services. Multicultural perspectives of giftedness acknowledge a cultures value and will encourage special areas of giftedness that are valuable to the survival of that culture. Giftedness is frequently judged on the basis of a formal IQ score. A gifted student may be identified by an IQ of at least 130, which includes only two percent of the population. For further information, click here.
Emotional & Behavioral Disorders and Assessment (34CFR403.203-- Sec. 403.203)
There are a wide variety of characteristics that increase the severity of emotional and behavioral problem in children. Recent gene research confirms the probability that elements of personality are likely to be inherited. In addition, Poverty can be associated with increased emotional/behaviorally problems from infancy throughout life. A number of social issues can disrupt or, encompass a child’s life and contribute to emotional and behavioral disorders. School rejection can be an exacerbating force. Mia Farrow recalls a high school dance in which every girl was asked to dance on the floor except her. The late cartoonist Charles Schulz probably never forgot how the high school yearbook refused his cartoon. John Denver was called four-eyes all through his school years. Ali McGraw reports never having a date through school. Gregory Peck was regarded as the least likely to succeed in life. Henry Kissinger was referred as the “little fatso with whom nobody would eat lunch.” My friend once had a teacher ask me in class if my mother had any children who lived. A child's well-being can be affected in a positive or negative light by school treatment. Comedian Mel Brooks sums it up as follows: “Thank God for athletes and their rejection. Without them there would have been no emotional need and …I’d be a Crack Jack salesman in the garment department.”
Assessment formats a teacher might utilize to focus on student behavior include:
Interpersonal interaction observations
Teacher and parent observations
Communication skills assessment (e.g. personal interviews & conferences)
Instructional analysis (task, abilities and related processes)
Criterion-referenced assessments (individualized techniques)
Social functioning data assessments (sociometric techniques both individual and group) Norm-referenced instruments (including behavioral rating scales)
Communication Disorder (34 C.F.R., Sec. 300: [b] ) is identified in two categories: speech disorder and language disorder. Academic, social and emotional growth can be delayed/impaired due to communication issues. A language disorder 34(C.F.R., Part 300, Sec 300.7) is an impairment and/or disorder that mirrors a person’s inability to develop or comprehend a message.
High risk factors include:
A child of any age can have an audiological evaluation. The evaluation technique used depends upon the developmental age of the infant or child. Some methods include
Auditory Brain stem Response (ABR) testing at any age (including premature infants)
Visual Response Audiometry (VRA) designed to elicit consistent and reliable responses from only a few months of age
Play Audiometry is used at around 2 1/2 years of age until the child is able to respond consistently to the conventional evaluation techniques used with adults.
Speech disorder is a cluster of disorders/impairments that affect the production/composition of sounds, rhythm of speech, and/or voice control. If speech and language development begins normally and then stops, this could be a signal to the parent, guardian, and/or teacher to request for a hearing evaluation. Speech pathologists can provide assessment expertise and support for children, families and school personnel.
Characteristics that represent speech disorders/impairments include:
Articulation of speech sounds, fluency, or voice
Problems sending messages
Impairments in pitch, intensity, resonance, and vocal quality
Mispronouncing words, distorted sounds
Language disorder: Comprehension of information, formulating a spoken, written, or symbolic response
Difficulty organizing ideas
Sounds word forms
Word order and sentence meaning Social use of language
Types of assessments for language and communication disorders might include the following:
Norm-referenced instruments (including behavioral rating measures)
Teacher and parent observations
Criterion-referenced assessments a. speech and language tests
Ecological assessment techniques
Systematic observation techniques
Individual trait or personality assessments (e.g. interviews and conferences)
Social functioning data assessments (e.g. sociometric techniques both individual and group)
Visual Impairments come in a variety of forms. (34 C.F.R., Sec. 300: [b] )
Functionally Blind Legally blind Low vision Tunnel Vision
Key indicators: * continual build up of matter or crusting in eyes * watery eyes * itchy eyes * complains of or appears to be describing blurred vision * holds books/toys at a distance when reading or playing * headaches with nausea * reads with one eye closed, * reads leaning on one eye * complains continually about eyes * stumbles over things, * walks into people with lack of awareness * bumps into people when turning or reversing course
These indicators suggest screening by a professional since they are also associated with migraine headaches and allergies.
Teacher and parent observations
Functional vision evaluation
Orientation and mobility evaluation
Learning media assessment
Severe and Multiple Disabilities (34 C.F.R., 315.4 [d])
There is “not one simple” definition that accompanies severe and multiple handicaps. Almost 90% of children with mental retardation are limited in activity because of the condition. Children in the severe category can have an IQ of 25 to 39. These individuals may learn how to talk, do some simple tasks but require extensive supervision. Organic mental retardation is attributed to brain damage or by genetic disorder.
Down Syndrome is a classic example of organic mental retardation. These children carry an extra chromosome. Most people with Downs have an IQ of 0 to 50.
Cerebral palsy limits mobility and decreases the person's ability to maintain willful control of the body. In some cases the intelligence is affected, but in many youngsters, the intelligence is intact. Notable examples are Christy Brown and Steven Hawkings.
Epilepsy and diabetes rank next in causing activity limitation, although the level of risk is roughly half that of mental retardation and cerebral palsy.
Other selected impairments include cleft palate and spina bifida.
Students with severe and multiple disabilities may have their lives affected in the areas of:
health care needs
Types of assessments Occupational and Physical therapists can provide assessment expertise and support for many of the issues surrounding physical limitations. In addition, the following types of assessment provide insight in providing optimum services for youth:
APGAR scales Developmental assessment
Teacher and parent observations
Behavior states assessment
Action plan assessment
Adaptive behavior scales
Learning Disability (PL) 94-142 This is the largest group of students identified as having special needs. Close to fifty percent or 1/2 of all students in special education are identified with a learning disability. Each state has criteria for identifying students with learning disabilities, which usually refer to IDEA and NJCLD.
The three criteria that children must meet in order to receive learning disability classification include:
Severe discrepancy between demonstrated ability and actual achievement
Exclusion of other factors that might explain the discrepancy
Substantiated need for special services
Other resources of study for this “monolithic group” include:
Autism (34 C.F.R., Part 300, 300.7 [b])
Imagine having a seemingly healthy son one day who increasingly behaves more out of character before the young age of three. Three to four times as many males as females are diagnosed with autism. The early indicators of autism include difficulties in maintaining eye contact, gestural communication, proto declarative pointing, and echolalia
The United States Department of Education in 1996 reported that 22,768 students with Autism were being served by schools nation wide. Characteristics that accompany autism are wide ranging and may include:
Language delay or failure
Need for environmental predictability
Sensory and movement disorders
Impaired intellectual functioning
Evaluation and assessment of whether a student is a candidate for autism include:
Medical or psychological professionals, teachers, and parents observe the child
Individual trait assessment or personality assessments (e.g. interviews and conferences)
Speech and language tests
Individualized intelligence test
Individualized achievement tests
Adaptive behavior scales
Health Impairments (34CFR403.203-- Sec. 403.203)
In 1975, over one million children with disabilities were excluded from public schools. Another four million children with disabilities, while attending school, were not receiving educational services they needed-either because their disabilities were undetected or because schools did not offer the services they needed. Virtually no disabled preschoolers received services. [Files of the Office for Civil Rights]. After PL94-142 was enacted, services began to increase. Child Find was initiated and funded and Block Grants were provided to states to increase preschool services. In one generation the program has progressed so that the majority of young children are identified and either provided infant stimulation services at home or served in early childhood programs in local communities.
Though not the most severe impairment, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) draw attention because of the child's apparent inability to cooperate and parental and teacher feeling of the child being out of control. A child will usually show signs before the age of seven. The actual causes are not known although candidates for explaining ADD and ADHD include heredity, prenatal damage, diet, environmental assaults, including allergies and toxins. A recent study suggests that children with the syndrome may have lower brain glucose levels than children of the same age and gender group.
ADD ADHD and the pattern of symptoms were recognized for over a decade. AD/HD is divided into three separate subfields:
Predominantly Combined Type - the child will have a variety of character tics such as impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactive.
Predominantly Inattentive Type - the child will display much inattention with little hyperactivity or impulsivity.
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type - the child will show signs of hyperactivity, impulsivity, but little inattention.
An EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION may be performed by a school psychologist or by a private professional trained to test for learning disabilities. A PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION (IQ test) must be administered by a licensed psychologist. Many children are also tested by family doctors.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder scales
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
Continuous performance tests can determine difficulties with attention and/or memory.
Teacher and parent observations Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder scales
Behavior rating scales
Suggested Questions to Ask Before the Assessment What is the professional's background? (specialty, education, training, etc.) What is his or her experience with ADD / ADHD assessment? How does the professional test for ADD / ADHD? How much does an assessment cost? What methods does the professional use to treat ADD / ADHD? (medication, therapy, behavior modification, etc.)?
After the Assessment/ Discussing the Results: What are the follow-up recommendations? What are the options? What are some suggestions for handling the challenges of parenting?
Today, 5.6 million children are served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This federal law, along with other federal disability legislation, has changed exclusion to participation, dependence to independence, lost potential to learning and productivity - Nineteenth Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1997, page A-1.
Effective assessment is integrated with instruction to continue learning progress and is authentic in content and performance requirements. Effective measures should enhance personal progress, growth and achievement, rather than comparing an individual's performance with the performance of others, assessment should foster personal learning goals, objective and outcomes a it is possible to redefine success for each individual student ant teacher. shoulders can participate in the assessment, evaluation and communication process.\
State and district standards should be based not on competition but on self-selected or collaborative learning goals that promote self-generated solutions, which enables students to make various choices. The choices might include types of products for demonstrating achievement of educational standard measures for student growth, which allow for the highest levels of performance on developmentally appropriate standards. Standards are formulated in such a way that every student has an opportunity to excel at something, which promotes students' self-reflection on their growth by providing opportunities for self-assessment and thoughtful feedback on the learning process. Consider alternative scoring and reporting strategies that focus on individual achievement of valued standards rather than normative grading practices, which will lead to the desire for all students to participate fully and successfully in our society as lifelong learners.
No matter how many adaptations we make to instruction, evaluations and grades can keep youth from feeling successful. We can adapt instruction more successfully when we align evaluation and grading to support and faithfully report learning successes.
E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at Janne.Ellsworth@nau.edu
Course developed by J'Anne Ellsworth
Copyright © 1999
Northern Arizona University