I sat down to begin drafting an IEP and discovered that a student’s “current” assessments were pushing three years old. Obviously, a lot can change in three years. In the past, I’ve scrounged around in my filing cabinet and found some type of assessment I felt was appropriate, completed it, and added it in without giving it much more thought; definitely not the best way to approach the very important task of assessing a student.
This year, I decided to improve in this area. I took the time one afternoon to go through the assessment tools I had gathered from various workshops and inherited from teachers before me. I’d previously organized them all in my filing cabinet but had not taken the time to really study them. After going through, I realized how valuable these assessments really are. I kept coming across areas that I know my students need work in; simply reading through the assessments helped me see areas of need I had not considered before.
Also, I have sometimes struggled in the past to clearly describe the skill I want to work on with a student in an IEP objective. I know in my mind what the skills is and looks like, but have difficulty operationally defining it. The great thing I discovered is that many of the assessments did an excellent job of describing these “hard to put into words” skills.
After thorough review of all the tools available, I decided to develop an “assessment packet” to use with each of my students. I wanted the packet to cover the big areas: academics, behavior, and pre-vocational skills. I also needed these assessments to be fairly easy to complete, simple enough to explain to parents and other IEP team members, and useful in pointing me toward possible IEP goals and/or objectives.
These are the assessments that made the cut for my packet:
- Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research Student Learning Profile: This assessment is a tool provided in a curriculum purchased by my school district over a year ago. It is rooted in Applied Behavior Analysis and covers the following areas: receptive and expressive language, functional routines, pre-academic and academic concepts, and social interaction concepts. I complete this at the beginning of every school year on each of my students. I mainly rely on this tool as an academic assessment since it covers the basic reading and math skills needed to progress further in either area (i.e., letter recognition, basic phonetic knowledge, counting skills, simple addition/subtraction).
- Moby Math Placement Test: Moby Math is another curriculum resource my school district subscribed to over a year ago. I didn’t explore it very much until this year, however, and I wish I’d done so much sooner. It begins with a placement test which gives a grade level equivalency for each student’s math skills. I really like this because I’ve found many parents relate better to hearing “your child is on a ____ grade math level” as opposed to an explanation about the math skills they do or do not have mastered.
- Behavior Skills Checklist: This assessment was actually created by the behavior specialist in my school district. It includes twenty-seven behavior skills considered important for appropriate school behavior by teachers and other school personnel (i.e., expresses opinions and resolves disagreements in an appropriate manner; participation in class discussions in ways not disruptive to the class). Each skill is marked as “satisfactory,” “needs to improve,” or “much improvement needed.” A percentage for each classification is then calculated. This assessment is especially great for developing IEP goals and/or objectives related to behavior and social skills.
- Learning Skills Checklist: I got my hands on this assessment at a teacher training I attended last year. It covers skills and behaviors essential for learning, such as understanding the concept of “finished,” working independently, and understanding rewards as consequence of work. For each skill, detailed descriptions are provided to help me determine if a student does or does not have this skill or is in the emergent stages.
- Tennessee Pre-vocational Skills Checklist: This is one of my absolute favorites! It’s used by the majority of special education teachers in my district. As the name suggests, it focuses on pre-vocational (or what I like to call “grown-up”) skills (following one- and two-step directions, identifying common abbreviations, completing work tasks independently, filling out forms, etc). Each skill is marked as “mastered” or “not mastered,” which definitely keeps it simple to complete and explain to others. The majority of my pre-vocational goals for my students come directly from this assessment.
- School Adaptive Behavior Observation: This assessment asks for the target student to be compared with a typically developing peer of the same age or grade in the following skill areas: educational behavior, social development, communication, pre-vocational/vocational, and self-help. If the student’s behavior is consistent with a peer, “yes” is marked; if not, “no” is marked. There is also available space for describing the student’s present behavior. This tool is helpful for pinpointing areas of adaptive behavior that, if improved upon, could enable students to be more successful in inclusive school and community environments.
I’ve used my packet twice since putting it together and feel like it gives me a solid place to start when developing goals and/or objectives and planning for my kids. I’m sure the contents will change over time, but it seems to be meeting my needs for now.
The week I compiled it, I actually had one of the elementary special education teachers from my district call and ask what assessments I used for my students. I was so relieved to have a definite answer for her instead of an “uhhh...let me get back to you on that”!
Do you have a similar set of assessments for your students? What assessments have you found most valuable? What might need to be adapted in my assessment packet?