Educators as Assessment Professionals

Blog Post written by Sarah Perkins

I have been thinking a lot about the purpose of assessment in special education. Assessment only serves three purposes: determining if a student has a disability, determining a student’s needs, and planning for services and supports. For reevaluations we don’t even need to worry about eligibility for a disability. But how often are formal assessments directly useful in understanding student needs or planning services?

In most cases, it appears to me that assessments simply confirm the IEP team’s concerns that they already have given the data collection that naturally occurs in schools. I wonder why we feel like we cannot trust teacher data gather over months, but we can trust a standardized assessment administered once every three years. I know that part of this bias stems for the fact that my district still uses the discrepancy model for identifying learning disabilities. This model explicitly devalues classroom data in favor of standardized assessment. That alone would be a good argument for moving away from the discrepancy model.

It seems to me that we would save everyone’s time by treating our staff as professionals that are able to gather information in authentic ways that are meaningful in terms of planning and progress monitoring. This would mean actively encouraging creativity from educators rather that mandating cookie cutter approaches to assessment and progress monitoring (and everything else!). this would also require humility from school psychologists. We would need to admit that our instruments are only one piece of data and are often not useful, even if we feel more comfortable using them. Furthermore, this approach would be more in line with both WSPA and WDE’s stance on reevaluations.

I would love to know more about how other districts are respecting educators as professionals and completing individualized and creative assessments.