Evaluation and assessment tools are pervasive in the Public School system to insure that there is a quality and direction in the deliverance of necessary life and career skills to all students. The methods and techniques include levels of formal and informal evaluations of student performance, demonstration skill sets, and an analysis to identify areas of weaknesses and strengths of students so administrators and teachers have an understanding of what areas to target in their teaching.
From a legal perspective, the individual States are responsible for the oversight of Public Education and the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) develops and is responsible for the administration of all formal school assessments. OSPI guidance is intended to provide support for both building-level, central office personnel and anyone who assists, supervises, or evaluates individuals directly instructing students. Regional and district education administrators, who have supervisory responsibility, must be able to determine the quality of the assessment procedures their staff members use when they construct daily, weekly, and term assessments for their classrooms.
Within context of this assignment, interviews were conducted with four public school staff members to gain a better understanding of individual roles and the specifics of current assessment tools and their use. The mix included two Middle School classroom English Language Learner (ELL) teachers (Julie Tzucker and Sofia Saltwick), one Speech Language Pathologists (Deborah Freestone), and one building or School Psychologist (Sara Miller). Their individual roles were mutually supportive and specific to needs of their supported students.
Within the classroom and on a daily bases, teachers use formative assessments of learning activities such as mini quizzes, projects, and class work to measure progress to tailor their future lessons based on the needs of the students. Sofia provided an example of a student focused Energy project in which she realized that after four days of "research" she still had some students not understanding the research or even the topic. Sofia used personal observation, oral questioning, and short student work sheets to recognize her own teaching gaps and then intervened with a mini-lesson outlining the web quest they were to follow. The mini-lesson included a requirement for each student to take notes paying more attention to the research requirements to insure they would not leave out key details needed for their final project.
Throughout the school year, these teachers formatively assess through pictures, class notes, questioning (both students' questions & instructors'), individual portfolios, and parent/student discussions to gauge success. The Washington State Assessment System has two types of assessment tools: state level assessments and classroom-based assessments. On a more summative level, OPSI requires Julie and Sofia to administer specific Classroom-Based Assessment (CBAs) to gauge student understanding of the state learning standards (Grade-Level Expectations-GLEs). The CBAs make sure students are getting key skills and knowledge in Social Studies, the Arts, and Health/Fitness. School districts are required to submit an annual CBA implementation verification reports to OSPI.
There are several summative tests required for all students for progress in reading, writing, & math. The Development Reading Assessment (DRA) tool places students at appropriate levels in a reading class. In-addition, in grades 3-8, the Measurement for Student Progress (MSP) is required. Regional and district "Assessment Coordinators" provide the in-service training for building teaching staff and for non-classroom administrative staffs to functionally administer the OSPI summative tests.
Resources outside the classroom are considered when either formative or summative tests reveal that a child may have learning disabilities that affect educational development. Deborah Freestone, MA, CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language pathologists who works with students who cannot produce speech sounds or cannot produce them clearly; those with speech rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering; with voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice; and those with problems understanding and producing language. Deborah indicated that when ELL students are referred she would consider first how many years they have been exposed to English, compare their speech to same language-speaking peers, compare to siblings, and ask parents to reflect on primary speech and native language abilities. These initial evaluations and the interview with the students ELL teacher are considered formative in nature rather than summative.
If the student is has been in country for 3-5 years, has good attendance, and still lacks progress in the ELL program the student may be considered for referral to the SPED process. If an IEP team decides to test, Deborah will test in English first, and if it is a language concern or a speech concern exists then more standardized tests are considered in both English and the student's native language. Her preferred language test is the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals Edition 4 or CELF-4. This test uses a narrative sample and compare the samples in English and native language. If it is an articulation concern, the Arizona-3 is used to looks at sound errors and reference material is used to decipher common accent substitution of the sound based on their language or a speech disorder. Ultimately, students only qualify for SLP services if all of the age specific common pattern factors are ruled out. Speech-Language Pathologists keep records on the initial evaluation, and participate with the IEP team for progress on further accommodations and standardized speech testing. Most standardized speech testing in the field of Speech Language Pathology requires certification with a master's degree and specific training in test administration.
Additional considerations for Special Learning Disabilities (SLD) were discussed with Sara Miller, a school psychologist with a master's degree certified and licensed by Washington State, and nationally certified by the National School Psychology Certification Board (NSPCB). School psychologists as Educational Staff Associates work with students individually and in groups, as well as address school and district-wide issues. They generally provide core services in the evaluation or assessment of students for accommodation or intervention as part of a team of staff associates and the student's parents within the school district. The evaluation team (general education staff, school psychologists, speech language pathologists, and special education teachers) must consider a variety of assessment tools. Special needs determination cannot be made using one criterion or test. The evaluation examples given for measures used for a severe discrepancy in reading, included; Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement - 2 (KTEA-2), Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement-III (WJ-III), and Wechsler Individual Achievement Test - II. Members of any Evaluation Team must have formal degree based or specific state/district training to administrator, score, and interpret results.
For inclusion in a special education program, an ELL student must show major deficits in a range of academic area (math, reading, and language arts). Classroom performance data must also show major differences between the student's performance and that of same-age peers from the same cultural background. The school psychologist may test an ELL student's performance based on nonverbal criteria such as the Differential Abilities Scale (DAS), Cognitive Assessment System (CAS), and Stanford-Binet. The validity of intellectual assessment with new ELL students or for students from bicultural backgrounds is a concern for both teachers and administrators. The results have to be reviewed with consideration of language and cultural background. If a bilingual student performs in the low to average range on these subtests, and if the student is successful in general education, then under the Washington Administration Codes the student is not eligible for special education.
Within the school setting, the roles and responsibilities for various evaluation procedures for students is nearly divided along the criteria of; "assessments for learning" to support the classroom teaching process and "assessments of learning" mandated by state OSPI direction. Classroom teaching staff have two roles; one to focus on learning activities such as mini quizzes, projects, and class work and another to monitor achievement by administering Classroom-Based Assessments (CBAs) which are a measure of the state learning standards. Educational Staff Associates (school psychologists, speech language pathologists, and district administrative staff) take a more direct responsibility "for assessments of learning" with the administration of alternative and standardized proficiency tests given to measure progress in the basic skills needed to move on to the next steps in life and or to meet state certification standards.