How many of these statements resonate with you?
- I am concerned about an increase in the number of referrals for special education assessments.
- Our school / district still has a backlog of assessments from the 2020-2021 school year.
- There are a lot of assessments due in the first 30 days of school.
- I want to make sure I am being efficient but also creating legally defensible reports.
If your district is utilizing the Woodcock-Johnson, Fourth Edition Tests of Achievement (WJ IV ACH), then here are some tips to help you with effective and efficient academic assessments.
Before the Assessment:
- Know the reason for referral: The more information you have about why you are assessing this particular student, the more efficient you can be.
- Be aware of district procedures and expectations for academic assessments: If your district has expectations about which subtests should be administered to every student and which ones are supplementary, know them!
- Collect other sources of data: If your district has RTI/MTSS data, review it. If the general education teacher has already administered universal screening tests, look at the results. If work samples already exist this fall, check them out.
During the Assessment:
- Make a test list: It is great that the WJ IV ACH allows administration of tests in any order, but there are best practices in terms of administration. For example, fluency tests should not be administered back-to-back and there should be variation between subjects (i.e., reading, writing, math). While some students love to get the harder tasks out of the way first, others will want to start with their strengths. As you skip around, you don’t want to miss a needed task. Watch your students during the evaluation and proceed accordingly.
- Ask interactive questions: If your student did something during the task that was unusual take note of it; at the end of the administration, ask the student about it. Here are some of my favorite questions to ask: What was the easiest thing we did today? What was the hardest for you? I noticed ___ during the last task. Does that ever happen to you during class? What could I have done to make that last task easier for you?
- Dig deeper when appropriate: There are several tests to choose from within the WJ IV ACH battery. The core tests (1-6) are the recommended starting point, allowing for the Comparison chart to be included in the report, but administering tasks beyond your “basic battery” should be reflective of both the reason for the referral and with how the student is performing along the way.
After the Assessment:
- Batch your scoring: If you have five students to assess this week, wait until you have completed all of them and then do the scoring. It can be difficult to switch contexts, shifting your attention between using the manual to score Writing Samples and then ensuring that you’ve met basal and ceiling requirements when you had to test using the complete page rule. Refer to the basal/ceiling webinar here for more details.
- Pause – check if your data makes sense: Standardized academic data is very helpful, but it is just one data point. Ensure that the scores that you obtained during the WJ IV ACH administration aligns with your other data sources. One of the important parts of the report will be your validity statement. Taking into consideration behavioral observations during the assessment along with other data sources will assist you in making a statement of validity.
- Provide information within the written report that is helpful: The Riverside Score online platform provides several scores and written output that can be helpful when interpreting the results. Use information that you can defend. If you are uncertain what the RPI score refers to, avoid using that in your written report to the parent until you are clear about the meaning. While you use the WJ IV ACH all the time, for most parents, our terminology and jargon can be overwhelming. Put yourself in the parent (and student’s) shoes and think about what would make the most sense to include in the report. To learn more about the RPI score, explore the Making Meaning of Scores webinar here.
Efficiency and effectiveness are two important qualities to balance in the special education evaluation process. Taking the time before the administration to gather the background information on students will assist you in determining the tasks you need to administer for the right diagnostic evaluation. Pay attention during administration to gather feedback on where you should dig deeper. The written report will include information from the standardized testing but requires the assessor’s additional information about the behaviors noted throughout the process.