Importance of Collaboration in Student Assessment

Instructor: Linda Winfree

Linda has taught English at grades 6-12 and holds graduate degrees in curriculum and teacher leadership.

Collaboration in student assessment is essential and can take many forms, such as the contributions of students, parents, teachers, and other staff to the assessment process.

Importance of Collaboration in Student Assessment

Assessing a student for placement in a special education program is a multi-faceted process, with the ultimate intent of providing a child with the most suitable education. Many factors are included in this process, and collaboration is key to a successful assessment.

Let's follow a student's assessment process to see how parents, teachers, and staff collaborate.

Using Background Information

A comprehensive look at the available background information on a student is a key part of assessing whether a student qualifies as emotionally-impaired and thus eligible for special education services. Collaboration begins during the collection of this information.

Different staff members may be responsible for collecting and coordinating the background information. While the school psychologist will ultimately interpret the data, the school counselor and special education teacher may also gather information. What, exactly, will the student's team be looking at?

The student's academic history, the overall picture of the child's scholastic life including grades, test scores, and work samples, is important as the team considers strengths and weaknesses. The school psychologist or counselor will work with the student's parent or guardian collect the student's developmental history, which provides an overview of how the child progressed through standard developmental milestones. Delayed or accelerated progress toward these milestones can be valuable indicators to the identification process.

As part of the developmental history, the staff member will also collect background on the family to inform the team's understanding of the child's overall development and any contributing factors. Also, the team collects medical information, either linked to the child's developmental history or based on current medical data.

Contributions to Student Assessment

Just as the various pieces of a child's background play an important role in the assessment process, various people contribute to an accurate evaluation. Julia is a school psychologist currently performing an evaluation of Stephanie, a fifth grader. Concerned about her daughter's anxiety and recent behavior, Stephanie's mother requested the assessment upon the suggestion of Stephanie's pediatrician.

Julia begins by asking Stephanie's general education teachers to complete behavioral rating scales, which assign a numerical number to the frequency a child displays designated behaviors. The teachers also provide anecdotal evidence of Stephanie's behavior, such as plucking at her hair and eyelashes when she finds an activity challenging. If Stephanie's behaviors had resulted in disciplinary actions, Julia would also involve the school's administrators for their input; however, as Stephanie has no discipline record, this is unnecessary for her assessment.

Besides having Stephanie's parents complete a questionnaire on Stephanie's developmental milestones, Julia asks them to complete a similar rating scale to the ones completed by her teachers. Also, the parents complete a questionnaire that provides insight into Stephanie's medical and family history.

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