Category Archives: Assessment

Equal vs. Fair- Changing Attitudes

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fair
If you are looking to revamp your class in 2014, let me suggest that you start by changing attitudes. The best classrooms I’ve been in offer differentiated instruction for ALL students based on individual abilities. To accomplish this you may have to change the atmosphere of your class by adjusting the attitudes of your students’. (And maybe even yourself?)

We live in a society that promotes equality for all. Kids grow up expecting to be treated EXACTLY the same way as the students sitting next to them.

I’m not opposed to equality. Equality is the foundation of equal access. Equal access is mandated by NCLB and means that EVERY student, no matter his or her ability, should have equal access to high quality education.

But in today’s inclusive classrooms, providing equal access in the form of accommodations and modifications is often seen as “unfair”. The practice of students (GT, ESL, Special Ed. etc…) leaving the General Ed classroom to receive services is becoming less and less common. Instead ALL students are staying in the General Ed (mainstream) setting to be educated. This means students who have never been exposed to these differences and teachers who may have never taught to these differences are now seeing what it takes for some students to even ACCESS the General Ed curriculum.

Now whether or not you agree with this shift is a debate for another time. The point of this post is that inclusion is our reality. Agree or disagree, if you want to be a good teacher you must start thinking about how you can address the diverse needs in your classroom. The way to do this is with differentiated instruction.

Differentiated instruction in today’s classroom is no different than it has been for the last 20 or more years. Good teachers have always looked at ability as the base of individualizing instruction. The difference in today’s classroom is that the range of student abilities is sometimes wider and there are a greater number of students who need accommodations and/or modifications to have equal access the General Ed curriculum.

The diversity in one class can sometimes be overwhelming. I’ve talked with lots of great teachers (both new and experienced) who get frustrated and down on themselves because there are so many needs in their classes and they don’t know how to address them all.

I don’t have a magic answer. And to be honest there is no ONE answer. But the best place to start is with differentiating your instruction. That can also be overwhelming and in my opinion the first step is the hardest. The first step is to change attitudes.

Differentiation starts with an understanding of equal vs. fair. I found the following statement on Pinterest with a link to this site:www.msfultzcorner.com I don’t where it originated.

I would post this in my classroom and review it regularly.

EQUAL vs. FAIR

Equal means the same.
I will not be treating you exactly the same way.

Being fair means that I will do my best to give each student what he or she needs to be successful.

What you need and what someone else needs may be very different.

I will always try to be FAIR but this means things won’t always feel EQUAL.

Start teaching your students NOW that you are going to challenge everyone and that means they won’t always use the same materials, work on the exact same assignment or be assessed in exactly the same way. But that’s OK, because everyone will be working toward success.

Differentiation is a shift in the way you structure your class, plan your lessons and teach your students. You can’t make that shift without changing the attitudes around EQUAL vs. FAIR.

There are a lot of challenges in education. If you became a teacher because you thought you’d work an 8-4 job and have all summer off; I bet you feel stupid now. Don’t get overwhelmed. Take one challenge at a time. Change one thing that isn’t working for you and keep moving forward.

Happy New Year!

Below are some great websites to learn more about differentiated instruction.

http://www.differentiatedinstruction.net/

http://www.caroltomlinson.com/

http://www.paulakluth.com/

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Take advantage of Targeted Feedback

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I recently attended a workshop over evaluation.  One of the presenters discussed various forms of data that can be used in an evaluation.  Best practice dictates that you have multiple data sources that contribute to your finding of, or lack there of, a disability.

One of the sources that she discussed that I haven’t given much thought to was targeted feedback.  If you are new to education, or a parent who isn’t familiar with this term, targeted feedback is feedback over a specific skill that a teacher gives a student.  It goes beyond Xs for wrong answers and checks for correct answers.  It targets the specific skill the student is struggling with in order to assist them in making progress toward mastering that skill set.

Good teachers do this all the time, whether they realize it or not.  When you show or tell a student that their calculation is correct, but they put the decimal in the wrong spot.  That is targeted feedback.  When you discuss verb tense to correct a writing problem.  That is targeted feedback.  Even novice teachers do this naturally because we all understand that if a student is going to make progress and not make the same mistakes over and over we have to re-teach what they are missing.

So how does this tie to assessment? If you have a student who is in Tier 1 or 2 RtI and you think they may have a disability, information from this feedback and follows ups on how effective it is could help in an assessment.  You can keep this data through work samples.  The student completes an assignment.  You mark what was right and wrong and give targeted feedback on how to correct the mistakes, document this right on the work sample.  Then follow up by writing on the sample or in a separate documentation form if this targeted feedback was effective or if you have to find new means to re-teach the information.  How many times and ways you are teaching a given concept before the student reaches mastery is important.  That’s part of RtI.

You can also use exit tickets that cover topics you’ve provided targeted feedback on.  An exit ticket is a ticket with a question from class that the student must answer and hand to you on the way out the door.  If they miss it you quickly re-teach and provide examples.  It’s one way to see if students are retaining concepts taught during class.

EX: The student is struggling with verb tense and you’ve provided targeted feedback in several ways.  Have them do an exit ticket on verb tense and keep it as documentation as to if they are making ground toward mastery or continuing to struggle.

You wouldn’t have to do this everyday or with every student.  Pick 5 students a day and write exit tickets specifically for them.  Or pre-write questions and randomly select students to answer them on the way out.  You can change this strategy to meet the needs of your classes.

There are lots of little things that teachers do everyday that can help in determining if a child has a specific learning disability and more importantly help in designing interventions to meet the child’s needs.  If you have a student who is struggling get with your evaluation personnel and ask what kind of data you should be keeping to help with an evaluation.

ADHD Information for teachers and parents

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a medically diagnosed disability that affects both attention and hyperactivity.  The disorder can come in three forms, attention deficit only, hyperactive only or combined type.  However, since 1994 ADHD has been used as the term to describe all three forms. While a school district cannot diagnose ADHD they can provide valuable information that can lead a physician to make the correct diagnosis.

What teachers and parents need to understand about ADHD is that it affects different parts of the brain making it hard for students to focus, sit still, listen and pay attention.  It comes in degrees from mild to sever, so it may look different from student to student.  There is medication that can help with both hyperactivity and focus, but this is a discussion that the parent would need to have with the child’s doctor.

With or without medication, students with ADHD are capable of completing assignments and being productive members of a classroom.  But depending on the severity of the students ADHD and whether or not it is accompanied by another disability, the teacher may need to make some accommodations to the student’s work and or environment.

As a teacher what can I do to help my ADHD students?  First and most important be patient and try to understand that some of the behavior may be out of the students’ control.  That doesn’t mean you have to let the child get away with whatever they want, but it’s hard to punish something they can’t stop.  So instead of thinking about punishment, think in terms of prevention.  Here are some ideas for common problems.

Won’t stay in their seat:  Watch the student for a few days to get an idea of how long they typically stay in their seat. ( you can track this data using forms from The Data Dilemma) Then, get a timer.  Let them know they have to stay seated for X number of minutes (time will vary based on age) and when the timer goes off they can go sharpen their pencil, get a tissue of what ever excuse you can find to let them get out of their seat.  Then slowly increase the time.   This keeps the power in your hands.  You are deciding when and how the student gets up, but they are getting the movement they need.  For older kids who have more self-control, put them in a seat that is in a less distracting location (possibly the back row or off to one side) and tell them they can get up whenever they need as long as they stay within so many feet of their desk and do NOT disturb other students.  You can use tape to mark the “safe” area around their desk it needed.  Or even give them a tall table or podium and let them stand while they work, as long as they aren’t districting to others.

Won’t stay on task: This is the number one concern I hear from teachers of all students, ADHD or not, “I can’t get them to focus long enough to learn.”  Obviously the first thing you need to do is make sure the student is capable of completing the work.  If the work is significantly above their level they aren’t going to stay focus.  You need to differentiate the assignment based on educational need.  (That’s a topic for another post.)  So assuming they are capable of completing the work ,here are a few ideas.  Put the student in an area that is less distracting.  This can be done by putting up a folder to block the other kids, turning the students desk around of putting up a divider between desks.  I know you don’t want to isolate a student, so start with something that can be moved once work is completed.  But don’t be afraid to move a student’s desk to a new location if it will help them learn.  What you DON’T want to do is put the student in the hall.  This takes away instructional access.  Also try listing out steps.  If the student can mark off the steps as they go it will help them stay organized and keep moving forward.  Also think about using a reward system like  picture rewards.  Have the student work to earn or remove puzzle pieces.  When all the pieces are either taken away or put together, depending on how you set it up, they earn what the picture makes, like free time or computer time.  (Make it so they don’t earn all the pieces unless the work is complete).Also the timer in this case can help; focus on not only staying in your seat but also being productive.

 

Loses everything: Students with ADHD sometime also struggle with executive functioning skills, like organization.  Because of this, they will lose everything you give them.   The key is to help them get organized in an age appropriate way. First graders may have homework folders that they have to bring in and put in a bucket.  Then the teacher later takes out old homework and puts in new.  So all the first grader has to do is remember to give the folder to their parent.  But high school students will be responsible for homework in several classes and every class will expect them to turn it in a different way.  So you may need to help them with a folder system.  Then if they will get in the habit of putting all homework in the folder system they’ll know where it is; of course this doesn’t guarantee they will take it home and complete it.

 

They’re not listening:  I hear from teachers all the time that students aren’t listening and in some cases they aren’t.  But sometimes they are listening to more than we know; it just doesn’t look like it.  I was observing a 7th grade boy with moderate ADHD in Math on day.  He was extremely off task, signing and making noises.  The teacher (who was a sub and did not know this student) was asking kids to give answers to questions that were written on the board.  While the student did not understand the concept of raising his hand and waiting to be called on (a much-needed social skill that will be discussed in a later post) he did shout out 5 answers and 3 of them were correct.  Three out of five! For a student with ADHD and a Learning Disability that isn’t bad.  My point is he didn’t appear to be listening, but apparently he was catching on to something.   Now this is not to say let your students sing and shout out answers, but understand that they may listen and fidget at the same time.  For fidgety kids try a pipe cleaner or shoelace they can twist around their finger.  Also try other fidget tools like stress balls and different textured strips of fabric.  Click FIDGET TOOLS for more ideas.  And remember, listening skills are LEARNED SKILLS.  So no matter what grade you teach you may need to review how to be an active listener.  Post rules such as eyes face front while mouth is shut and hand up mouth shut to remind students what they need to be doing.   If you start this way on day one after a few weeks you may not even need to stop teaching to correct a talkative student; simply get their attention and point to the appropriate rule.

Can’t follow class rules:  Often time’s students with ADHD get into trouble in school.  There is NOT a disability or disorder that makes you incapable of following classroom rules!!  ADHD is not an excuse to act however you want.  It is important that teachers are firm and fair.  The rules need to be set from day one and enforced.  That is why the teacher needs to keep the control.  If you know an ADHD student has trouble sitting for long periods of time give them an excuse to get up.  Then YOU gave the permission therefore they aren’t breaking a rule.  As a teacher I can tell you when it comes to ANY disability you will either figure out what the kids need and get it to them or fight it all year.  You don’t want to waste a year fighting a loosing battle.  Instead make some modifications, keep control in your hands and allow everyone in your class to learn.  ADHD is not a free pass to run around the class and never complete assignments.  But it is a disorder that may require some adjustment in assignments and environment.

For more information on how to keep your student’s attention check out this article,

“20 Ways to keep your Student’s Attention”

Now from the other side, as a parent what can I do to help my student with ADHD?  Patients and understanding are going to be key from the parent’s side as well.  Remember to be patient with your child; they may struggle, but also patient with the teachers as the work with you through the years.

Know what’s going on at school: Talk to your child’s teachers.  Let them know your child has ADHD and give them information about what you do at home.  Find out what they are doing at school.  IF they are using a timer and working on staying in your seat, then you use a timer at home and work on the same thing.  Reinforce what’s happening at school.

Be mindful of other students:  Keep in mind that your child’s teacher is also working with other students.  There may be 20 other kids in that class who also need to learn.  So if there is an idea you think is awesome, share it, but remember it may need to be modified to fit into the classroom setting.  The key is figuring out what your child needs and finding a way to integrate it into the classroom.

Don’t assume the teacher knows:  Don’t assume your child’s teacher has worked with kids who have ADHD before.  They may not have training in this area, so don’t be afraid to offer resources such as helpful websites and give them a chance to learn.

Talk about medication: While the school cannot and should make medication recommendations; it is important for them to know what meds your child is on and if they change.  If you plan on taking your child off their medication or changing meds or dosage let the school know in advance.  This may affect behavior and the school needs to be prepared.

Listen to the teachers: Sometimes when parents get frustrated with teachers or schools they want to discredit everything the school has to say.  This is a mistake.  Listen to one and other.  Just like you have valuable information about your child the school has valuable information about their educations.

For more information on ADHD including diagnosis, medication and strategies click on ADHD. 

 

 

 

Executive Functioning: How is it affecting your students?

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When we talk about students who struggle academically we typically talk about the academic area of need, reading, math, oral expression.  As they continue to struggle we may start looking at cognitive areas such as short-term and long-term memory.  But as a teacher I was not aware of Executive Functioning and how it affected my students.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities defines Executive Functioning as “ a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action.” We use Executive Functioning to perform tasks such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space.

These types of activities are needed for everyday life!  This is a cognitive process that affects all areas of life from academics to social development.

Executive function allows us to:

  • Make plans
  • Keep track of time and finish work on time
  • Keep track of more than one thing at once
  • Meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions
  • Evaluate ideas and reflect on our work
  • Change our minds and make mid-course corrections while thinking, reading, and writing
  • Ask for help or seek more information when we need it
  • Engage in group dynamics
  • Wait to speak until we’re called on

If you have students struggling with these areas you should consider some simple accommodations.  A student does not have to be Special Ed, 504 or have any other label to receive these accommodations in the classroom and they may make a difference in their ability to learn.  Through time some students can improve their Executive Functioning skills or learn to manage them through organizational strategies.

Strategies found at the National Center for Learning Disabilities

General Strategies

  • Take step-by-step approaches to work; rely on visual organizational aids.
  • Use tools like time organizers, computers or watches with alarms.
  • Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
  • Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
  • Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activities.

Managing Time

  • Create checklists and “to do” lists, estimating how long tasks will take.
  • Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
  • Use visual calendars at to keep track of long-term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
  • Use management software such as the Franklin Day Planner, Palm Pilot, or Lotus Organizer.
  • Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.

Managing Space and Materials

  • Organize work space.
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Consider having separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
  • Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.

Managing Work

  • Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student’s checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions; etc.
  • Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work; troubleshoot problems.

For more information check out these websites:

http://www.ldonline.org/article/29122/

https://www.scholastic.com/resources/article/explaining-executive-function

http://www.ldinfo.com/executive_functioning.htm

I HAVE STUDENTS STRUGGLING AND IT’S ONLY WEEK 3!

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Most schools are about to start week three.  The first two weeks are a combination of setting a routine, setting boundaries and getting to know your students.   But by now you may already have concerns for some students behavior and/or academics.  This applies to both teachers and parents.  RTI is a process that starts in the General Ed class with the teacher’s response to deficit areas.  Even if the student has NOT been referred to the RTI committee yet, it is important to start keeping the right kind of data now, so that better interventions can be developed if they are referred.

Teachers- if you have a student who is already demonstrating behavioral or academic difficulties start monitoring them.  You need to be keeping analytical and statistical data.  Analytical being your personal notes, thoughts, phone calls, conferences ect… Statistical being test, daily work and interventions that you’ve started.

EX: You may have a student that you already see is going to have difficulties staying in their seat.  So you employ strategies to help the student, such as setting up a defined seating area, allowing opportunities for approved movement and the use of fidget tools.  As you use these strategies keep data on how effective, or ineffective, they are over a period of time; this way if you need to refer or get further assistance you have your data.

For behavior it will be important for you to keep up with the child’s ABCs. (Antecedent or trigger, what the concerning Behavior is, and the Consequence or response from others around after the behavior occurs.)

If you are already seeing academic difficulties start with Tier one interventions.  REMEMBER AN INTERVENTION IS INSTRUCTION!!!  These are things you will do in your classroom.  You may want to make the RTI person aware of the problem, simply follow your schools protocol.  But start intervening in your classroom now!

According to “Essentials of Evidence-Based Academic Interventions” by: Barbara Wendling and Nancy Mather, Tier One interventions start with evidence based instruction.

Evidence-based instruction has been defined as “the integration of professional wisdom with the best available empirical evidence in making decisions about how to deliver instructions”.

According to this source (Rapid Reference 1.1) here are Ten Effective Teaching Principals.

1. Active Engagement

2. Built in Success

3. Increased opportunity to learn

4. Direct Instruction

5. Scaffold instruction

6. Addressing other forms of knowledge (declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge, conditional knowledge)

7. Organizing and activating knowledge

8. Teaching strategically to create independent and self-regulated learners

9. Explicit Instruction

10. Teaching sameness

According to the same book here are the Nine Best Instructional Strategies

1. Identifying similarities and differences

2. Summarizing and note taking

3. Reinforce effort and providing recognition

4. Providing appropriate homework/practice

5. Producing physical and mental images

6. Having students engaged in cooperative learning

7. Setting goals and providing feedback

8. Generating and testing hypotheses

9. Providing activities to help students activate prior knowledge

For more information on these strategies or interventions specific to Reading, Math and Writing check out the above listed resource.

In your documentation you would want to indicate:

1. What strategies and interventions are being used?

2. How long these have been in place? — There is no set time to be in any given Tier, but it is important to know length of time to help determine the rate of response.

3. What is the target or goal? –A student who has been identified as struggling probably won’t have the same target as all other students.  So how much growth do you want to see?  Remember to be reasonable with the expectations.  We want all students to be on grade level, but that may not be a realistic starting point for all students.

4. What is the result for the struggling child? –Did they meet their target/goal?

5. How does this compare to the whole class and other students receiving this intervention? –If everyone’s target drops then the overall class instruction may need to be revisited.

This is a great place to mention learning styles and how they affect teaching.  We know that everyone learns a little differently.  Because of this, every strategy and intervention affects different students in different ways.  As a teacher you may have a class in which the majority respond to your teaching style.  They get it.  They are successful.  The next year, you do everything the same way, but the majority doesn’t respond.  They are not successful.   This does not mean you’re doing less, or not doing a good job.  It simply means majority of the students did not respond to that method of teaching.  The key is to pick this out early and adjust your teaching style to fit your students.  If more than 15 percent are not responding you may need to change the overall way you approach teaching that group.  If only 15 percent are not responding then the overall approach is appropriate and that 15 percent is the target group you need to do more intervention with and document the response.   This is why it is important to compare the lower students to the class as a whole.  How is your teaching style working for the majority of your class?

Parents:  If you are already feeling that your child is struggling start talking with their teachers.  Let them know you are concerned.  Ask about how they are doing in class and if they can attend any type of tutorials.  Also ask about RTI and what level of support they need.  As a parent we sometime worry a little to soon and they may not be struggling as much as we think, but it NEVER hurts to ask questions.  Get advice on what else needs to be done and how you can help from home.  This is a team effort and we all have to work together.

Remember ever child is different and there is usually not a quick fix for behavior or academic difficulties.  We have to work together to collect data, assess when needed and develop appropriate plans to help our children.

From Referral To Recommendation- Answering the BIGGER questions

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I spent two days this last week attending a wonderful workshop at Region 15 called “From Referral to Recommendation”, presented by Dr. Donna Smith.  This is a three-day series.  The first day looked at the RTI(Response to Intervention) process and what role assessment professionals play.  The second day looked at selecting the best assessment battery, based on good RTI information.  And the third and last day will look at recommendations (whether the student qualifies for Special Ed or not) based on the assessments completed after quality RTI had failed.

As you can imagine there was a lot of wonderful information.  I’m going to split it into several post so you can easily pick only what you are interested in.  This first post has to do with RTI and how assessment professionals and teachers can work together to set up the best possible referral.    I know RTI looks different on every campus, so I’m sharing very important ideas that can be implemented into various RTI models.

Dr. Smith made a very good point about training teachers and staff.  You can’t expect people to provide the information needed if you don’t tell them what that information is.  I think one of the main things all assessment professionals in the state of Texas want when given a referral is information on the interventions used in Tiers one and two.  To start this discussion I think we need to look at a basic question; what is intervention?

Now some of you may immediately shout out this answer, but for others the answer is a little fuzzy.  Intervention is NOT accommodations and modifications.  Intervention IS instruction.  This is a very important statement.  So lets see what this looks like.  What is not an intervention?

  1. Decreasing the number of problems.
  2. Increasing the amount of time.
  3. Offering extra practice.
  4. Allowing assignments to be corrected.
  5. Peer modeling or support.
  6. Additional manipulative.
  7. Reading assistance.
  8. Simplified vocabulary
  9. Parent help at home with materials provided by the school.

These are all good accommodations/modifications/strategies, but none of them are interventions.   Again, intervention is instruction.   Now Dr. Smith stated that this does not mean don’t do these things.   I am simply pointing out that they are not interventions and therefore cannot be counted as RTI data.  But defiantly share if you did any of these prior to the referral.

Here is an example of an intervention that could be counted as RTI data.

Susie was moved to a lower reading group and was included in a group of four first graders who worked with their classroom teacher, Ms. Jones, 20 minutes per day, for six weeks, using core curriculum worksheets and activities with an emphasis on decoding words.   At the beginning of Tier 1 intervention, Susie was unable to read any of the decodable grade level words on the teacher prepared list.  At the end of 6 weeks, she could read 10 of the 100 words.  The average gain for other in the group was 25 words.

So what’s the difference?  In this example the teacher is providing specific direct instruction in an area of deficit and you can see Susie is making delayed progress compared to those in her group.  While the items in the first list would only explain what the teacher had done to help Susie pass, not remediate the suspected problem.

So now that we’ve briefly looked at what intervention is, we can look at what information assessment professionals need from the teacher to conduct quality evaluations.    I want to stress from the teacher, because there is a long list of other information that will need to be gathered from other areas by the RTI or SAT (student assistance team) before a referral can be made.  So I’m only looking at what is needed from the current classroom teacher.

  1. What is the problem? –Describe any areas of need you’ve been dealing with and how it has changed since the start of RTI.
  2. What did you do?- As explicitly as possible describe any accommodations, strategies and INSTRUCTION you implemented to help this student.   This can be information before and during RTI.
  3. What instructional model you followed? This can be a mix of more than one as most teachers don’t do only one type of teaching.
  4. How the student responded.
  5. How other students responded.

There may be more information your assessment professional wants based on the situation, but if you can have this prepared it would be a great start.  Two things Dr. Smith talked about that I would like to note are:

1. If you have a student who is experiencing behavior problems you need to be keeping a behavior log of some sort.  This can be anecdotal notes or a chart/graph, but you need some kind of document about the behavior.  Don’t wait for someone to tell you to do that, start as soon as you feel there might be a problem.

2. If you keep work samples (which can be a good thing) make sure you put them in context.  If you hand over work with a students name and the date it isn’t really any help.  You need to include what the instruction/lesson was, was it review or new material, did they have any type of help, how did other students do ect…. There should always be a reason why you want someone to see that piece of work, so if you want to share it, make sure to put it in context.  If you can’t explain why you want to share it, then it probably won’t help.

After all the data has been gathered, it can be reviewed by the RTI/SAT teams, with or without an assessment professional, to develop a good referral question.  Remember, the referral question is what drives the referral.  At the end of a Full Individual Evaluation (FIE) these are the questions that MUST be answered.   So what makes up a good referral question?

According to Dr. Smith, a referral question needs:

  1. To come from the referral source.
  2. To capture the concern that precipitated the referral.
  3. To be as objective and specific as possible.
  4. Should relate to expectations for the student.
  5. Should NOT pre-diagnose the student.
  6. Should provide enough information that the assessment planner can formulate hypotheses about the nature of the problem.

Here are examples of GOOD referral questions:

  1. Why is Joe responding slowly to the Tier 2 interventions?
  2. What should we be doing to help Sue be more successful in Math?
  3. Why is a Bob not following directions in class?

Here are some BAD referral questions:

  1. Does Joe qualify for Special Ed?
  2. Does Sue have a Learning Disability in Math calculations?
  3. Should Bob be taking medication for ADHD?

Based on the description of a good referral question, I’m sure you can tell why these are bad.

SO the big question, WHY DOES THIS MATTER?  If we as a school provide quality instruction and interventions, collect good classroom and RTI data and take the time to develop effective referral questions the Full Individual Evaluations completed on our students will be more meaningful.  This means we can go beyond answering the basic question, “Does Sue qualify for Special Ed?” Which honestly doesn’t matter all that much; and we can look at the bigger question, “Why is Sue being unsuccessful?”  Or the biggest question of all “WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP HER SUCCEED?”

This is where Special Ed evaluation is going.  We are no longer the gatekeepers saying yes a student qualifies, or no they don’t.  We now, as a team, have to take on the responsibility of going father and answering these bigger questions.  This may seem like an impossible task, and in some cases we may not succeed, but when we quit trying we truly fail our students.