Early diagnostic assessment in identifying any disabilities to determine eligibility for special education services must be done by medical doctors or psychologists. However, academic diagnostic assessment to understand a child’s learning ability and potential is done by special education teachers, general education teachers, para-educators, and professionals in related services who participate in the assessment process. Most importantly, the parents’ assessment and opinions are respected.
Due to IDEA, all assessments should be conducted by a team composed of various professionals, and must use not just one or two assessment tools but various tools. Also, assessment tools must not be influenced by the disability, language used, and culture, and be able to assess the ability objectively. The assessing personnel must be qualified professionals or have qualifications stated in the assessment tools. Also, parents’ observation and opinions must be respected as an important element in the assessment of the child’s ability and interests.
Learning assessments are 1) diagnostic assessment which evaluates previous knowledge and experiences and detects potentials for improvement to establish educational goals; 2) formative assessment during education and trainings to evaluate progress and to provide appropriate feedback, and 3) summative assessment to measure accomplishments according to the educational goals.
These assessments also use standardized assessment tools for the diagnostic disability assessments. Generally, diagnostic assessments are categorized as below.
- Ability Assessment: assessing learning abilities such as sight, hearing, reading, writing, and calculation
- Psychological Assessment: assessing personality, attitude, interest, preference, and concentration
- Aptitude Assessment: assessing potential ability by intelligence test, vocational aptitude test.
- Paper test: write answers on paper with pencil
- Projective test: making stories by inspecting abstract paintings
- Behavioral test: expressing through behavior
Standardized tests: "Standardized" means administering and scoring in a consistent manner. They are designed in a predetermined and standard manner in such a way that the questions, testing conditions, scoring, and interpretations of the results are consistent.
In cases of severe disabilities, students' abilities can be better assessed through non-standardized informal tests with questions, interviews, parents’ observations, and teachers' observations.
Natural environments are important for objective assessment. And continuous and systemized observations are essential.
It is necessary for parents to keep and organize school reports and test results, and share them with new professionals and teachers in identifying students’ strengths and developmental progress.