Unit 2: Role of special educator in assessment

2.1.    Screening tools scope and importance in educational settings and tools used

2.2.  Formal assessments carried out by special educator - curriculum based assessments, educational evaluations, term end evaluations.

2.3.  Informal assessment carried out by the teachers – Assessment for planning Individualised educational Programmes (IEPs), Teacher made and criterion referenced tests in different curricular domains.

2.4.  Assessment of students who need high supports/having severe disabilities.

2.5.  Teacher competencies and role of special education teacher in assessment in different settings.









2.1         Screening tools scope and importance in educational settings and tools used

Screening is a brief, simple procedure used to identify infants and young children who may be at risk for potential health, developmental, or social-emotional problems. It identifies children who may need a health assessment, diagnostic assessment, or educational evaluation.

"Screening" means using a standardized instrument (either parent questionnaire or an observational) that has been validated by research to learn more about the child's development. Using a standardized instrument is much more effective for identifying real concerns or delays than just using professional judgment or informal questions about the child's development.

Screening helps identify children who need more evaluation and address concerns early before they become bigger problems.

Screening provides an opportunity for young children and their families to access a wide variety of services and early childhood programs, and promotes and supports parents' understanding of their child's health, development, and learning.

Developmental screening

Developmental screening is early identification of children at risk for cognitive, motor, communication, or social-emotional delays. These are delays that may interfere with expected growth, learning, and development and may warrant further diagnosis, assessment, and evaluation.

Developmental screening instruments include the domains of:

Social-emotional screening

Social-emotional screening is a component of developmental screening of young children that focuses on a child's ability to:

Separate social-emotional screening is needed for young children, since it is not adequately addressed in general developmental screening instruments. For children under age 6 years, social-emotional screening is synonymous with mental health screening.

Mental health screening

Mental health screening is the early identification of children at risk for possible mental health disorders that may interfere with expected growth, learning, and development and may warrant further diagnosis, assessment, and evaluation.



2.2         Formal assessments carried out by special educator - curriculum based assessments, educational evaluations, term end evaluations.


The professional involved in special education in today’s schools plays a very critical role in the overall education of students with all types of disabilities. The special educator’s position is unique in that he or she can play many different roles in the educational environment. Whatever their role, special educators encounter a variety of situations that require practical decisions and relevant suggestions. No matter which type of professional you become in the field of special education, it is always necessary to fully understand the assessment process and to be able to clearly communicate vital information to professionals, parents, and students.


CBA entails measurement that uses “direct observation and recording of a student’s performance in the local curriculum as a basis for gathering information to make instructional decisions” (Deno, 1987: 41). CBA, with a history critical to, and highlighting, the special education movement in the United States, evolved during the last three decades into a system of ongoing measurement of student progress, and sound decision making about instructional practices. Today, it represents the collection of a solid research base that can be linked directly to teachers’ instructional decisions. The application of CBA principles helps to ensure that individual students, in and outside of a classroom environment, achieve teachers’ instructional objectives, regardless of the learning setting in which their instruction occurs. Clearly, teachers who implement CBA processes and procedures appropriately are able to design effective instruction. As they implement and manage instruction, they are able to gather assessment data, using frequent assessment of their students’ progress across curricular areas in a systematic manner on critical curriculum objectives. These teachers, then, are able to reflect on their obtained data to make sound educational decisions about their own instructional effectiveness and classroom success.

Teachers employ ongoing assessment data to cover a range of skills in varied, academic core subject areas (e.g., concept recognition, number recall, and rule differentiation in mathematics; letter naming, word recognition, and fluency in reading; and capitalization, punctuation, and subject–verb agreement in written expression). They view data over time (e.g., pre, during, or after instruction), and in a variety of settings (e.g., classroom, community, home, and work site). As teachers reflect on the usefulness of assessment linked to instruction, and as ongoing assessment continues in teachers’ regular repertoire of reporting student academic progress over time, they, then, begin to involve students more directly and explicitly during teaching–learning processes. The use of reflective data, collected through instructionally relevant measurement by teachers and students, helps to inform whether or not students are making instructional progress. This helps to confirm whether or not students are demonstrating behaviors toward reaching levels of academic mastery. Such data use, also, helps to inform and confirm whether or not teachers are successful in educational decision making. Regardless of what skills teachers assess, the curricular standards that teachers employ, when they collect data, where they assess, how they measure, and/or the type of data teachers seek, instruction and learning analyzed by teachers lead to meaningful knowledge. Frequent analyses help teachers to(1) know critical skills for assessment that require teacher attention; (2) ensure valid and reliable data collection, (3) examine instructional data on an ongoing basis, (4) monitor student performance critical to student learning situations, (5) make reflective decisions about their own teacher effectiveness, and (6) improve students’ academic achievement and self-instructional awareness.


IDEA recognizes the important role that a team plays in the evaluation of students and their ongoing education. One of the central components of providing services for students with disabilities is convening a team of stakeholders that includes key professionals and family members to collaboratively create an IEP (Council for Exceptional Children, n.d.). A high-quality IEP is the primary mechanism to individualize and assist students with disabilities in making progress. The special education teacher’s role as a team member is to consider the student’s strengths and needs based on assessment information and work collaboratively with the entire team to design an educational plan that, when implemented, will produce maximum benefit for the student. Because implementation and assessment of the educational plan are ongoing, special education teachers need to be able to interpret and communicate assessment results regularly with other teachers, staff, and families as part of the effort to monitor a student’s response to instruction.

We will explore assessment for learning, where the priority is designing and using assessment strategies to enhance student learning and development. Sometimes a teacher might begin the lesson, unit, or academic term with a diagnostic assessment. These assessments are used to determine students’ previous knowledge, skills, and understandings prior to teaching. This ‘pre-assessment helps the teacher determine what students already know, what they need to know, and to adjust the curriculum to meet the needs of the students.

Assessment for learning is most often formative assessment, i.e. it takes place during the course of instruction by providing information that teachers can use to revise their teaching and students can use to improve their learning (Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall & Wiliam, 2004). Formative assessment includes both informal assessment involving spontaneous unsystematic observations of students’ behaviors (e.g. during a question and answer session or while the students are working on an assignment) and formal assessment involving pre-planned, systematic gathering of data. 

Assessment of learning is a formal assessment that involves assessing students in order to certify their competence and fulfill accountability mandates. Assessment of learning is typically summative, that is, administered after the instruction is completed (e.g. a final examination in an educational psychology course). Summative assessments provide information about how well students mastered the material, whether students are ready for the next unit, and what grades should be given. 



2.3         Informal assessment carried out by the teachers – Assessment for planning Individualised educational Programmes (IEPs), Teacher made and criterion referenced tests in different curricular domains.


An informal assessment is spontaneous. It is a method of evaluation where the instructor tests participants' knowledge using no standard criteria or rubric. This means that there is no spelled-out evaluation guide. Rather, the instructor simply asks open-ended questions and observes students' performances to determine how much they know. 

If informal assessments are not concerned with grading students, then what are they about? It's simple—feedback. Data from these evaluations help the instructor make ongoing adjustments to create better learning experiences for participants. 

Simultaneously, teachers depend on these pieces of information to plan out standard testing, aka formal assessments. For example, during an English class, the teacher observes that students find summary-writing challenging. They pay more attention to this area during the course and then set a formal summary writing test at the end of the day. 

All students must be assessed in order to qualify for special education services.  Once a referral is made, school district personnel must develop an assessment plan with an assessment prior written notice and provide it to the parent/guardian within 15 calendar days of the referral, excepting during time periods when school is not in session for more than 5 school days.  An Assessment Plan is a description of the evaluation procedures that will be used to help the IEP team determine the:

§  Presence/nature of a qualifying disability

§  Eligibility for special education and related services

§  Needs of the student and how they will be met

§  Appropriate instructional strategies

Mainstreaming and Criterion Referenced Tests

If your students are mainstreamed into the regular classroom for classes such as social studies and science, then they are probably taking criterion referenced tests. Some of your students may have accommodations and modifications written in their IEPs for test taking, such as having the test read to them or being allowed to use notes or study guides. With these modifications, the information you gather from criterion referenced tests should show you how well students understand the material they are learning in content area classes. You can use this information from assessments to offer additional support to students through study guides, extra reading assignments, or even computer software.

For example, if a student with an IEP is mainstreamed into a fourth grade classroom and takes a science test that is read to him, the test results should accurately show how much information the student understands about the science unit. Since the questions are read, teachers can gauge whether or not students understand a vocabulary word–not if they can read it. The same would be true if a student’s IEP stated that he could dictate his answers to a paraprofessional. Teachers can assess whether the student understands the science information–not if the student can write answers and spell vocabulary correctly.

Some students with special needs do not have testing modifications in their IEPs, and so science and history tests may be more difficult for them because they do struggle with reading or writing skills. In these cases, it is harder to use criterion referenced tests to drive instruction and see what objectives students still need to master. They may know all the facts necessary for the science test, but they are limited by their reading and writing abilities. As a special educator, you can go over the graded assessment with students to see if they understand concepts but need help with reading and writing.

When you receive criterion referenced tests' results for your students, you can use these results to aid instruction for your students in the following ways:

§  Offer more support in the subject area for your student. For example, you can read material from the textbook in your class before he goes to the regular classroom. You can also provide a study guide with the information most needed for the test highlighted.

§  Provide information for IEP meetings and even writing IEP goals. If students are doing well on criterion referenced tests, then they may be meeting some of their IEP goals. They may not need test accommodations any more, or they may need fewer. If students are consistently failing criterion-referenced tests, these results may need to be discussed with the IEP committee and additional testing may need to be conducted to modify the IEP.

§  Discover your students' interests. Criterion referenced tests may be an opportunity for special educators to discuss topics with students from historical figures to animal habitats. If students show a strength or particular interest in a certain subject matter, you can use this interest to teach objectives such as test taking or study skills.

Special educators can use criterion referenced tests to help their students succeed at their own levels.



2.4         Assessment of students who need high supports/having severe disabilities.


Students with disabilities need accommodations or alternate forms of assessment so that their learning can be measured at system and classroom level and targeted teaching strategies can be employed. Various kinds of accommodations should be made available to students depending on their needs and technology can play a pivotal role in providing assessment opportunities to children with disabilities. Put simply, diverse assessment approaches are necessary for testing students with disabilities along with a range of pedagogies that address their learning needs.

IDEA requires that students with disabilities take part in state or district-wide assessments. These are tests that are periodically given to all students to measure achievement. It is one way that schools determine how well and how much students are learning. IDEA now states that students with disabilities should have as much involvement in the general curriculum as possible. This means that, if a child is receiving instruction in the general curriculum, he or she could take the same standardized test that the school district or state gives to nondisabled children. Accordingly, a child’s IEP must include all modifications or accommodations that the child needs so that he or she can participate in state or district-wide assessments.

The IEP team can decide that a particular test is not appropriate for a child. In this case, the IEP must include:

Ask your state and/or local school district for a copy of their guidelines on the types of accommodations, modifications, and alternate assessments available to students.

Because accommodations can be so vital to helping children with disabilities access the general curriculum, participate in school (including extracurricular and nonacademic activities), and be educated alongside their peers without disabilities.


2.5         Teacher competencies and role of special education teacher in assessment in different settings.


For inclusion to show positive benefits, the learning environment and instructional models must be carefully established to provide strong learning opportunities for all students. Special education and general education teachers must have mutual respect and open minds toward the philosophy of inclusion, as well as strong administrative support and knowledge of how to meet the needs of students with disabilities. The involvement of a special education teacher is crucial to the success of a combined learning environment in a number of areas:

Curriculum Design

Special education teachers help craft the lessons for inclusive classrooms to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities are considered. Teachers may work together to develop a curriculum that is accessible to all students, or the special education teacher might make modifications to the general education teacher’s lesson plans. A special education teacher will also create supplemental learning materials for specific students, including visual, manipulative, text, and technology resources, and determine when one-on-one lessons might be needed.

Teachers must examine students’ strengths, weaknesses, interests, and communication methods when crafting lessons. The students’ IEPs must be carefully followed to meet achievement goals. As many general education teachers have limited training in inclusive learning, it is important for the special education teacher to help the instructor understand why certain accommodations are needed and how to incorporate them.

Classroom Instruction

Many inclusive classrooms are based on a co-teaching model, where both teachers are present all day. Others use a push-in model, where special education teachers provide lessons at certain times during the day. It takes extensive cooperation between general and special education teachers to implement a truly inclusive classroom. Special education teachers often sit with or near students with IEPs to monitor their progress and provide any special instructions or supplemental learning materials. Students require varying levels of individual instruction and assistance, based on their unique needs.

Teachers might also pull students out of the classroom for one-on-one lessons or sensory activities, or arrange for time with counselors, speech therapists, dyslexia coaches, and other specialized personnel. Special education instructors may need to make sure that paraprofessionals or therapists are present in the classroom at certain times to assist the students. To help maintain a positive climate, they also might assist the general education teacher in presenting lessons to the entire class, grading papers, enforcing rules, and other classroom routines. General and special education teachers might break classes into smaller groups or stations to provide greater engagement opportunities.

Learning Assessments

Another role of special education teachers in inclusive classrooms is to conduct regular assessments to determine whether students are achieving academic goals. Lessons must be periodically evaluated to determine whether they are sufficiently challenging without overwhelming the students. Students should gain a feeling of self-confidence and independence in general education settings but should also feel sufficiently supported. Special education teachers also organize periodic IEP meetings with each student, their family, and certain staff members to determine whether adjustments need to be made to the student’s plan.

Advocating for Students

Special education teachers serve as advocates for students with disabilities and special needs. This includes ensuring that all school officials and employees understand the importance of inclusion and how to best implement inclusion in all campus activities. Advocacy might include requesting inclusion-focused professional development activities—especially programs that help general education teachers better understand inclusion best practices—or providing information to community members about success rates of inclusive teaching.

Communication with parents is also essential for inclusive classroom success. Families should receive regular updates on a child’s academic, social, and emotional development through phone calls, emails, and other communication means. Parents can help students prepare for classroom routines. Expectations for homework and classroom participation should be established early on.