Evaluation: An overview
What to expect when your child's learning strengths and needs are evaluated.
By Jan Baumel, M.S.
Has the school asked for your permission to evaluate your child? Have you been considering a private evaluation? What should you think about before making a decision?
What is the purpose?
A high-quality evaluation provides you with a picture of how your child performs over time, in a variety of settings, with different people, and under different circumstances. Results give information to plan for instructional and behavioral needs. If strategies have been taught and modifications have been made to the program and your child still struggles with problems learning or producing in the classroom, then it may be time to have your child evaluated.
Who is involved?
Qualified personnel, such as teachers, school psychologist, speech-language specialist, and others, may be involved, depending on the questions you, your child, and his teacher(s) have asked. A multidisciplinary team, professionals with different training and expertise, should be involved so that all areas of concern can be examined.
As a parent, you have key information. You know how your child acts at home and in the community. You see how he deals with homework. You can identify his strengths, preferences, and talents. You know about his early development, health, cultural and family expectations, and recent family changes that might be affecting him. You can share reports from other professionals, such as his doctor, tutor, coach, or counselor.
Your child will be asked to talk about problems in school, as much as his age and personal insights will let him. He'll be expected to cooperate with testing, so it's important for you to prepare him ahead of time. Discuss why he's being evaluated and tell him something about the process and what he'll be expected to do.
What is an evaluation?
Evaluation is a process of collecting information about your child. A thorough evaluation contains information from a number of sources.
Review of records
This information presents a picture of your child over time.
- Health and developmental history.
- Results of vision and hearing tests.
- Prior school placements and educational history.
- Group test results and report cards.
- Reports from previous teachers.
- Attendance and discipline records.
- Diversity issues, such as primary language, culture, etc.
- Information from other professionals who have worked privately with him.
You, your child, and other school staff members will provide information to the evaluators.
- Structured interviews, such as rating scales, compare your child's performance with others in his age group.
- Informal discussions provide insights about his strengths and needs.
The professionals will gain information about your child firsthand.
- Formal observations in the classroom and on the playground give direct information on how your child functions, interacts, and behaves.
- Formal observations made during testing help to understand how your child copes with and solves different kinds of tasks under different conditions.
Tests will be given individually to get a true and complete picture of your child's strengths and needs.
- Standardized tests provide norms that allow your child's performance to be compared to his peers.
- Criterion-referenced tests contribute information about how well he has mastered specific skills.
- Informal evaluations may include analysis of errors made on classroom and homework assignments, quality of participation in class activities, performance on teacher-made tests, etc.
How are results used?
From the evaluation, you should have a better understanding of your child as a learner and a person. The results can help you, your child, and the teacher see his unique strengths and needs, compare them to normal development, and set realistic expectations. They should lead to specific recommendations that will enhance his learning, both at school and at home. In some cases, they may be used to determine if your child needs special education services. Ideally, results will be used to help your child understand and accept his strengths and needs as a learner and communicate these to others.