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By Wayne Steedman
It's important for you to know how to evaluate your child’s progress using empirical methods. There are several ways to do this. Charting assessment results is often the easiest and most graphic way to plot progress. To do this you will have to develop a basic understanding of standard scores, percentiles, and grade equivalents. For a good explanation of how to do this, go to Wrightslaw.com. It's easy to compare your child’s assessment results if he or she has been administered the same tests over time. You will want to compare composite scores and subtest scores using percentiles, standard scores, and grade equivalents. A chart or graph showing your child’s decline or lack of meaningful progress over time can be a very effective means of convincing the IEP team that your child needs more intensive services or a different type of program.
Goals that are repeated year after year indicate that a child is not making progress. Hence, charting goals over several IEPs may reveal a lack of progress even when school personnel report sufficient progress being made. Comparing goals involves not only looking at the wording of the goals but also the criteria for mastery.
A goal with criteria for mastery of 70 percent accuracy one year and 80 percent the next year may or may not indicate meaningful progress. It depends on the goal and the child. But the same goal with the same criteria for mastery continued into a subsequent IEP would indicate no progress. It is difficult to discern how many repeated goals constitute an inadequate program, but as a rule of thumb 50 percent or more repeated goals would certainly indicate a lack of meaningful progress. You are entitled to view all data the school relies upon to assess your child’s progress. The type of data the school collects is dictated by the IEP in the Goals section titled “Evaluation Methods”. Make a request in writing prior to the IEP meeting for all data relied upon by the school in assessing progress.
One other progress monitoring method is charting Present Levels of Performance. The IDEA requires that the IEP include the child’s current functioning levels in academic achievement and functional performance. If a child has made progress, it should be reflected in the present levels in each succeeding IEP. The present levels should include scores from standardized assessments, classroom based assessments, informal assessments, progress made on IEP goals, information provided by parents, and narrative comments concerning other areas of performance. If the present levels are the same or almost the same one year to the next, little or no progress has been made. You can chart present levels in the same manner you chart test scores and goals.
The more data/evidence you have to support your position the more likely you will achieve the result you are seeking. Do not stop with just the charting of test scores if the charting of goals and present levels will also support your position.
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