If you suspect your child is falling behind academically in school, you can request the school to assess their reading, writing and math skills. The school will have you fill out a form (Request for Special Education) that will be checked with your child's suspected learning disabilities or other hearing, speech, and visual impairments. Once the school district has received your request for evaluation, the school must conduct the evaluation to determine whether your child is eligible for special education within 60 calendar days of receiving your consent.
Evaluation or assessment? Many advocates use these terms interchangeably but they have different legal meanings. Under IDEA, assessments are the
statewide tests that evaluate the progress of all school children (not those in special education) towards meeting various academic and other standards. Assessments measure a child's mastery of a specific subject matter, for example, Math or English. Evaluations are typically conducted by the school psychologist, resource teacher, speech and language therapist or other specialists.
There are various tests used to assess many areas, including intelligence and academic skills. These tests are standardized, norm-referenced and Criterion-Referenced Tests. These tests are also used to measure specific skills required for reading, written language, and math tests.
Standardized, norm-referenced tests provide valuable information about your child's levels of functioning in the areas tested. Norm-referenced tests are standardized tests that compare one child's performance with the performance of other children in the same age or grade. In other words, are designed to compare your child to their peers.
What is critical to be aware of that there are many tests to use, and it usually up to the psychologist, resource teacher, speech language therapist who determines the test they will use for your child.
The classroom teacher will usually conduct Criterion-referenced tests to measure knowledge or skills. The child's score is based on mastery of the material and is expressed as a percentage.
A word of caution: It can be very confusing for parents to understand what all these tests mean and what they actually measure. The tests can be very deceptive and may not measure what they appear to measure and all tests do not measure a child's skills comprehensively. For example, there are many reading tests available that measure reading however, no reading test measures all reading skills. To understand what your child's test scores mean, you need to know what skills the test measured. A test that measures many skills may not be better than a test that measures fewer skills well. You will have to be a proactive parent and ask many questions to ensure your child receives the best education. So when the teacher says your child scored at grade level in reading, math, or writing, you have to ask what kind of test they used and how did they measure their skills.
A great resource to learn about tests and assessments is the book by Peter and Pamela Wright called "All about Tests & Assessments". This book has excellent information about tests and helps you understand what they mean and measure. Every parent needs to read this book to help their child become a better student and achieve at grade level or above grade level.
Another great website to research is the California Department of Education to find out the Standards content that each student should acquire at each grade level. https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/index.asp