Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Comprehensive Assessment and Evaluation of Students with Learning Disabilities: A Paper Prepared by the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Comprehensive Assessment and Evaluation of Students with Learning Disabilities: A Paper Prepared by the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) (1) strongly supports comprehensive assessment and evaluation of students with learning disabilities by a multidisciplinary team for the identification and diagnosis of students with learning disabilities. Comprehensive assessment of individual students requires the use of multiple data sources. These sources may include standardized tests, informal measures, observations, student self-reports, parent reports, and progress monitoring data from response-to-intervention (RTI) approaches (NJCLD, 2005). Reliance on any single criterion for assessment or evaluation is not comprehensive, nor is a group assessment, such as universal screening or statewide academic assessment tests, sufficient for comprehensive assessment or evaluation.

This paper is intended to inform administrators, educators, parents, and others concerned about the effective identification and education of students with learning disabilities about the components, processes, and participants necessary for comprehensive assessment and evaluation, as well as optimal practices that should further enhance the education of students with learning disabilities. The NJCLD has long recognized that inappropriate assessment and evaluation practices may result in questionable incidence rates for learning disabilities (NJCLD, 2001a). Similarly, the NJCLD (2001a, 2001b) has provided a solid foundation for addressing the issues of assessment, evaluation, identification, and eligibility of students with learning disabilities.

Differentiating Assessment and Evaluation

The purpose of a comprehensive assessment and evaluation is to accurately identify a student's patterns of strengths and needs. The term assessment is used in many different contexts for a variety of purposes in educational settings, including individual and group, standardized and informal, and formative and summative. Some professionals use assessment broadly to include both assessment and evaluation. For this paper, we are differentiating assessment and evaluation to underscore the sequence, procedures, and decisions involved in a comprehensive process.

Assessment is used in this paper to refer to the collection of data through the use of multiple measures, including standardized and informal instruments and procedures. These measures yield comprehensive quantitative and qualitative data about an individual student. The results of continuous progress monitoring also may be used as part of individual and classroom assessments. Information from many of these sources of assessment data can and should be used to help ensure that the comprehensive assessment and evaluation accurately reflects how an individual student is performing.

Evaluation follows assessment and incorporates information from all data sources. In this paper, evaluation refers to the process of integrating, interpreting, and summarizing the comprehensive assessment data, including indirect and preexisting sources. The major goal of assessment and evaluation is to enable team members to use data to create a profile of a student's strengths and needs. The student profile informs decisions about identification, eligibility, services, and instruction. Comprehensive assessment and evaluation procedures are both critical for making an accurate diagnosis of students with learning disabilities. Procedures that are not comprehensive can result in identification of some individuals as having learning disabilities when they do not, and conversely, exclude some individuals who do have specific learning disabilities.

A Decade of Change in Legislation, Research, and Education

Over the past two decades since completion of NJCLD papers in 1987 and 1997, changes in legislation, research, and education have not only brought change to many aspects of assessment and evaluation of all students, including students with learning disabilities, but also stimulated continued efforts to further enhance the assessment and evaluation process, as well as link it to instruction. …

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