Then and Now: History of Assessments Used in Special Education In today’s world students are being diagnosed every day for multiple disorders. Over the history of special education both standardized (formal) and curriculum based (informal) assessments have been created and implemented to help make sure that students are receiving the proper support to help them meet their educational goals. Assessments within special education are implemented to determine a student’s strengths as well as pinpoint areas where they may need extra support and guidance.
(Pierangelo & Giuliani, 2007) The results of the assessments given to students will be used to decide if the student qualifies for special education services. The assessments used in the United States have developed in conjunction with special education services, to what we know and use today. This paper will outline the history of assessments administered in the United States, discuss how today’s application of assessment differs, and how these changes have impacted special education as a whole. History of Assessments The history of special education has evolved greatly over the years.
Prior to the 1970’s there were very few individuals with special needs being served within the public school system. There were two federal laws passed in 1975 that would aid in the process of children enrolling in the public schools. The first law was Education for All Handicapped Children (EHA), this law requires that children of all ability levels receive the right to public education. The second law that played a key role in providing students with disabilities appropriate education is the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).
The IDEA not only requires students with disabilities access to public education but that the school district provides personalized services (special education) for individuals who qualify. (Special Education News, 2013) The laws and legislative acts passed advocate for these students, making sure they receive free and appropriate education. As special education evolved over the years so did many of the tools used to assess students with special needs. Although “Interest in intelligence dates back thousands of years, it wasn’t until [the early 1900’s that] psychologist.
Alfred Binet was commissioned to identify students who needed educational assistance, that the first IQ test was born. ” (Cherry, 2013). This type of assessment was a standardized test that measured the individual in areas such as their: skills, character traits, attitudes, knowledge, and educational measurement. As the special education field grew, the use of the Simon-Binet method spread quickly across the Western world. (Reschly, 2002). “Historically, educational assessment in the United States has been dominated by psychometric assumptions and approaches,” such as the Simon-Binet Scale. (McLaughlin & Rouse, 2000).
However, as time as the years have gone by the assessments and protocols used for special education have adapted and evolved. Today’s Assessment / Impact of changes In today’s world there are a variety of assessments and tools to choose from when working with and identifying students with special needs. These assessments fall under two categories, the first being standardized assessments, and the second being curriculum based assessments. The Binet scale, now known has the Stanford-Binet Intelligence scale has been adapted since it was introduced to educators in 1905, and is one of the many standardized assessment tools still used today.
Although standardized tests are a great starting point for diagnosing students with special needs it should not be the sole contributor to the diagnosis of a student. Two main concerns when using a standardized test such as the Stanford-Binet scale are that it is culturally unfair and testing conditions and interpretation of test results influence how the student will do on the assessment. Often the standardized tests that are implemented within the school district have been created in the UK or the United States and are mainly designed to be used among white, middle-class children.
Therefor if this test is used for any child outside of the specific target group it will be unfair and could lead to the misdiagnosis of students who need special education services. (Newton, 2009) “For example, if a student with limited English proficiency were assessed using an IQ measure where the directions are given in English, this student’s performance would likely be compromised based upon limited understanding of the instructions, resulting in a significant underestimate of the student’s true intelligence. ” (GCU, 2013)
It is extremely important for educators to properly assess the students and to make sure we work with them in their areas of struggle prior to labeling them as needing special education. Since every assessment has its pros and cons it is a teachers responsibility to become familiar with their students and know what assessment would best fit their needs. Since there can be some limitations with standardized tests educators may want to explore various curriculum based assessments to aid in the process of identifying these students.
One common curriculum based assessments that is used today is the Response to Intervention (RTI). RTI is a type of educational intervention that is implemented to provide students who are having difficulties extra assistance prior to referring them to a special education program. This informal assessment tool is a multi-level prevention system that helps students succeeds in their education. Teachers will follow RTI by monitoring the students’ progress on a regular basis, implementing evidence-based interventions of varying intensities depending on how the student is responding. (NCRTI, 2010).
Curriculum based assessments such as RTI have many benefits to students and Educators. Educators today may choose to use these types of assessments because it allows them to be proactive about the problem at hand, they are easy to implement into a classroom routine, if interventions are successful the child will be brought back up to grade level without needing special education services. (Wilmshurst & Brue, 2013) Conclusion The assessments and protocols developed throughout the history of special education have evolved and implemented to benefit the students, as well as special education as a whole.
Each assessment and intervention has been created to aid educators in the process of serving their students to the best of their abilities. School systems went from using one assessment tool to identify and work with students with disabilities to having a vast selection to choose from. Both formal and informal assessment tools used by educators in today’s society aid in the process of diagnosing and helping students who qualify for special education services. Although, there are some assessment tools that may be better than others, each one will have their pros and cons.
Educators can create and use assessment tools that reflect what we know about the student and their learning abilities. The educators and their school districts “can do so by building on what we have learned during the past decade, and ensuring that the process and outcomes of their approach to alternate assessment are transparent and subject to review, stand up to both technical and ethical scrutiny, push practices and outcomes in the expected and desired directions, and can be improved through data-based oversight over time.
” (Quenemoen, 2008). Educators will have to use the best judgment and knowledge to decide what assessment(s) will best work for them. Whether educators use one assessment or a variety of assessments, the main objective is to give the student the best chance to succeed in their education and assist them in becoming functioning members of our their community. References Cherry, K. (2013). History of Intelligence Testing. Retrieved from: http://psychology. about. com/od/psychologicaltesting/a/int-history.
htm Grand Canyon University. (2013). Types of Evaluation. Received from: www. my. gcu. edu McLaughlin, M. & Rouse, M. (2000). Special Education and School Reform in the United States and Britain. New York, NY: Routledge. Newton, C. (2009). Problems with IQ and Psychometric Assessment. Retrieved from: www. inclusive-solutions. com/word/IQ_Problems_Jan. doc? NCRTI. (2010). Essential Components of RTI. Retrieved from: http://www. rti4success. org/ Pierangelo, R. & Giuliani, G. (2007).
Understanding Assessment in the Special Education Process. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. Quenemoen, R. (2008). A brief history of alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (Synthesis Report 68). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes. Retrieved from: http://www. cehd. umn. edu/NCEO/onlinepubs/Synthesis68/Synthesis68. pdf Reschly, J. D. (2002). Change Dynamics in Special Education Assessment: Historical and Contemporary Patterns.
Peabody Journal of Education, V77 n2 p117-36. Retrieved from: http://owl. english. purdue. edu/owl/resource/560/10/ The History of Special Education in the United States. (2013). Special Education News. Retrieved from: http://www. specialednews. com/the-history-of-special-education-in-the- united-states. htm Wilmshurst, L. & Brue, W. A. (2013). Advantages of Response to Intervention. Retrieved from: http://www. education. com/reference/article/advantages-rti/
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