Spring evaluations: the in-person assessment they need

Spring is upon us and changes are in order before next school year starts. It’s time to ask that question: has your child’s IEP been reviewed this year? Getting a current picture of where your child’s needs lie right now is crucial to making up for the learning losses they’ve experienced. If you’re searching for an independent educational evaluation for your child rather than one from the school, IEPready is here to help.

 

This school year was an experience no one was prepared for, and it affected students unlike any challenge they’ve faced before. According to McKinsey & Company, “Teachers reported that students were an average of two months behind [in late October and early November of 2020], with low-income and at-risk students suffering higher setbacks in every market.”

Students worldwide have experienced unprecedented academic regression, but especially those with special needs. Additionally, many students did not take the examinations they normally would at the end of school last year.

 

“Most countries suspended their usual year-end assessments and examinations at the end of the last school year, and some also chose to forego regular formative assessments when students returned to class. Many also tweaked the format and pacing of remote classes to increase learning. That said, studies from several countries suggest that school shutdowns in the second quarter of 2020 put students up to six months behind the academic milestones their cohorts would typically be expected to reach. Losses were greater in math than in reading, and disadvantaged populations experienced more severe setbacks in all subjects.” McKinsey & Company

 

For younger students at sensitive developmental times, as well as students of low socioeconomic status, academic regression has hit even harder.

 

“Teachers in all countries reported slightly higher learning loss for younger grades (2.2 months for kindergarten through third grade versus 1.7 months for ninth through 12th grade). Economic status matters, too. Teachers in schools where more than 80 percent of students live in households under the poverty line reported an average of 2.5 months of learning loss, compared with a reported loss of 1.6 months in schools where more than 80 percent of students live in households above the poverty line.” McKinsey & Company

 

With the reality that is facing them, families are looking for remediation for learning loss. Summer school, extended days or school years, and even holding a child back a grade are all on the table, though none of them seem like a desirable option.

 

School closures this school year and last have caused an achievement gap that is only widening. Many students with special needs have had their accommodations halted for months, which has no doubt caused their performance to suffer. The Hechinger Report says, “These students, already among the most vulnerable, are at risk of slipping further behind at a time when teaching and learning have become much more difficult because of the pandemic.”  This isn’t something we can accept. Realistically, special education laws have not changed due to the pandemic, and students are still entitled to evaluations and IEPs. “Advocates and lawyers note that the federal government has not significantly altered the rules governing special education: In most cases, students must be evaluated for IEPs upon a parent’s request, and typically the evaluations must start within 45 days of that request and be completed no more than 60 days later” (The Hechinger Report). Students have a right to be evaluated for special education, even if schools aren’t complying.

 

Schools that are providing special education assessments are commonly conducting them online. Unfortunately, for some kids, this doesn’t cut it. “Special education experts warn of the risk of students being incorrectly identified for a disability if the assessments are conducted hastily or online…it isn’t feasible to complete every aspect of an evaluation virtually. Filling out some tests and questionnaires can be done easily in the online format. Determining whether a student benefits from sitting near a teacher is more complicated.”

 

Getting data from a virtual assessment may be insufficient. Parents and students cannot wait for schools to be ready to conduct evaluations in person. IEPready conducts multidisciplinary independent evaluations in person that can accurately assess a student’s strengths and weaknesses. With two more months left of the school year, families and IEP teams don’t have long to determine where a child will be placed next year. Receiving an in-person, comprehensive evaluation is the first step to getting a student the accommodations they need and closing the gap that school closures created.

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