Best practices in special education assessment

This assessment checklist is provided to ACSA by Lozano Smith, an ACSA Partner4Purpose


When to assess (Child Find):

  1. Does this child meet the “relatively low” threshold of having a suspected disability?
  2. Might he or she need special education?

Assess in all areas of suspected need: 

a. Cognition
b. Memory
c. Attention
d. Executive function
e. Auditory processes
f. Visual processes
g. Visual/motor processes
h. Communication
i. Autism
j. Sensory processes
k. Gross/fine motor
l. Inclusion
m. Academics
n. Social-emotional
o. Aide services
p. Mental health
q. Behavior, including functional behavior
r. Health/medical (including hearing and vision)
s. Adaptive skills
t. Vocational skills
u. Assistive technology
v. Low incidence needs
w. Dyslexia
x. Other?

Ask yourself:

  1. Is the child struggling academically, socially, or behaviorally?
  2. Has a parent expressed concern verbally or in writing?
  3. Has a teacher or service provider expressed concerns about the child?
  4. Is the child receiving services or being assessed outside of school?
  5. Is the child a Regional Center client?

Assessment/assessor should:

> Ensure all items on assessment plan/suspected areas of disability are assessed;
> Use instruments not racially, culturally, or sexually discriminatory;
> Be administered in language likely to yield accurate information;
> Be administered in form likely to yield accurate information;
> Use valid and reliable measure(s); (no IQ testing when assessing African-American students);
> Be administered by trained personnel;
> Be done by an assessor knowledgeable about student’s disability;
> Be tailored to address specific areas of need;
> Include findings not based on a single general intelligence quotient;
> Accurately reflect aptitude;
> Accurately reflect achievement level;
> Use multiple measures or assessments;
> Include observation in appropriate settings (particularly classroom setting);
> Include relevant records review;
> Include parent interviews/input;
> Include teacher interviews/input;
> Utilize the latest assessment editions;
> Include tests and protocols administered in accordance with instructions;
> Include correct scoring of all protocols;
> Obtain basal point & ceiling point for relevant tests;
> Correctly administer timed assessments;
> Appropriately document start and stop times for timed assessments; and,
> Convert raw scores to standard scores appropriately.

Assessment reports should:

> Identify need for special education and related services and basis for determination using current eligibility criteria;
> Discuss relevant behavior during observation;
> Provide analysis of test scores and not simply summarize;
> Discuss the relationship of behavior to academic and social functioning;
> Discuss relevant medical, health and developmental findings, if any;
> For Specific Learning Disability (SLD), note basis on which student is eligible (i.e. severe discrepancy, response to intervention (RTI), or pattern of strengths & weaknesses);
> Discuss effects of environmental, cultural and/or economic disadvantage, where appropriate;
> For students with low incidence disabilities, discuss need for specialized services;
> For students with low incidence disabilities, discuss need for specialized materials and/or equipment;
> Be well written, signed, dated and page numbered, translated into parent’s primary language, if necessary;
> Explain analysis and findings and not leave out points that warrant discussion; and,
> If appropriate, make service recommendation, frequency and duration should be left to IEP team.


To read more on similar topics, check out ACSA’s special education content.

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Acronyms in Special Education
Acronyms in Special Education

Lozano Smith provides a list of acronyms used in Special Education.

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2018 Supplement - The Green Book of Special Education
2018 Supplement - The Green Book of Special Education

2018 Supplement - The Green Book of Special Education

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