Testing and Consultants for Struggling Learners
HSLDA recommends that parents of children with special needs use the services of an educational consultant to help determine levels of functioning and progress made throughout the year. Most importantly, consultants can help provide instructional techniques that the parent can use instead of the typical curriculum that works well for the other members in the family, but not for the struggling learner.
These consultants help the parent explore many different methods to help their child get past the learning blocks that are preventing him from succeeding. They can serve as your encourager, instructional guide, and vouch for the progress your child has made each year, if this should ever be called into question by any officials.
How can you find a good consultant to partner with you in your endeavors? First, seek out the recommendations from your local and state homeschool support group. They have first-hand experience, and know the names of the people currently providing this service. You can also check with HSLDA's consultant database.
What kind of quarterly evaluations/contacts are necessary?
HSLDA does not specify what the evaluation should involve. However, there should be a review of the child’s progress. The evaluation should demonstrate that the parent and consultant are aware of the special needs child’s skill levels and how he is progressing with them. There are many ways to do this other than through administering a standardized test. For instance, if you have written down some domestic goals for your child, such as putting away clean clothes, have a checklist to evaluate whether he is doing this independently. If he is not, make notes of what he is unable to accomplish and what steps he is failing to understand. You can share this information with your consultant when you meet quarterly. The two of you can brainstorm ways to facilitate his progress through these steps.
Should I send the evaluations to HSLDA?
No. Just keep copies in your files at home. If your homeschool is ever in jeopardy, we will request these records from you.
Are these evaluations required by the state?
No. HSLDA requests these evaluations for the benefit of the family should they encounter any legal problems as a result of homeschooling their special needs child.
Tests That Members May Rent from HSLDA
Brigance Diagnostic Inventories: These are tests that parents or professionals may administer to determine what skills a child has or has not mastered. These tests are used routinely in public and private schools to develop student goals and objectives. There are three different Brigance Diagnostic Inventories from which to choose.
(Yellow Brigance assessment kit) Inventory of Early Development, (2010 updated version) for birth to developmental age 7. This test assesses the following skills: gross motor, fine motor, speech and language, general knowledge, readiness, basic reading, manuscript writing, and basic math skills. You can administer the entire test or choose specific sections that are appropriate for your child.
(Green Brigance assessment kit) Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills, (2010 updated version) for pre-kindergarten through ninth grade level. The Green Brigance provides grade placement tests in several areas such as word recognition, oral reading, reading comprehension, listening, spelling, writing and language mechanics, number sense and operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, data analysis and probability. You can administer the entire test or choose specific sections that are appropriate for your child.
(Blue Brigance assessment kit) Transition Skills Inventory, This test is designed for older students. As the name suggests, it assesses daily living and employability skills to help middle and high school students gain independence.
Is it important for me to have my child tested for a learning disability?
Whether or not you have your child tested for learning disabilities depends on what you are looking for. Formal tests (WISC IV, Woodcock/Johnson ,DAS, WRAT tests etc.) provide several kinds of information:
These tests do not provide teaching strategies, or recommendations for addressing your child’s special needs. They do give a list of recommendations, but they almost always are suggestions that the parent is already implementing, such as using visual cues when presenting auditory information (show a picture, or demonstrate how to do something rather than just telling the child); repeat instructions; do much repetition; sit close to the instructor; use the computer to write stories; read tests aloud, etc. The particular type of instruction that will work for this child, and move him forward is conspicuously absent from these reports.
If your child has a speech problem (articulation or speech delay), testing can be helpful to determine what areas of speech need to worked on either by a speech therapist or in a home program.
If you want to formally document that your child has a learning disability, for a variety of reasons.
Formal tests that include both IQ testing and achievement testing can be quite expensive when done privately. If done in the school system they are without monetary cost, but frequently come at a higher cost of involvement by the local school system that is unwelcome.
When parents are primarily interested in how to teach a special-needs child, and is seeking specific strategies to help the child learn, then informal testing as done by a local consultant is sufficient.
In reality, testing done by an outside examiner is often not necessary, especially if the child is experiencing the more common learning glitches that lead to below-level performance in reading, writing, spelling and math. In this case the parent can easily use any of the informal tests (many of which are available on this website), and determine the child’s present level of functioning in reading, writing, spelling and math. This is important to know, because as you implement a different teaching program, or different teaching strategies, you will want to use the same test again in six months or so, to see if the child is making progress using your new method.
What kinds of informal evaluations can I do at home?
The checklists provided on these web pages were designed to serve as a guide for parents to determine where their child’s learning is “blocked.” Homeschool parents are the ultimate “do-it-your-selfers.” If parents study the material presented, an understanding of their child’s struggles can be gleaned from the checklists. After all, the parents have observed their struggling learner more carefully than any tester, no matter how long the testing time allotted is.
This website also contains many suggestions for a significant change in teaching strategies for the struggling learner. Thus, the information provided in these pages serves as an informal tutorial for parents, as they search for the reason why their child is struggling with the learning process. It does not have to be so hard anymore to determine the cause of your child's struggles, and to find some very good avenues to pursue in overcoming them.
For parents who want to do a more formal testing at home, HSLDA provides the Brigance test for rent. This test will give grade levels that the child is presently on, and give some idea of the processing problem. It does not, however, give any strategies for teaching or instruction that would correct the processing problem.
End-of-the-year tests can be a helpful source of information concerning your child’s strengths and weaknesses in subject areas. If you give the same test each year, you can chart your child’s progress, or lack of it, and adjust your teaching emphasis and style. Some homeschoolers do not consider end-of-the-year tests their friend, but they can be. They give parents the feedback they need, to see if they are spending enough time on a subject, or if they need to make curriculum changes, or instructional changes for next year.
End-of-the-year achievement tests serve three purposes for the homeschooling family:
Where can you get these tests?
1. The California Achievement Test (CAT), the most well-known end-of-the-year tests, can be obtained at Christian Liberty Press. This tests levels 2nd–12th grades. The administrator may be a parent; California Achievement Test (CAT); grade equivalency report only is provided.
2. You can also get a good home test from Seton Home Study School. This tests levels K-12th grades. No special qualifications are required to give these tests. They are very inexpensive.
3. You can get the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills from The Sycamore Tree. It tests levels K-12 grades. Along with the scores, you will receive a professional critique.
4. The PASS test is available at Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. This untimed test is aimed at students in grades 3–8. It was developed specifically for homeschoolers and may meet some states’ standardized testing requirements. However, you should consult HSLDA’s Legal Department before using the test results to fulfill statutory evaluation requirements.
5. If you belong to a homeschool co-op, often they provide end-of-the-year testing using the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the Stanford Achievement Test. Either one of these provide you with valuable information to plan your instruction for the school year.
Bayside School Services
Bob Jones University
Family Learning Organization
Seton Testing Service
Private Domain Testing
The telephone directory for every city lists various centers or individuals who perform psychoeducational testing for testing for cognitive abilities and achievement. Your statewide homeschool group also often has names of local testers who are homeschool friendly.
Even with private testing, parents face the question of how best to educate their child. Tests alone do not answer this question: They are designed to reveal a child's learning level, strengths and weaknesses—to “quantify” the problem through a standardized set of scores. And those who administer private tests generally make the same instructional recommendations as public school officials, with one exception.
Private consultants often recommend various outside services including:
Parents generally must pay for these services themselves, unless their child’s pediatrician recommends them. If that is the case, often the parents’ insurance company will pay for all of part of the therapies.
Unfortunately, there are times when parents spend much money on testing, only to find they still lack direction as to how to instruct their child differently, to make the learning process easier.
Many private homeschool consultants bypass the more formal, standardized testing such as the Woodcock/Johnson and instead use more informal tests, such as the Brigance test or their own tests. Their goal is to determine grade levels and weaknesses in the learning process so that the emphasis can be on correcting those weaknesses using both therapies and instructional practices in the home.
Public Domain Testing
When parents suspect that their child is struggling with a processing problem, their first inclination often is to get the child tested by professionals. The intention is to find out what the processing problem is, and mainly, how to instruct this child differently at home, to make the learning process easier.
The public school system special education team administers psychoeducational testing to students who live in their geographic area. These tests generally include a cognitive test to measure IQ, an achievement test to measure grade levels, a speech/language test, social worker evaluation and possibly a Conners Behavior Scale test for ADD/ADHD. Even though this testing is free to the parent, it can come with a higher cost: interference from the public school system in your child’s home education.
The criteria used to determine if a child is qualified to receive special education services used to be a “discrepancy scale” only. This meant that the child’s IQ and achievement levels were found to be around 15 points apart. When that level of discrepancy occurred, it was determined that the child had a disability that was interfering with his true learning ability. The criteria that schools are moving towards now is to use various tests to determine if a child is “resistive to learning” (the new term), and needs various interventions such as reading, writing, or math tutoring in order to achieve up to grade level.
The problem with public school testing for homeschooling families is twofold:
1. The tests “quantify” the problem, but do not give the parent any recommendations for remediation at home, aside from common suggestion, including:
Common services offered by public schools include:
Other than the use of the school professional services, many of these suggestions generally have already been implemented at home by the frustrated parents.
2. After the testing has been completed, a meeting is held in which the test results are revealed to the parent. During this time, the child’s needs are outlined, and the parents usually are strongly encouraged to sign an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for services provided by the public school. It’s tempting for parents to agree, since the services are free. However, they are not free in the fullest extent. The IEP is a government document authorizing the school system to use their means to meet the child’s educational and emotional needs. The government then becomes responsible for the child’s remedial education. The child needs to be registered with the school system as a student in order to receive these services. Many times the parent is strongly advised to enroll their child in school, so that the full education can be provided…not just the special services.
If the parent declines to sign the IEP—rejecting school services—sometimes that is where the process ends. Other times, and more often than we would like, the school district advises the parent that the only way for this child to make the progress that needs to be made is to avail themselves of the school’s services. If this doesn’t happen, they insinuate, it could constitute neglect.
This, of course, is a very uncomfortable position for the parents to find themselves in. They never expected to encounter so much interference; they just wanted to find out how to better teach their child at home. It is for this reason that HSLDA strongly recommends that parents secure testing outside of the public school setting in order to pursue the needs of their struggling learner. As we will see later, many times formal testing is not even required to find out where the child’s learning problem is, and how to work with a special needs child.