Fairness in Assessment

Eddie is up for his three-year reevaluation at school. This is required to continue serving him as a special education student. It also gives the district teachers and therapists an idea of where he’s at, and what they should be working on with him. If done well, the process can be a great point of reference. Of course, I’m not worried about it being done well.

What I’m worried about, is if it’s done poorly; or even worse, if it is an unfair measure of my son’s abilities. As we know, an assessment is a snapshot of how a child is doing on one day…and at one point in time. For a child with special needs, every day can be completely different.

I’d say Eddie has at least four personalities. Happy Eddie wakes up smiling and laughing. He can’t even maintain focus because he is giddy and simply in his own world. Happy Eddie makes everyone’s day. Attentive Eddie is the best for school purposes. He is content, feeling well, and his ears are open to new information.

Moody Eddie can take in information, but will get upset at the drop of a hat. Any number of things could set him off, and disrupt the day. Enraged Eddie wakes up screaming. Crocodile tears come easily. Transitions are a nightmare. He beats his cane into the ground all the way to school. Needless to say, Enraged Eddie is the most difficult to work with…and to watch. That’s the Eddie that breaks my heart because I don’t know how to help him when he is so far gone.

I obviously want Attentive Eddie to show up on the days he is being evaluated. Unfortunately, I don’t get to make that call. I feel that every assessor comes into an evaluation with an expectation. Some have higher expectations than others. I believe Eddie isn’t always met with high expectations, which disappoints and frightens me. Without high expectations, can he even be treated fairly?

Most evaluations are based on visual and verbal questions and answers. I have not found a cognitive assessment that is proven to be accurate for blind children. Frankly, I don’t think it exists…please let me know if I’m wrong. So, if an assessment is used on my son that isn’t accurate…then, what’s the point? How can a number be given…and trusted…when it has no statistical meaning.

Standardized assessments are tricky when it comes to children with visual impairments. I find the best information is narrative and found through observation. Sometimes, a standardized test can have value for a certain type of child who is blind. Typically, this is the literate, academic student. This is not Eddie.

The problem isn’t how much value I put on his evaluation. The problem is what will the other professionals working with him do? Will they base his entire academic future on a few numbers received from an invalid test? Will poor results only fuel low expectations? Will good results even be trusted?

Should I let them attempt assessments of their choosing, which may or may not be helpful? I can’t help if I come across as a mother who thinks her child is more capable than most others believe. If I don’t expect him to do anything…nobody else will. If I don’t stick up for him…nobody else will. When do I cross the line from protecting to overreacting?