Yesterday, I did a little ranting on this website about the problems with assessment. I shared the anxiety I feel as a parent, and my fear that the “system” will let my son down. In the middle of my posting I went as far as to say, “What’s the point?”
Well, I went to work today…and in the midst of struggling with how to work with a few particular kids…I went on a massive search for a great tool. What kind of tool you may ask…an assessment tool of course! As I was talking to other professionals about how to accurately measure a student’s abilities…a light bulb went off. Oh yeah! That’s the point! I knew that.
As a parent, I want to protect my son in bubble wrap and allow everyone to see him through my eyes. I see the good, the bad…and sometimes ugly, but I see it through rose-colored glasses. I can’t help it because he is my son. But I have to remember that, he only has one mom, and everybody else has to learn about him in their own way…through their own assessment.
My assessment of Eddie has come from knowing him his entire life. It’s been taught through “incidental” learning…or from simply spending so much time with him. I know him innately. That can make me feel like everyone else should to, which is unfair.
Assessments do serve a purpose, and it’s a pretty important one. As a teacher of the visually impaired, I use assessment tools of some kind almost every day. That being said, I’m careful to revisit them regularly as needed. I try not to label any student too specifically, and remember that they are always an individual.
However, without a starting point, I’m left with nothing. I can’t simply walk into a room and know what level of braille a student is at, or what vision they are using, or what kind of nemeth (braille math) they should be taught. I have to assess them to find those facts. If that’s true for me, then it is true for all educators.
So, I’m not exactly retracting my post from yesterday, but I am refining it. Even though I’m worried about the assessment process, I have to give the system a chance. I’m more prone to being optimistic, and I need to let that side of me ring true here as well.
The thing to remember is that there are safeguards (literally called that) within the special education process. They’re present for a reason, and can be called upon as needed. Many of us have multiple copies provided annually by the school. It’s usually laughable when I get handed a new one…but I’m getting them for a reason.
FamilyConnect also has a good article about assessments: http://www.familyconnect.org/parentsite.asp?SectionID=72&TopicID=369. It’s a good overview if you’re new to the process…and a good reminder for those of us that aren’t.
So, when you find yourself freaking out as a parent…which is where I was this weekend, remember that you might feel better tomorrow. Or, like me, you’ll have a revelation and remember that there is a point to most assessments. Because of that, I’m choosing to trust in the process, while asking many, many, questions along the way.