“What’s A ‘Wechsler’?”: Understanding Your Child’s Proposed Assessment Plan
I recently requested that my child be evaluated for special education services. The school district sent me a one-page form with a listing of assessments. So, what’s a “Wechsler”?
Following a Request for Assessment, the school district has 15 calendar days to provide the parent with either a Proposed Assessment Plan (PAP) or a Prior Written Notice letter (PWN). If the district decides to evaluate your child for special education services than you will receive a PAP. If you have received a PWN, see my other article entitled “The IDEA Guarantee of Prior Written Notice: When the Only Response You Receive is ‘No’”.
The PAP can be a baffling document and should be read carefully. Do not allow its brevity and the need to “get on” with the assessment process to compel your signature without your understanding. If you start-off in the wrong direction you may not like where you end up. Specifically, your child may receive an incomplete assessment.
The education rights holder has 15 calendar days to sign and return the PAP. The school district cannot commence an initial evaluation without your consent. While there are instances where the school district may assess without your consent, the initial evaluation requires your signed consent.
Following your signed consent, the school district has 60 calendar days to complete the assessments and to hold an IEP meeting. Should the school district determine that your child is eligible for special education services and then makes a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) offer in the form of an IEP document, services will be provided immediately upon your signed acceptance of the IEP document.
If you do not consent to having your child assessed for special education services than the school district may pursue due process. This is because the school district is required under the IDEA Childfind mandate to assess all children with suspected disabilities. There are significant repercussions for a school district that does not honor this important mandate.
What the Proposed Assessment Plan Should Look Like
The Proposed Assessment Plan (PAP) must fulfil the following dictates, according to the IDEA:
Notice: The local educational agency (LEA or, simply, school district) shall provide notice to the parents of a child with a disability that they intend to evaluate and the notice shall describe any evaluation procedures that the agency proposes to conduct.
Essentially, the parents must be made aware of all of the assessments that will be performed, conditions under which these assessments will be performed, and the qualifications of the persons conducting said tests. I will discuss the more common assessments administered in the following paragraphs. Furthermore, the PAP must include an explanation of parental rights and responsibilities.
Your form will probably resemble this template. If the specific assessments that are to be administered are not listed, contact the school psychologist and request that they include the tests in the PAP.
Conduct of Evaluation: The LEA/School District shall use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information, including information provided by the parent. The district is prohibited from using “any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion for determining whether a child is a child with a disability or determining an appropriate educational program for the child…” Basically, the evaluation cannot be based upon a single opinion or assessment. The evaluation must embrace a “variety” of viewpoints and assessments to afford a complete profile of your child and the suspected disability.
*Prior to initial placement in special education, a student must be assessed by qualified personnel in all areas of suspected disability, including:
- Health and development
- Vision and hearing
- Motor abilities and general self-help skills
- Language function
- Academic performance
- Social and emotional development and behavior
*Additionally, the assessments and evaluations:
- Cannot be discriminatory on a racial, cultural or sexual basis,
- Must be provided and administered in the student’s primary language
- Must be used for purposes for which the assessments or measures are valid and reliable
- Must be administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of such assessments
- Must assess the child in all areas of suspected disability
- Must provide relevant information that directly assists persons in determining the educational needs of the child are provided
Evaluation Report: 5 Days Prior to IEP
A written report for an assessment must be prepared and given to the parent. This document is an evaluation report. The evaluation report will describe the tests administered and whether your child has been found eligible for special education services based upon those assessments. The evaluation report is a dense document and needs to be studied before entering an IEP meeting.
Parents should request in writing early-on that they receive the evaluation report 5 days prior to the IEP. In such a request, note that you wish to receive information regarding the subtests, as well. If you review the incredibly helpful wrightslaw article “Tests and Measurements for the Parent, Teacher, Advocate & Attorney” than you will be in a better position to understand the true meaning of the assessments performed on your child and the importance of subtests.
Common Assessments: Wechsler, Kaufman, Woodcock-Johnson, OWLS, and BASC
Depending upon age and suspected disability, your child will probably be evaluated using a combination of the following assessments: Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children IV (WISC-IV), Woodcock-Johnson Cognitive Assessment, Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC), Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA), OWLS, and BASC.
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC): the Wechsler is an intelligence test for children. The current version of the test is the WISC – IV. It contains several sub-tests which are used to generate the 5 composite scores for Full Scale IQ (FSIQ), Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI), Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI), Processing Speed Index (PSI), and Working Memory Index (WMI). The WISC-IV is a norm-referenced test which means that a student’s performance is measured against a pre-defined population – in this instance his/her peers.
Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability (WJ): The WJ measures intelligence and attention, executive functioning, working memory, verbal ability and cognitive flexibility. It is also norm-referenced.
Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC): the K-ABC is a cognitive test designed to measure how a child processes information. There are five global scales assessed: Sequential, Simultaneous, Planning, Learning, and Knowledge.
Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement-II (KTEA-II): the KTEA-II is a test of academic achievement in the areas of reading, math, written language, and oral language. The KTEA-II offers 7 sub-tests assessing early- and developing-reading skills. The test offers age and grade-based norms.
Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS): A norm-referenced measure of oral language. Three scores are derived: Listening Comprehension, Oral Expression, and Oral Language Composite.
Behavioral Assessment System for Children (BASC): The BASC is designed to evaluate the behavior and self-perception of a child. It includes a self-report, a teacher behavioral rating scale, a parent behavioral rating scale, a developmental history questionnaire and an observation component.
My next article will discuss which assessments are most commonly used to determine eligibility for special education services under dyslexia, autism, and ADHD.
*I always advise parents to read the IDEA when attempting to understand the rights granted to themselves and their children. There are instances where I have combined requirements under the IDEA and the California Education Code for the sake of fluidity and brevity. If you do not reside in the sunny state of California, I suggest that you use this article as a learning tool and refer to your state’s education code. There will be strong similarities but there also may be critical differences regarding procedural timelines and assessment requirements.