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Accurately Assessing Academic Achievement (and Other Long A-words) in a Post-COVID World

By Dan Stock

For most students and many parents, hearing the words “academic assessment” can bring on some anxiety, perhaps even thoughts of the standardized testing that goes on throughout the regular school year.

But for most educators, regular assessments of student’s capabilities are a central piece in their educational toolkit. The importance of collecting and analyzing data during educational growth is key to evaluating the student’s ability to hit their goals, and without data educators are slow to respond to teaching interventions, and cannot adjust instruction based on performance for maximum effectiveness.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic most students could receive regular assessments and testing in the classroom or school setting. Data throughout the school day was collected, as well as observations about a student’s educational needs and social behaviors.

But how do educators assess goals and achievement now? What happens when children aren’t in school? How do educators, in trying to measure academic skills (and perhaps even a student’s eligibility for special education services), truly evaluate children without face-to-face evaluations?

The simple answer is that they can’t. With school districts doing full virtual teaching, school-system teachers are overwhelmed with distance learning students. Regular assessing of an individual students’ needs is virtually impossible. Achievement tests that were once completed during the school day are now online, and many visual and auditory signals that are vital to a full academic assessment are missed. Those educators with the necessary skills for virtual evaluations are back-logged weeks or even months, and our children, especially our special-education children, are just not getting their needs met.

A full academic assessment is not a simple process. The current well-established standard, accepted by most educators and paraprofessionals, is the KTEA-III (short for the Kauffman Test of Educational Achievement, 3rd Edition), which includes measurement tools for math and reading, as well as for written and oral language skills.  Without getting too far off into the weeds of it, the KTEA-III has a reliability factor of over 95% efficient, meaning it can very accurately predict a child’s levels and is in compliance for measuring academic skillsets for IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) standards. In addition to the 30-80 minutes of testing, which varies with grade level, a complete KTEA-III includes a comprehensive report that becomes the centerpiece for a child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) which defines educational and other services like speech, occupational, ABA, or physical therapy. The report includes observations suggesting possible areas of processing weaknesses, intervention suggestions for parents and teachers to expand the effectiveness of evaluations, behavioral checklists to look at how the child responds during testing, and novel tasks to motivate low-functioning students.

With schools backlogged for testing, many parents are turning to services available outside the school system. The advantage of receiving timely reporting cannot be understated, and when the KTEA-III is administered by qualified educational therapists, the school district must consider the results of these outside evaluations. In addition, children will often perform better in face-to-face assessing in a relaxed setting, and kiddos with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, Autism, and many learning disabilities struggle with extended virtual screen time, making a face-to-face outside evaluation the perfect solution to post-COVID-19 education.

Since 2018, NEAT Services (Nevada Educational Advocacy and Tutoring) has provided formal and informal outside evaluations for the Nevada community. In a COVID-safe environment, NEAT Services can quickly and easily identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses to determine the right academic intervention, and to provide a deeper understanding of your child’s achievement gaps and help them realize their potential. With educational therapy including assessments, advocacy, and specialized tutoring, NEAT Services can help any student – at any age, with any subject. From two locations in Las Vegas, and online and in-home services throughout Nevada, NEAT Services is a parent’s best choice for educational therapy.

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