I recently spoke to an SLP in the Peel District School Board about her thoughts on assessment. Assessment and intervention varies across school boards, so I was interested to hear about what the approach is like in Peel.
On the “standard assessment”…
The SLP mentioned that the following tests and tools are typically used in an assessment battery:
• Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT)
• Expressive Vocabulary Test (EVT)
• Clinical Evaluations of Language Fundamentals (CELF)
• A reading and/or writing assessment (i.e., Phonological Awareness Test)
• An informal spelling test
• A review of writing samples (i.e., past assignments the child has completed)
A full language assessment can take 8-10 hours, and thus the SLP stated that it is important to carefully consider when it is or is not appropriate to complete an extensive, formal assessment. She also stated that she likes that the CELF is comprehensive in the sense that it “covers a little bit of everything”.
On assessing English language learners (ELLs)…
The SLP explained that she works with a diverse population of students where bilingual and multilingual students are the norm at her schools, rather than the exception. Many of these children have enough exposure to English that they can be tested using standardized tests such as the CELF. However, in the case of children who are not as proficient in English, she explained that she will often administer the CELF, but will not report the child’s percentile scores. Instead, she interprets the CELF results as a “starting point” in her assessment. She observes the child in the classroom, reviews the child’s class work, and consults with teachers and parents about the child’s strengths and weaknesses to gather more information for her assessment. She stated that even without standardized test results, she is still able to set intervention goals to target for these children based on the abovementioned sources of information.
I think this highlights the importance of assessment beyond standardized tests, since there may not always be a test or set of norms which is best suited for each child, especially when working with children from a highly diverse background of cultures and languages. Standardized tests are important, but usually need to be supplemented with other information in order to fully understand the child’s capabilities.
Since this SLP works in a diverse school board, she has the advantage of being able to access translators when a child and/or the child’s parents do not know very much English. Thus, information can still be reliably gathered from the child and their parents. This resource may be more difficult to acquire in a school board where encountering multilingual children is less common.
On writing effective assessment reports…
I also wanted to get the SLP’s thoughts on the “Strategies and Recommendations” section of the assessment report, since we discussed the issues surrounding generic or redundant recommendations (i.e., Almost identical/vague recommendations across both the psychoeducational assessment report and the speech and language assessment report) in class. The SLP agreed that strategies included in assessment reports are often too generic to be meaningful for educators. She mentioned that she tries to address this issue by recommending apps, programs, or workbooks to teachers (i.e., Explode the Code phonics program) because teachers often prefer hands on materials. I think this is a great approach because both teachers and parents can then have tangible resources to help the child develop their speech and language skills.
Expect some future blog posts where I delve deeper into assessment tests, tools, and resources!