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11/19/2009 3:32:04 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter

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HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter
November--Documenting Your Child's Progress Over Time
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By Faith E. Berens, M.Ed
Special Need Coordinator

HSLDA believes that homeschooling may be the best way to meet most
special learning needs, and we are dedicated to assisting parents in
this endeavor. We suggest that parents exercise responsible
homeschooling by planning and evaluating each child's progress. No
matter how severe your child's special needs or struggles with
learning may be, it is extremely important to keep accurate records
demonstrating not only how you, the parent-teacher, are meeting your
child's particular special needs, but also how your child is
progressing. By documenting your child's progress each year, you are
taking one of our recommended steps in protecting your homeschool.

In this newsletter, I will introduce some informal assessments,
rubrics, and checklists, and describe how you can use these valuable
tools to document your child's progress throughout the year.
Resources and handouts will be provided for you to use at home.

Ongoing Assessment: Documenting Your Child's Growth Throughout the
Year

Effective teachers follow this model of education: They assess and
diagnose their student's learning level, plan for instruction, guide
and instruct, then evaluate. This cycle should continue throughout
the year. Standardized tests, placement tests, and unit tests allow
you to determine mastery of particular skills and show you where your
child performs in relation to a larger sample group.

There are many different and meaningful ways to document your child's
progress over time. Ongoing assessment is important, and requires
more than just an end-of-unit test, an annual standardized or
achievement test. As parent-teachers, we need to have methods of
evaluation in place in order for us to assess how our teaching is
going, to track student growth, to help our children stay motivated,
and to teach our children how to self-check/reflect on their progress.
Ongoing, performance-based assessment is necessary for parents who are
instructing children with special learning challenges. Particularly if
you are working with a struggling learner who is several levels behind
in a subject, we can't emphasize enough the importance of giving short
assessments throughout the year to determine your child's growth in
the areas of difficulty. This way you can see if your method of
teaching is working for your child, or if you need to find a new
method before the whole year has passed.

Here is a suggested list of the many different kinds of informal
assessment tools you may utilize in order to document your child's
progress:

> Informal assessments
> Skills and behavior checklists
> Rubrics
> Anecdotal notes/records (teacher observations)
> Interviews (such as interest surveys, reading interviews)
> Work samples and portfolios
> Curriculum-based assessments (tests or quizzes, chapter reviews)
> Parent/teacher-made assessments and tests (pre and post tests)

Informal assessments are quick checks that parent-teachers can take
either weekly or quarterly to document a child's growth in a
particular area over time. This allows you, the parent-teacher, to
see if the child is retaining the information or skills and/or if your
method of instruction or intervention is being effective. One example
of this type of informal assessment is the Quick Word Recognition
Inventory http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=7250. It can be
administered to your child in 15 minutes and is best if given
quarterly to show your child's growth in word recognition/decoding
skills. It will also help you determine an appropriate grade level
placement for reading instruction.

Another easy, informal reading assessment that can be done weekly is a
fluency rate on oral reading http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=7251 .
For this, the child is asked to read aloud a passage of text for one
minute (timed). After one minute, the child stops reading, then the
parent-teacher calculates the number of words read and records the
words correct per minute. If this is done weekly, the child can chart
his fluency rate and hopefully watch it increase! This technique can
be done using either a familiar passage or what is called a "cold
read" on material that is new to the student. Note, this should be
done on material that is at the student's instructional level for
reading, not independent (easy) or frustration level. Instructional
level means the child can read the text with 90-94% accuracy.

Rubrics, or rating scales, are another great way for "grading" and
documenting progress. A rubric is simply a scoring guide or scale
based on a specific set of criteria for quality work. Rubrics allow
us to interpret and assign a score, such as a one, two, or three, to
our child's work. A rubric should be explained to the child before he
does the performance task, writing assignment or project so that he
understands the criteria on which he will be rated. After completing
the assignment the child will use the rubric to rate himself and to
make needed changes to his work before submitting it to be rated by
his parent-teacher. Rubrics can be very powerful tools for motivating
children to work toward a high-level performance and the child can
even participate in developing the rubric.

Assessment Kits HSLDA Members May Rent:

The Special Needs Department has Brigance Diagnostic Inventory Test
kits available for members to rent. Parents or professionals may
administer these tests to determine what skills a child has or has not
mastered. These tests are also helpful in determining goals and
objectives, mapping out a plan of needed instruction for the year, and
for tracking growth/progress from one year to the next. These tests
are also widely used in private and public schools for developing
individual education plans. So they are a good fit for parents who
are homeschooling children with special needs, as these tests can help
you in writing your child's Student Education Plan, should you choose
to do so.

One homeschooling mom, Karyn, in Illinois, recently wrote to our
department and shared:

"I am so thankful to HSLDA for providing the Brigance Test to members.
I thoroughly tested my three daughters. I was able to pinpoint where
one daughter is having learning difficulties and identify weak areas
with my other two girls. I wish I had tested them years ago!"

For more information about these tests and how to rent them, please go
to the following website links:

http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=7258
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=7259

We hope to expand your success in homeschooling your struggling
learner. Using informal assessments will help you keep track of your
child's growth and progress, areas of strengths and weaknesses. It
will also provide verification of your child's homeschool education
and document the educational experiences and coursework. This may be
important for future, post-secondary endeavors. Requirements
regarding what documentation of progress you must keep vary from state
to state. Even if portfolios, standardized testing, and other
documentation of progress are not mandatory, they are still very
valuable tools. We strongly endorse using end of the year achievement
tests for children, so you have a record of their progress from year
to year, for your own information. Be sure to check with HSLDA's
website to see what documentation is required in your state.

For more resources on documenting progress, be sure to visit the
Struggling Learner website, at www.hslda.org/strugglinglearner or
contact one of the special needs coordinators at
hslda.org/contactstaff .

Next month's Struggling Learner email newsletter will discuss
standardized testing, the various formal assessments that are
available for your child, and when a parent might want to consider
using them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Recommended Resources:

> Brigance Diagnostic Inventories: Inventory of Early Development
(yellow)--birth through developmental age 7 and Comprehensive
Inventory of Basic Skills (green)--pre-K through grade 9 (Curriculum
Associates Publishers)

> "Evaluating for Excellence: A Handbook for Evaluating Student
Progress" by Teresa M. Moon (has a suggested scope and sequence by
skill/content area and grade level, as well as sample reading
checklists, student education plans, and much more)
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=7253

> "Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready" by June Oberlander (has
developmental checklists and activities for children birth to age 5)
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=7254

> "35 Rubrics and Checklists to Assess Reading and Writing (Grades
K-2)" by Adele Fiderer (available through Scholastic Publishers)
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=7255

> "3 Minute Reading Assessments" series by Timothy Rasinski (available
through Really Good Stuff Reading,
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=7256)

> "The New Language of Toys: Teaching Communication Skills to
Children with Special Needs" by Sue Schwartz (has evaluation
checklists and summary sheets, as well as activities)
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=7256
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More reasons to join HSLDA...
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=1108

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