Originally Sent: 6/12/2014

HSLDA Homeschooling a Struggling Learner

June 12, 2014


All About Reading ABC Summer Snacks.

Helping Your Kids Bloom … Spring Assessment and Fall Planning

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Helping Your Kids Bloom … Spring Assessment and Fall Planning

By Joyce Blankenship
HSLDA Special Needs Consultant

May flowers are in full bloom; the sky is filled with sunshine, and days are gradually getting longer. As our children look forward to the summer days ahead, we parent-teachers direct our minds to plans for the upcoming school year.

As homeschool conventions are in full swing, we are prepping our “list” of curriculum. But parents often face a dilemma. They ask themselves, “At what level is my child working in math, reading or spelling? I realize there may be gaps in my child’s learning … how can I determine what they are?”

About the Author

Learn more about our special needs consultants.Learn more about our special needs consultants. Joyce Blankenship

Testing Options

One excellent solution to this dilemma is to assess your child using the Brigance Diagnostic Inventories (available to rent for HSLDA members). The Brigance Diagnostic Inventories are composed of three tests: the Inventory of Early Development II, the Diagnostic Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills II, and the Transition Skills Inventory. (Updated editions are available at Curriculum Associates.) These criterion-referenced tests are intended to measure how well a student has learned a specific body of knowledge and skills. They are helpful for grade placement, identifying functioning levels, discovering strengths and weaknesses, and if given each year around the same time, for showing growth from year to year.

Many homeschooling parents of children with special needs decide to create a Student Education Plan (SEP) to monitor their child’s progress and keep on track with goals for the year. The Brigance Diagnostic Inventories can help you to accomplish this, as pre-written goals are included in each individual assessment and can be written in your student’s SEP.

Last fall, I administered the Diagnostic Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills II (we refer to this as the Green Brigance) to my 8-year-old daughter. I used it to gain an accurate understanding of my daughter’s functioning levels in math and language arts, and acquire a more complete picture of her strengths and weaknesses. Although I formally placed her in the 3rd grade that year, her test results showed that she was functioning at a 5th-grade level in reading comprehension, a 4th-grade level in oral reading and a 2nd-grade level in mathematics.

The grade levels were helpful to know, but I believe the real value of this test for my daughter last year was it provided me a more complete picture of her strengths and weaknesses. I learned that my daughter was very strong in language arts. As I instructed her this year, I searched for resources and methods that would challenge her in literature, vocabulary and reading.

Her test results in math were not a surprise to me. But I found the Brigance very useful in helping me pinpoint the concepts that she did not understand. For example, in the assessment titled “Number and Operations,” I administered 24 subtests (over a period of a few days). My daughter’s scores indicated that she needed remedial help in understanding place value concepts, ordinal numbers, and addition facts to 18, among others. So, this year we addressed these concepts and skills in her daily math lessons, and I am happy with her improvement and look forward to her results when I administer the same test next month.

Assessing Progress

I recently spoke with an HSLDA member who was just beginning her homeschool journey. Her 5-year-old daughter had various developmental delays, and the mother asked for help in developing a learning plan to meet her daughter’s needs. I told her about the Brigance Inventory of Early Development (we call it the Yellow Brigance), the assessment given to children from birth to developmental age 7, which assesses the following skills: gross motor, fine motor, speech and language, general knowledge, readiness, basic reading, manuscript writing, basic math skills and social/emotional skills. This test could be administered at home by mom, which lowers the stress level of the child.

Mom could assess all the skills, or choose only the areas of development in which her daughter struggles. Since her daughter is weak in understanding language, mom could give the subtest titled “Receptive Verbal Concepts,” in which she asks her daughter to point to or demonstrate such concepts as low/high, above/below, center/corner, right/left. These are given in order from low difficulty to high difficulty. Mom could then record her daughter’s responses in a record book, which she would refer to as she planned activities for her daughter’s upcoming school year.

I often receive calls from parents who would like help in planning their special needs teen’s high school education. We may discuss the requirements needed to receive a general high school diploma, and how their teen can receive credit for a high school class even thought he or she is not working at grade level. We may discuss how to turn real-life learning experiences into high school classes. We may talk about the benefits of adaptive equipment in the education of their teen. But I never like to end our call without informing them of a wonderful resource for the high school student called the Brigance Transition Skills Inventory.

The Brigance Transition Skills Inventory (we call this the Blue Brigance), is a collection of research-based assessments that support transition planning for students with special needs preparing for life after high school. The assessments cover a broad range of knowledge and skills in the following areas: academic, post secondary opportunities (including employment), independent living, and community participation. One very useful assessment titled “Job Interview Questions” focuses on the student’s ability to answer and understand job-interview questions. The directions ask the student to imagine a job that he would like to have and to answer questions, such as, “What do you think you can offer our company? What do you see as your main strengths?”

Closer Look

As a supplement to the Transition Skills Inventory, Curriculum Associates now offers a product called Transition Skills Activities, which can be used in conjunction with the Transition Skills Inventory. If after using the assessment, you discover skills that your teen needs to work on, you can use Transition Skills Activities, which includes a teacher’s book and a student’s book. As homeschool teacher, you could include this as part of your teen’s high school studies and transition plan.

Benefits of Brigance Diagnostic Inventories:

  • Identifies present level of performance
  • Identifies strengths and weaknesses
  • Targets needed areas of instruction
  • Can be used to make curriculum decisions
  • Provides ongoing assessment of progress
  • Includes prewritten SEP goals
  • Can be given at home by parent
  • Directions clear and concise
  • Record Book provides ongoing tracking system
  • Can be administered once or twice a year
  • Available to be rented from HSLDA or can be purchased from Curriculum Associates.

Yellow Brigance: Inventory of Early Development II, (2010 version) for birth to developmental age 7. This test assesses the following skills: gross motor, fine motor, speech and language, general knowledge, readiness, basic reading, manuscript writing, and basic math skills. You can administer the entire test or choose specific sections that are appropriate for your child.

Green Brigance: Diagnostic Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills II (2010 updated version) for pre-kindergarten through 9th grade level. The Green Brigance provides grade placement tests in several areas such as word recognition, oral reading, reading comprehension, listening, spelling, writing and language mechanics, number sense and operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, data analysis and probability. You can administer the entire test or choose specific sections that are appropriate for your child.

Blue Brigance: Transitional Skills Inventory (2010 version). This assessment covers a broad range of knowledge and skills important for successful transition into adult life. Key skill areas are academic skills, post secondary opportunities including employment, independent living skills and community participation. You can administer the entire test or choose specific sections that are appropriate for your child.

How to order Brigance tests from HSLDA >>

Sources: Curriculum Associates

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