August 19, 2016

Formative assessment is a buzz word in education. The term is typically connected to teachers who are using various methods in the classroom to get a sense of where their students are in the learning process for a particular lesson or unit.

But did you know that Speech Language Pathologists use formative assessment too?

SLPs have unique training in both data collection and data analysis. Although it sometimes feels like we just collect data in order to get Medicaid reimbursement, the truth is that data drives our instruction for the students we work with, and therefore is a form of formative assessment.

Criterion-referenced tests (CRTs) are an excellent and time efficient method not only for progress monitoring purposes but also for formative assessment. A CRT is designed to measure student performance against a fixed set of predetermined criteria. It is not a norm-referenced measure.

For progress monitoring, an SLP administers a CRT to obtain a baseline score on a goal at the start of an IEP and then re-administers this same test over the course of the IEP to analyze performance and growth on that goal over time based on the criterion used in the assessment.

By using the same set of data to design instruction moving forward, the CRT results are now also considered a form of formative assessment. While this data may not be enough on its own to assist with weekly programming for a student, it is a great place to start and can be used in conjunction with the data you take in your therapy sessions.

So how is formative assessment different than summative assessment?

Summative assessment refers to making the determination of how much progress a student has made at the end of their learning. Therefore, the last CRT that you give to measure progress on an IEP goal will be the summative assessment of that student’s progress for the year as it will no longer be used to drive instruction for that student.

The beginning of the school is always a bit chaotic. You have new students on your caseload mixed with returning students that you’re trying to get a feel for where they’re at in their communication skills. For all students, there will be a period of regression and recoupment on skills as a result of them not attending school over the summer. By taking the time to administer CRTs to your students at the beginning of the school year, you don’t have to guess how much they have lost or where you need to best concentrate your focus in therapy at first. You will have concrete information in order to make data driven programming decisions for your students. This data can also be used to help the IEP team determine if Extended School Year (ESY) services are necessary for a student.

SLP Toolkit has created criterion referenced tests for all communication areas within the program. And best of all - they are free for you to access! Don’t have an account? Don’t worry! You can sign up for a free trial here. Feel free to explore the content for as long as you like - there is no time limit on your free trial!

Here’s to a great start of the school year. You got this!