Evaluation and Assessment   
FamilyLightsm: Successor to Bridge to Understanding   
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This page will provide guidance on two related issues:  Internal assessment in schools and programs and evaluations for external use.  Hopefully assessment of students / clients for each purpose bears a meaningful relationship to the other. Internal assessment guides the treatment and intervention undertaken by the school or program while the student / client receives services there.  Evaluations for external use are intended to help people who might serve the needs of the same student /client to do so accurately. 

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FamilyLightsm is an educational consulting firm specializing in work with families with a young person with behavioral, emotional or psychological difficulties.  We offer in-depth personal guidance to families on a fee basis and free guidance on the internet. FamilyLightsm attempts to be fully objective and accepts no advertising nor referral fees. The only revenue at FamilyLightsm comes from client fees. 

The internal evaluation procedure requires flexibility.   What is essential is that each school or program uses an effective means to learn who each student is and what he or she needs.   Usually this is done in a comprehensive way in the very beginning of the student's or client's stay, then updated periodically.  It is customary for the school or program to incorporate past testing and evaluation in this process as well as further testing and/or other forms of evaluation and assessment on site.  It is appropriate for schools and programs to limit the testing and evaluation protocol for their internal purpose to what they need for their own purpose.  But it must be sufficient to create and continuously update an adequate treatment or service plan that actually guides the services of the school or treatment program.

An external evaluation or evaluation for external purposes needs to be a bit more consistent. It need to cover a range of issues that might be in question outside the school or treatment center, especially after discharge.  We believe that all schools and programs should permit outside clinicians to come in an assess students / clients at least in a second opinion context.  This might not be applied frequently except in intensive impact programs such as wilderness and ranch programs of two weeks to three month duration.  In those situations, we believe that this kind of evaluation should be routine except perhaps when it had been done already in the recent past, and full cooperation should be offered to have outside people come in to do the evaluating. 

These evaluations should include at least a full Wechsler IQ test (WISC  or WAIS) and a strong achievement test, either (achievement subtests of) Woodcock-Johnson or Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT). We prefer a  Woodcock as it is more informative than the WIAT, but we don't feel strongly enough to call it outside guidelines to use the WIAT.  The abbreviated Wechsler and the WRAT are outside guidelines.  We understand that these might be adequate for internal assessment, but those who are planning for the future will  find the stronger tests beneficial. . Neither provides enough detailed information.  In case of any weakness surfaced but not fully defined, it needs to be explored with further testing specific to the weakness. 

We have heard it argued that a complete Woodcock renders the Wechsler unnecessary.  We agree that a complete Woodcock gives a great deal of information.  One argument against using a complete Woodcock and not using a Wechsler is the simple fact that the Wechsler is usually used and people reading evaluations are likely to be most confident reading the results of tests that are most familiar.  

Our guidelines call for a neuropsychological screening and further neurological testing if screening suggests a need. 

Our guidelines call for personality testing if there is any suggestion of behavioral, adjustment, or emotional difficulty.  If personality testing is indicated, our guidelines call for at least two objective tests, of which one would usually be the age appropriate version of the MMPI.  For adolescents, another choice might be the MACI. Our guidelines also call for at least two projective tests, usually one of which would be a Rorschach.

Our guidelines call for use of the SASSI to determine chemical dependency risk.

We cannot account for all possible needs in assessment.  What we have described is standard and common.  When there is a question of a student / client possibly being on the Autism / PDD spectrum that should be confirmed or ruled out.  When there is a question of ADHD, that should be confirmed or ruled out by thorough testing. 

Our guidelines put the highest priority on proper diagnostics and assessment, and basing planning and intervention on a clear understanding of the needs of the student / client and proceeding in a goal oriented manner determined by the assessments. 


Feedback is invited. We will publish selected feedback.  Email:  FamilyLightResponse@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: No  program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation.  When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree.  When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source.  We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance.  It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines.  Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.

Last updated 01-17-09

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