10 Principles of Assessment

Principle #10

Assessment and reporting practices and procedures support all students, including those with special needs and those who are learning a second or additional language.

Effective assessment is revelatory; it reveals the student’s story. Students need a safe place to tell that story and receive helpful feedback on its unfolding. For that feedback to be useful, we limit judgement and evaluation….If we grade (or score) the formative assessment steps that students take as they wrestle with new learning, every formative assessment becomes a final judgement…feedback is diminished and learning wanes.

—Ken O’Connor and Rick Wormeli

Reporting Progress of Students with Special Needs
Additional types of assessment may be used for students with special needs (see Appendix F). Following the assessment, a Learning Plan or an Individual Education Plan (IEP) may be written.

The Individual Education Plan order states that schools

  • (a) must ensure that the IEP is reviewed at least once each school year following the year the IEP is developed and, where necessary, it is revised, or cancelled, and (b) must offer a parent of the student, and where appropriate, the student the opportunity to be consulted about the preparation of an IEP.

The purpose of reviewing student progress according to the IEP goals is to ensure there is a good match between what the student needs to learn and the strategies used to differentiate instruction. Students with special needs require differentiated assessment and intervention methods. Differentiated instruction recognizes students’ varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning, and interests. Letter grades can be used for students on both adapted and modified programs in accordance with BC Ministry of Education guidelines. The letter grade reflects a students progress with their IEP goals rather than a comparison with the achievements of same aged peers.

All students with Ministry identified special needs should have a completed IEP in place no later than the first reporting period. Additional comments regarding a reference to IEP goals can be made as part of the usual report card. For students with more complex needs, there may be an additional IEP progress report.

Many students with special needs can achieve or surpass the learning targets. For these students, adaptations to the instruction or assessment methods used may be necessary and will be reflected in their Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

Adaptations can take many forms including:

  • extra time or separate space to complete assignments or tests
  • audio materials, electronic texts, or peer assistance to scaffold reading
  • alternatives to writing for demonstrating knowledge of content material, support for study skills and work habits, organization, etc.

For more information please refer to the BC Ministry of Education’s Adaptations and Modifications Guide. Students on a Modified program will graduate with an Evergreen Certificate.

Students with special needs whose learning targets are substantially modified will have an IEP as they are not expected to achieve the learning targets outlined in the provincial curriculum. Students are evaluated according to established individual goals in the IEP rather than the curricular competencies. IEP goals are established for the students based on their ability and previous accomplishments. These learning goals are developed by teachers in consultation with parents, students and case managers.

Adapted and Modified Letter Grades

All intermediate and secondary students should receive letter grades on their report card. Report Central provides a menu of anecdotal comments for students on adapted or modified programs. Letter grades must be assigned, even in cases where the student is on a modified program. In such cases, the letter grades reflect the student’s progress on their IEP goals. Please refer to the North Vancouver School District’s Model for Differentiated Learning, Assessment and Grading (see Appendix G) for more information.

It may not be appropriate to provide letter grades for students with limited awareness of their surroundings, students with fragile mental/physical health, or students who are multiply challenged. Such decisions are best made by the School-Based Resource Team (SBRT). If students receive letter grades for the courses in which they are enrolled, then an Evergreen Certificate AND a transcript can be produced. If no letter grades are assigned then only an Evergreen Certificate is available.

Although Ministry policy states that students may be exempted from second-language study because of special needs, not all students who have been identified as having special needs should be exempted. Second-language study may actually enhance first-language development for some students. For more information on second language instruction for special needs students go to: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/cfrench512/

Students with Special Needs and Second Language
For more information on reporting progress for students with special needs, please refer to the BC Ministry of Education’s policy document Reporting Student Progress: Policy and Practice and the Special Needs Students Order.


Reporting Progress of English Language Learners

Regular reporting procedures are used to report the progress of English Language Learners (ELL) who meet the expectations of the provincial learning standards.

If an ELL student is not able to follow the learning standards, the written report must contain comments describing what the student can do, areas in which he or she requires further attention or development, and ways of supporting his or her learning.

Additional reporting on language proficiency and progress for ELL students is supported by the North Vancouver School District’s online ELL Central program. Additional information regarding reporting ELL student progress is provided in Appendix F.

Classroom Examples/Teacher Testimonials

1. An Elementary Teacher who has three students on adapted programs for English Language Arts keeps records of the students’ progress towards Learning Standards and/or their stated IEP goals and ensures that adapted letter grades for these students are clearly communicated on the report card (see Appendix C: Model for Differentiated Learning, Assessment, and Grading)

2. A Secondary Teacher designs interim reports with ELL students to enable them to be involved in their own assessment. Students comment on their understanding of the learning targets; they self-assess in relation to the targets, and show evidence of their progress towards the targets (O’Connor, 2011, p. 153).


Teacher Tips

1. Provide scaffolds and interventions as required for students to be successful with summative tasks. Examples of scaffolding and support for assessment include extra time, a different location, prompts, tiered questions, and any other intervention deemed necessary for a student to successfully demonstrate their progress in relation to common learning targets.

2. Identify targets for students with special needs in relation to tests and projects and assign grades based on those individualized targets.

3. Don’t confuse effort with achievement when communicating the progress of students with special needs or ELL learners. In some cases, students may need significant support to meet learning standards, and therefore an adapted letter grade and accompanying comments must reflect the supports received.