Assessment Terminology

Achievement test
An instrument designed to efficiently measure the amount of academic knowledge and/or skill a student has acquired.
Assessment
A process used to collect information about individuals, groups, or systems that relies upon a number of instruments, one of which may be a test.
Criterion-referenced tests (CRT)
A test that measures specific skill development compared to a predefined absolute level of mastery of that skill (see Achievement Test).
Curriculum-based assessments
Assessments that mirror instructional materials and procedures related to the curriculum, resulting in an ongoing method of monitoring progress in the curriculum and guiding adjustments in instruction, remediation, accommodations provided to the student.
Norm-referenced tests (NRT)
A standardized test designed, validated, and implemented to rank a student’s performance by comparing that performance to the performance of the student’s peers.
Standardized
An established procedure that assures a test is administered with the same directions, under the same conditions and is scored in the same manner for all students to ensure the comparability of scores. Standardization allows reliable and valid comparison to be made among students taking the test. The two major types of standardized tests are norm-referenced and criterion-referenced.
Validity
The degree to which a test actually measures what it claims to measure. To examine that, researchers look at the extent to which inferences, conclusions, and decisions made on the basis of test scores are appropriate and meaningful. The concept of validity therefore, refers, not to the test, but to the interpretations and uses made from test results.
Standards-based assessments
Assessments constructed to measure how well students have mastered specific content standards or skills.
Students with significant cognitive disabilities
Students who are within one of the existing categories of disability under IDEA (autism, deaf-blindness, hearing impairment, mental retardation, orthopedic impairment, deafness, emotional disturbance, multiple disability, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, learning disability, speech and language impairment, other health impaired) whose cognitive impairments may prevent them from attaining grade-level achievement standards, even with the very best instruction.
Rubric
A scoring tool based on a set of criteria used to evaluate a student’s test performance. The criteria contain a description of the requirements for varying degrees of success in responding to the question or performing the task. Rubrics may be diagnostic, analytic (i.e., providing ratings of multiple criteria), or holistic (i.e., describing a single, global trait).
Reliability
The degree to which the scores of every individual are consistent over repeated applications of a measurement procedure and hence are dependable and repeatable; the degree to which scores are free of errors of measurement. Reliability is usually expressed in the form of a reliability coefficient or as the standard error of measurement derived from it. The higher the reliability coefficient the better, because this means there are smaller random errors in the scores.
Multiple measures
Measurement of student or school performance through more than one form or test. For students, these might include teacher observations, performance assessments, or portfolios. For schools, these might include dropout rates, absenteeism, college attendance, or documented behavior problems.
Child with a disability
The Individuals with DisabilitiesEducation Act (2004), defines a child with a disability as a child with mental retardation, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments or specific learning disabilities; and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.
Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)
The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) is the instrument considered to be the current gold standard for diagnosing ASD and, along with information from parents, should be incorporated into a child’s evaluation. Although a diagnosis of ASD is not necessary to get intervention, in some states the differences in the services provided to children with and without a diagnosis of ASD can be huge. Once a child has had a diagnostic evaluation and is determined eligible for services, additional assessments may be completed to better understand the child’s strengths and needs in order to plan intervention goals and strategies.
Communication
Communication is the use of nonverbal (eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, gestures) and verbal (speech or spoken language) behavior to share ideas, exchange information, and regulate interactions.
Echolalia
Echolalia is the repetition of words, phrases, intonation, or sounds of the speech of others. Children with ASD often display echolalia in the process of learning to talk. Immediate echolalia is the exact repetition of someone else’s speech, immediately or soon after the child hears it. Delayed echolalia may occur several minutes, hours, days, or even weeks or years after the original speech was heard. Echolalia is sometimes referred to as “movie talk” because the child can remember and repeat chunks of speech like repeating a movie script. Echolalia was once thought to be non-functional, but is now understood to often serve a communicative or regulatory purpose for the child.
Expressive Language
Expressive language is the use of verbal behavior, or speech, to communicate thoughts, ideas, and feelings with others. Language involves learning many levels of rules – combining sounds to make words, using ordinary meanings of words, combining words into sentences, and using words and sentences in following the rules of conversation. Expressive language is the ability to produce or say words and sentences.
Eye Gaze
Eye gaze is looking at the face of others to check and see what they are looking at and to signal interest in interacting. It is a nonverbal behavior used to convey or exchange information or express emotions without the use of words.
Hyperresponsiveness
Hyperresponsiveness is abnormal sensitivity or over reactivity to sensory input. This is the state of feeling overwhelmed by what most people would consider common or ordinary stimuli of sound, sight, taste, touch, or smell. Many children with ASD are over reactive to ordinary sensory input and may exhibit sensory defensiveness which involves a strong negative response to their overload, such as screaming at the sound of a telephone. Tactile defensiveness is a specific sensory defensiveness that is a strong negative response to touch.
Hyporesponsiveness
Hyporesponsiveness is abnormal insensitivity or under reactivity to sensory input, in which the brain fails to register incoming stimuli appropriately so the child does not respond to the sensory stimulation. A child who appears as if deaf, but whose hearing has tested as normal, is under reactive. A child who is under reactive to sensory input may have a high tolerance to pain, may be sensory-seeking, craving sensations, and may act aggressively, or clumsily.
Insistence on Sameness
Insistence on sameness refers to a rigid adherence to a routine or activity carried out in a specific way, which then becomes a ritual or nonfunctional routine. Children with ASD may insist on sameness and may react with distress or tantrums to even small changes or disruptions in routines. Sometimes such reactions are so big they are described as catastrophic.
Joint Attention
Children seek to share attention with others spontaneously during the first year of life. Joint or shared attention is first accomplished by the caregiver looking at what the infant is looking at. Infants learn early to seek joint attention spontaneously by shifting gaze between an object of interest and another person and back to the object (also called 3-point gaze), following the gaze or point of others, and using gestures to draw others’ attention to objects (e.g. holding out and showing an object or pointing to an object), either by pointing to it or by eye gaze. This desire to share attention on objects builds to sharing enjoyment by looking at others while smiling when enjoying an activity, drawing others attention to things that are interesting, and checking to see if others notice an achievement (e.g., after building a tower of blocks, looking up and clapping and smiling to share the achievement). Ultimately, children learn to talk and use language to share enjoyment, interests, and achievements and later to share ideas and experiences. Impairment in joint attention is a core deficit of ASD.
Nonverbal Behaviors
Nonverbal behaviors are those things people do to convey or exchange information or express emotions without the use of words. These include eye gaze (looking at the face of others to check and see what they are looking at and to signal interest in interacting), facial expressions (movements of the face used to express emotion and to communicate with others nonverbally), body postures (movements and positioning of the body in relation to others), and gestures (hand and head movements to signal, such as a give, reach, wave, point, or head shake).
Perseveration
The term perseveration refers to repeating or “getting stuck” carrying out a behavior (e.g., putting in and taking out a puzzle piece) when it is no longer appropriate.
Receptive Language
Receptive language is the ability to understand or comprehend words and sentences that others use. Typically by 12 months a child begins to understand words and will respond to his/her name and may be able to respond to familiar words in context. By 18 to 20 months a child will be able to identify familiar people by looking when named (e.g., Where’s mommy?), give familiar objects when named (e.g., Where’s the ball?), and point to a few body parts (e.g., Where’s your nose? Where’s your mouth?). Receptive language skills commonly emerge a little ahead of expressive language skills, but it is easy to overestimate what a child understands. Often young children figure out the message by responding to nonverbal cues (e.g., pointing gestures, or situational cues), and this may make it appear like they understand the words.
Repetitive Behaviors and Restricted Interests
Repetitive behaviors and restricted interests are common in children with ASD. Children with ASD may appear to have odd or unusual behaviors such as a very strong interest in a particular kind of object (e.g., lint, people’s hair) or parts of objects, or certain activities. They may have repetitive and unusual movements with their body or with objects, or repetitive thoughts about specific, unusual topics.
Self-Stimulating Behaviors or “Stimming”
Self-stimulating behaviors or “stimming” are stereotyped or repetitive movements or posturing of the body. They include mannerisms of the hands (such as handflapping, finger twisting or flicking, rubbing, or wringing hands), body (such as rocking, swaying, or pacing), and odd posturing (such as posturing of the fingers, hands, or arms). Sometimes they involve objects such as tossing string in the air or twisting pieces of lint. These mannerisms may appear not to have any meaning or function, although they may have significance for the child, such as providing sensory stimulation (also referred to as self-stimulating behavior), communicating to avoid demands, or request a desired object or attention, or soothing when wary or anxious. These repetitive mannerisms are common in children with ASD.
Social Interaction
Social interaction is the use of nonverbal or verbal behavior to engage in interaction with people. This can involve eye gaze, speech, gestures, and facial expressions used to initiate and respond to interactions with others.
Social Reciprocity
Social reciprocity is the back-and-forth flow of social interaction. The term reciprocity refers to how the behavior of one person influences and is influenced by the behavior of another person and vice versa. Social reciprocity is the dance of social interaction and involves partners working together on a common goal of successful interaction.