Tracking your child’s progress through school assessments in special education

School assessments in special education are a great way to keep track of your child’s progress towards their IEP goals. Learn more.

Schools assess students’ performance regularly throughout the school year. 

These assessments can help you know if your child needs extra support, and in what areas. If your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), school assessments in Special Education can help track how well they are progressing toward their goals.  

Talk to the teacher about your child’s assessment results! And remember you have a right to get any of your child’s records and assessment results.

School Assessments

Different kinds of tests that can tell you if a child is making progress:

Assessments are important for all students, but school assessments in Special Education are critical for children with disabilities. They can tell how well your child is keeping up with grade-level learning, and if they’re on track to meeting their IEP goals.

Standardized State Assessments 

States have their own standardized assessments. For example, in Louisiana they’re called LEAP 2025, and in Massachusetts they’re MCAS.

  • They are done once a year in certain grades from 3-12, and include tests for a variety of subjects.
  • They are really tests of how the school is performing. But they can also tell how well a student is meeting the expectations for their grade level, and identify when they need extra support.
  • The school should send you the results, but if they don’t, ask for them.

Alternate Assessments

If your child has a significant intellectual disability, they’re probably not learning all the academic material that is covered in the state assessments. In this case they would take the alternate state assessment. This is a modified test or portfolio showing what they have been learning based on their IEP goals. (The school district has to do some testing with this group to show that they are addressing the educational needs of all students.) 


Louisiana only:

LEAP 2025 Assessments:

  • LEAP = The Louisiana Education Assessment Program
  • They are standardized tests given every Spring to all Louisiana students in grades 3-12.

Learn more about the LEAP tests:

The Alternate Assessment or LEAP Connect is for students who have significant intellectual disabilities.

  • It used to be called LAA 1.
  • If your child’s disability affects their ability to follow the standard requirements for the diploma, they can take this route.
  • This is only for students on the Jumpstart pathway or for those who are not working toward a diploma.
  • Students will have different course requirements and take modified assessment tests.
  • The courses can be geared toward skills that they can use to meet their personal goals. They may focus on life skills more than academic skills.
  • Students CAN earn a diploma, but their transcript will reflect this alternate assessment status. It will show a less rigorous course of study and they will not have a Grade Point Average (GPA).

If your child has a significant intellectual disability, talk to your IEP team and ask about the LEAP Connect pathway. Make sure that it is the right thing for your child.

If your IEP team suggests this route but you think your child can do the regular Jumpstart pathway, you should push for that. Ask about supports like the April Dunn Act and accommodations for classroom learning and testing.

Learn more about LEAP Connect:


Benchmark Assessments:

These are done a few times a year and can tell if your child is on track and keeping up with the expectations of what they should be learning in the grade.

Each school can choose their own benchmark assessments. Ask the teacher which one they use and ask for a report after each time they do it.

Curriculum-Based Assessments:

These are the immediate snapshots of how your child is doing with the lessons in their class at any given time.

The teacher will do these from week to week. They can tell if a child is not keeping up, and identify problem areas.

These assessments will be the most useful to track your child’s progress from week to week. Ask every couple of weeks how your child is doing on these.

These types of assessments should all help the teacher know if your child is making progress. Make sure you understand what they say about how your child is doing in different areas, and keep checking on them.

What if the school assessments show that my child is not keeping up?

Meet with the teacher and ask to put some interventions in place

If you’re concerned about your child, ask about a special education evaluation.

If your child already has an IEP, ask for an IEP meeting and see if they can get new services or accommodations. 

What if the assessments don’t match the grades?

If your child is getting good grades, but does poorly on the school assessments, talk to the teacher. The assessments are the ones that matter most. They will tell if your child is on track to build the skills they need for the next grade.

We’ve been talking about standardized assessments. This means that every child in the school, or grade, gets the same test. These are the ones that truly show if a child is at grade level.

There are also regular tests, quizzes, projects and homework that teachers grade to see how a student is doing. The grades on the report card are based on these. Different teachers may grade these differently. Sometimes they may grade assignments a little higher to avoid upsetting a student who struggles.

If your child is getting good grades but does not do well on the assessments, you should find out why.

It could be the testing environment or type of test. Talk to your child to see what they think. Are they more anxious for one type of test or the other? Is one harder or covers things they have more trouble with?

It could be that the teacher is grading generously.

Either way, talk to the teacher and find out. 

The assessments are the bottom line: these are the ones that you should pay attention to. If your child is not making progress, you should talk to the school about getting a special education evaluation, or adjusting the IEP if your child has one.

The benefits of school assessments in special education

State, benchmark and curriculum assessments each look at school performance in different ways. But they are all useful for getting a picture of your child’s strengths and areas of need. Keep track of your child’s assessment reports. This will help you to see your child’s progress and adjust their services and supports as needed.

Learn more:

Check out our page: Special Education Hub

Where you will find links to more articles on this topic.

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