As the Clinic Manager for Raise the Bar Psychology I am usually the first point of contact for parents looking into an educational assessment for their children. It’s a great opportunity for me to explain what we do and how it all works, and answer all of the questions people have about our process and what is involved for them and their child.
Educational assessments are a big process. They serve a very specific purpose and therefore there is often a lot of time and admin involved, not just for the psychologists who deliver them, but also for the parents of the students that we see, so most people have a number of questions before deciding whether or not to go ahead with an assessment.
So I’ve put together some of the more common questions and answers here which will hopefully give people a better overview of what they need to know about educational assessments and how Raise the Bar Psychology works.
Is my child too young/old for an assessment?
First of all there is no such thing as too old. We do adult assessments with university students all the way through to people in their 50’s and 60’s who want assistance with career placement, applications for special consideration in exams or testing situations, or even just answers to questions about themselves of which they’ve never been sure.
As for the other end of the scale, we generally provide assessments for students from mid-grade 1, say 6 years old and upwards. This is because it is often best to give children a chance to get settled into the school environment and time to start working on the basic learning foundations first. Of course there can be exceptions to this and we are happy to consider unique situations as well.
Which psychologist is best for my child?
Again this is a two part answer – the first one being that there is no difference between any of our psychs with how an assessment is delivered. They are all highly skilled, experienced and qualified.
Having said that, the second part of the answer is that we actually do take a number of factors into account when selecting which psychologist to place your child with. These factors can be as simple as location and availability, through to things like gender preference (sometimes a concern for younger students), personality fit, and specific experience of a particular psychologist.
An educational assessment is a big investment as far as time and cost goes, so our aim is to make sure it is as positive and purposeful as possible for everyone involved.
What is the purpose of an educational assessment?
Surprisingly often I hear from parents who have been recommended to us either by their child’s school or tutor, psychologist or paediatrician, and they are unsure why or how an educational assessment can help.
The purpose of an educational assessment is two-fold. First it is to determine the areas of cognitive ability in which a person is particularly strong. In the simplest terms this can be beneficial to students who lack confidence or motivation, or who feel that they just aren’t good at anything. Beyond that, it can also assist with guidance in selecting secondary school subjects, further education and even career plans.
Secondly, an educational assessment will determine any areas of cognitive ability in which a person is having difficulty. This is often a very positive outcome for students and parents who knew that there was ‘something’ there, a block or difficulty that wasn’t making sense, and knowing the answers can be a huge relief. Going forward from there it will also help to determine what measures can be taken in order to help them make progress in those areas of difficulty – what are the ways to develop or work around those areas so they don’t continue or grow to become a roadblock to education.
From the perspective of our psychologists, the purpose of an educational assessment is to enable students to tap into and expand their interest, ability and motivation around learning and education. Our psychs are a unique group of people who are dedicated to education – they are huge nerds, in the most fabulous way. Their desire to share and foster that love of learning in the students they work with is incredibly inspiring.
How long does an assessment take?
There are two answers to this question and they both vary from person to person. Firstly a full educational assessment usually takes around 6-7.5 hours in total, including the intake appointment, assessment sessions and feedback.
The second answer to this question is that most assessments will usually take around 6 weeks from start to finish. This can vary a bit depending on availability, but generally it takes around 1-2 weeks to complete the intake and assessment sessions, then around 4 weeks for the psychologist to develop the results, the individual recommendations and put together the report, at which time the parents, and often the student as well, come in for the feedback.
How do you gather the information that you use for an assessment?
This varies from person to person, but always starts with the parents and the student as the best sources of information.
From there we also like to gather as much collateral information as possible, and based on permission from the student and parents, the most common sources of secondary information that we use are the people that work most closely with your child such as school teachers, psychologists, speech and occupational therapists, tutors and learning centres, etc.
What tests do you use?
Again this question has numerous answers as it will depend on the age of the student and the purpose of the assessment, but some of the most common assessment tools we use are:
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fifth Edition (WISC-V)
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV)
Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT-III)
Woodcock Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability, Academic Achievement and Oral Language – Fourth Edition (WJ-IV COG/ACH/OL)
Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing – Second Edition (CTOPP-2)
Rapid Automatized Naming and Rapid Alternating Stimulus Test (RAN/RAS)
Can we see a sample report before we decide whether to go ahead with an assessment?
The simple answer to this one is, no. The format of our reports is proprietary and the content is confidential. We have created the template of our reports specially to align with the unique assessment service we provide.
However I can tell you that our reports are incredibly detailed and thorough, and will include your child’s results in each area of cognitive ability and academic achievement assessed, an overview of their learning profile, what that information means for you and your child, and a number of very specific recommendations on how to utilise that individual information.
How do I utilise the results of an assessment?
This is one of the things that the psychologist will go through with you during the feedback appointment. In the early days of educational assessments, parents were often provided with a report on their child’s results, and a “thanks for coming.”
One of the main focuses at Raise the Bar is to take the information provided by the assessment results and make it usable for you, your child and anyone else who works with them. Our recommendations are often a combination of measures that can be taken at home, at school, and sometimes externally such as tutoring, learning programs, speech and/or occupational therapy, general counselling, etc – dependant on the individual results of course.
Even when making external recommendations we will provide you with specific suggestions of the best and most suitable professionals or organisations for your child, so you know exactly what to do going forward in order to help your child make positive and lasting progress.
What if we aren’t close to either of your locations?
This one isn’t a problem. We have a number of families that come to us from places such as Geelong, Ballarat, country Victoria, interstate and on occasion even internationally. Therefore we have developed a very flexible process for families coming from a distance.
We start this process by delivering the intake appointment virtually, or in some cases with a simple phone call.
Then for the assessment portion, usually it is best if the family can come to Melbourne overnight so that we can spread the assessment over 2 days. This is so the assessment can be conducted as accurately as possible, as for many students doing a full 4 or 5 hours of assessment in one day is just too much.
And finally the feedback, which is ideally delivered in person, but again in some cases can be done virtually by distance.
Is the cost a lump sum payment?
No. The cost of an assessment is spread out over the duration of the process, with payments being made at the end of each individual appointment.
It is important to note that the cost of the report is included with the final assessment appointment, and therefore that is usually the most expensive appointment.
We are also happy to discuss payment plan options as we know that the cost of an educational assessment can be difficult for many families to accommodate.
What about rebate options?
At this point in time there are no Medicare rebate options for educational assessments. This means the only option for rebates is through private health insurance. Obviously this depends on the type of cover you have available, but we can provide the relevant item numbers so you can check with your provider about the possibility of rebates.
How do I explain this process to my child?
This one is a bit trickier to answer as it often depends on the educational experience and personality of your child. My advice is to try and explain it as a positive thing.
“This assessment is going to tell us all the things that you are good at, and let us know if there are any things that are a bit harder for you and how we can work on them together.”
For younger students it can be helpful to explain that they are going to meet with this person to play some games, do some puzzles, read and write some stories, etc. That way they will be more likely to view it positively and be more engaged, rather than thinking of it as a trip to the dentist.
Can we see Dr Kate Jacobs for our assessment?
Kate is the director of the Raise the Bar clinic, and often the name that people who refer students to Raise the Bar are familiar with. However she is usually not the one that provides the assessments.
Rather Kate works with each of the wonderful Raise the Bar psychologists to develop the results, reports and recommendations of each assessment we conduct. She is involved in every assessment we provide, but is not the person you actually meet with for each appointment.
Technically she is actually supposed to be on maternity leave this year, but we just can’t keep her away from her work.
And finally, “I’m looking forward to meeting you.”
Not really a question, but I love hearing this from the people I chat with. More often than not though it won’t happen. I work from home as a virtual assistant Clinic Manager, mainly because we didn’t want to waste clinic space on a reception desk.
If you’re super lucky you might see me in the clinic sometimes checking the rooms, moving furniture around, picking up paperwork (although we’re working towards paperless) or just chatting with the psychs between appointments.