The Diagnostic Assessment and Prescription - Definition and Necessity

Before considering its features, you may want to know more about The DPA as it relates to both diagnosis and prescription. The best way to answer those concerns is to turn to one of Mrs. Dixon's statements about the true need for testing and the effectiveness of testing. 

(Taken from the article entitled, "The Diagnostic Assessment and Prescription - Definition and Necessity")

    In my educational experience, I have found that most parents are very concerned when the word "assessment", "diagnostics", or the unspeakable word "test" is mentioned. The first question that comes into a parent’s mind is "Will my child measure up?" (to whoever’s standard?) which can really be interpreted, "Will my teaching measure up?" (to everybody else’s standard or approval?) Therefore, many homeschool parents run at the mention of "diagnostically assessing" their children for possible learning gaps and weaknesses. They do not realize that optimal teaching and learning require some kind of assessment to make sure that their child’s educational goals are being met. We all know that all successes have some sort of plan for achieving the specified goal. Whether we realize it or not, we make assessments continually in our everyday lives. As marriage "participants", we periodically assess our marriages and continue to work on previous goals or make new ones. As parents, we often assess the success of our parenting in light of a new book we are reading or by watching someone else’s children. As educators of our children, we can aim for no less.

    Once we establish yearly educational goals for our children, we must periodically assess the results to make sure our goals are being attained. The word "diagnostic" indicates an investigation and identification of the cause or nature of a particular situation or problem. A "prescription" gives a plan or direction for that problem. I often tell parents that one beauty of homeschooling is that we can target the specific academic weaknesses of our children and create personal plans for remediating these weaknesses effectively. Unnecessary time, energy, and money spent on insufficient curriculum can be avoided.

    Most parents are unaware that they "diagnostically assess" their students on a consistent basis. When they listen to them read out loud and observe expression and word decoding, they are assessing reading skills. When parents grade math skill sheets, specific math skills are assessed. When parents proofread paragraphs for their children, they evaluate their writing and spelling skills. Once a particular academic deficiency is observed, a plan or prescription must be made to correct the problem. This plan can range from a mental note to work on more expression when reading out loud to a quest for a new curriculum that will target very poor writing skills. It is only important that goals are established, periodic assessments are made and plans are devised to correct weaknesses. This is the crux of optimal teaching and learning. The Diagnostic Prescriptive Assessment makes assessing your students easy and effective.

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