226: Creating Relevant Goals from Standardized Test Results

Show Notes:

Hey there, SLPs! Today, we're going to delve deep into the realm of therapy goals and standardized testing now. Standardized testing is a necessary component of the process, let's face it, but that doesn't mean our treatment objectives have to follow their lead. We're going to reveal how to use those test results to inform relevant, doable objectives. Let's face it, meaningful goals result in actual advancement! Hallie shared advice on deciphering test results, getting input from teachers, carrying out impromptu evaluations, and retaining all the knowledge from in-class observations. Consider it an SLP-style recipe for success!

Here’s what we learned:

  • Therapy goals should prioritize long-term communication skills over test scores, tailored to individual needs.
  • Goals must be SMART, aligning with real-life needs, not just test scores.
  • Prioritize goals that enhance problem-solving, narrative skills, and social communication.
  • Recognizing differences across areas and cultural influences aids in understanding student needs holistically.
  • Use tools like the Baseline Tool and Critical Thinking Probes to uncover student strengths, weaknesses, and comprehension


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Q: How much money does a skunk have?

A: One cent, get it? Scent, S-C-E-N-T, also one cent, C-E-N-T.

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00:00:00 Hallie: Hey there, SLP. You are listening to this podcast, so I know that you love to listen to podcasts. And if that is the case, then I know that you are gonna love my secret private podcast, Secondary Secrets for SLPs. Its six short episodes will have you walking away, feeling refreshed and inspired and ready to take on those challenging secondary speech students. So if you work with grades four through 12, and are in a planning rut or wanting some fresh new ideas to keep your students motivated, make sure you head to speechtimefun.com/secondarysecrets. You are not going to find this podcast in your iTunes podcast search browser. You can only get access by going to that link. 

00:00:51 Hallie: So head to it now. It is six short episodes that you can listen to it in under an hour, like totally Netflix binge-worthy. I made this just for you and I know you are going to love it. SLPs have been telling me already that it has changed their way for working with their older speech students. So head on over again to speechtimefun.com/secondarysecrets or use the link in the show notes and I can't wait to hear what you think. Now let's head on to this week's episode of SLP Coffee Talk.

00:01:28 Hallie: Welcome to SLP Coffee Talk, the podcast designed exclusively for speech-language pathologists who work with older students, grades 4 through 12. I am your host, Hallie Sherman, your SLP behind Speech Time Fun, the Speech Retreat Conference, and the SLP Elevate Membership. And I'm thrilled to bring you conversations, strategies, and insights that will give you the jolt of inspiration that you need. Whether you're tuning in during your morning commute, on a break in between sessions, or relaxation time. I am here for you each and every week. Let's do this SLPs.

00:02:09 Hallie: Hey, hey, and welcome to another episode of SLP Coffee Talk. Today we're gonna be talking all about creating relevant goals from standardized test results. I get it. We have to use standardized tests. It's just part of our protocol. I get it. But just because they scored poorly on a subtest doesn't mean we have to create a goal based on it. We should always be ensuring that our goals are individualized, meaningful, and supportive of long-term communication skills rather than merely reflecting the ability to perform well on tests. 

00:02:51 Hallie: Imagine this. Imagine Taylor who makes a suit based on solely a single measurement of the client's waist. While the pants might fit, and it will fit well around the waist, the rest of the suit is likely to be ill-fitting and failing to account for the other crucial measurements like the chest, arm length, or the client's height. This approach results in a suit that although technically based on the accurate data, doesn't meet the client's need for style, comfort, or functionality. 

00:03:26 Hallie: Similarly, when an SLP creates therapy goals based on standardized test results without considering additional important information such as the student's academic needs, personal interests and social environment, the goals might not effectively support the student's overall communication success, which is what we want to after a while, right? So like the tailor who misses the mark with just one measurement, the SLP risks developing goals that are technically accurate but not fully beneficial or relevant to the student's real-world challenges and academic achievements.

00:04:04 Hallie: So in this episode, we're gonna discuss how to take the results that we get and turn it into relevant goals. Because the more relevant the goals, the more achievable the goals are, and our students will make progress. All right, so how to do this? Well, first we need to begin by getting those results. Begin by comprehensively understanding the scores that you obtain, including the subtests, percentile marks, standard scores, all that fun stuff. But how can we measure beyond the standardized test. That is just one tool. 

00:04:39 Hallie: We need to gather teacher feedback, informal assessments, classroom observations, and of course, dynamic assessment. The more information you have while you have that student in front of you, the easier it is to be able to create those goals. The more information you have, the easier it will be to make relevant goals that are achievable and get more results.

00:05:04 Hallie: Did you know that I have a ton of tools inside of SLP Elevate called the Elevated Tools, such as a baseline tool, which is a Lego-themed story that allows you to determine the different levels of Bloom's taxonomy to figure out what comprehension level they are at. I also have a critical thinking probe, which allows you to determine what reading levels your students can comprehend, either reading it or hearing it, what different lengths can they handle, paragraph level, two paragraph level, a three paragraph level and what question types can they handle? And do choices help them? 

00:05:37 Hallie: And also, we also have progress monitoring tools. So you can see for yourself, you know, where they're at and how they're performing so you can get a better understanding and create better goals for themselves. You can actually check out my baseline tool for free at speechtimefun.com/baseline. So you can see for yourself how you can determine where your students are at and where they're struggling, where they're on bloom's text on me. It's a great way of using a hierarchy to figure out where they're at. And that tool comes with a free little video on how to understand where to start with your older speech students. 

00:06:13 Hallie: So again, what more tools can you have in your toolbox other than those standardized tests to figure where your students are at? What else can we do? We need to highlight our students' strengths and weaknesses revealed by the test. Consider both their absolute performance and discrepancies between different areas. Don't be afraid to look at other professionals' results, such as psych testing for working memory and processing speed, which can tell us a lot. 

00:06:42 Hallie: Are our results because of attention, or memory, or something else going on? There might be more to the story than just the number received on that standardized test. So if you're just looking at that test and not looking at that big picture, you might be missing something important. Also, don't forget to consider the student's cultural and linguistic background and how it might influence the test performance. It's another reason why these standardized tests are just a starting point and not what we should be only using to determine what to work on in speech therapy. 

00:07:17 Hallie: Okay, so now we have the standardized test, whether whatever test you use, that's a whole other story for a whole other day. You have teacher reports, how are they doing and functioning in the classroom? Use some more informal assessments like my baseline tool or my critical thinking probes. You did some student observations in the classroom so you can see for yourself where there might maybe some strategies that the teacher can be implementing that they might not even be needing uh pull-out speech therapy for. 

00:07:44 Hallie: And you're looking at the other testing like psych testing information from the OT guidance counselor, things like that. Getting the full picture of that student in front of you. That's what I love evaluations in a school-based setting because it's not just such an isolated thing. We really get to look at the big picture and all of the professionals are there with you so you can collaborate and work together to determine a plan for this student and not just do it in isolation. 

00:08:10 Hallie: When we're in our little silos, that's when we might be missing something that's so important for us to work on or to address or that we don't need to work on because it's maybe not our domain or maybe it'll be addressed by someone else. Okay.

00:08:23 Hallie: We have our information, we've figured out where our students might be struggling, and we've spoken to the teacher where they are being impacted in the classroom. Now it's time to make some goals. So we've got to come up with our long-term goals. What goals can we create that will align with their life skills and academic needs? And don't forget we need to make SMART goals. 

00:08:45 Hallie: We need to develop specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound SMART goals based on the specific areas needed, which are identified not only by the test results, but the entire big picture received. And then again, we need to make sure we have functional relevance. We need to ensure our goals are functional and can facilitate real-world communication skills, such as problem-solving, narrative skills, and social communication, not just teaching to a test. 

00:09:15 Hallie: Okay, if we write goals based on a subtest, will they ever really need that skill? When will a student need to repeat a sentence verbatim that they heard, like the recalling sentences test on the cell? Is that relevant to them? Is that going to be helpful to them in their classroom or in the real world? Instead, how can we take a step back and think, what is this telling me? If they can't do this, what might they be struggling with academically, socially, or communicatively in life? So let's take an example of the self.

00:09:51 Hallie: So the self, which is a widely assessment tool commonly used for evaluating language skills for ages five through 21. Let's take a hypothetical scenario where an older student might, we're gonna look at their scores and how we can turn it into functional and relevant goals. So let's just say they scored on their core language a 75, below average, receptive language, 80, not so bad, right? They're able to listen their expressive, 70. 

00:10:20 Hallie: So we can see here that their verbal expression is much more weaker than their listening comprehension. Language structure, 75. Language content index, an 85. That's average, so do we need to work on it? Do we need to make any goals? Just because a subtest might be addressing that, you know, that's what you gotta think a little bit, critically. And language memory, 70. 

00:10:41 Hallie: Okay, so interpreting these results, we can see that it is evident that the student is struggling significantly with expressive language skills and with language memory, while their understanding of language content is closer to average. So these results suggest difficulties in formulating language, expressing ideas, using language structures such as grammar and syntax, and retaining and recalling information communicated to them. 

00:11:10 Hallie: One thing I do love about this self, it does have a lot of the task analysis on on the score form, so you can really look at like, where are they struggling, which ones did they get wrong, are there any pattern? By going a little bit deeper than just looking at the scores, you can get more information. And then as you probe deeper, do some dynamic assessment, you can see where the breakdown is. 

00:11:33 Hallie: Okay, so based on these scores, here are some examples of functional and smart goals. So if we're wanting to improve, and again, I have spoken about this, I believe on the podcast, I'm not a fan of plethora of goals. Two or three goals. It's an annual goal. It's not a lifetime goal. Remember, we only see our students 30 to 60 minutes a week. We can't work on everything, especially when they're in a group setting. So I'm going to be sharing three goals, which is probably more than I would ever do. 

00:12:03 Hallie: One would be to improve expressive language. So an example of a goal would be to be working on improving their ability to construct complex sentences such as the student will use complex sentences correctly in eight out of 10 trials. Or I might be more specific and say, the student will be utilizing conjunctions in four out of five trials, because I typically like to do my things out of five, because I'm never really getting them to do 10 trials in a session, because it is a group, so let's be real, okay?

00:12:33 Hallie: And how am I teaching you to them? I might be providing structure practice, utilizing visual aids, and sentence-building activities. Okay, and how is this relevant to them? By working on their ability to construct complex sentences, it will enhance their ability to express ideas clearly in their classroom and everyday conversation, okay? So that will be goal number one. 

00:12:58 Hallie: Goal number two, we need to address their language memory. So an example would be the student will enhance their short-term memory related to verbal instructions, okay? So we might be working on recalling information heard in order to follow directions. Now notice how I'm not just working on following directions, especially with our older students. We can always, if we're working on, it's why are they struggling with the instructions? How can we assist them? 

00:13:25 Hallie: So this is working on their memory, what they have heard. So what would something measurable that we're gonna be targeting? It will accurately recall the details from verbal instructions four to five times. And how are they gonna do this? How are we gonna teach this to them? We might be teaching them the compensatory strategies such as asking for repetition. We might teach them some chunking strategies and active listening strategies like mnemonics and listening for keywords. 

00:13:53 Hallie: And how is this relevant? Well, by working on verbal instructions and teaching them these strategies to build their short-term memory or to support their short-term memory, it will support academic performance and their ability to follow classroom instructions more effectively. Okay, this is just an example again. I really truly hate working on following directions with older students just in isolation. 

00:14:15 Hallie: But if you're doing it to build the memory piece and to build those compensatory strategies piece, it's a different ballgame. All right, and lastly, goal number three, to increase their receptive language skills. Now granted, the receptive language is not that core, but that is something they will still need, especially if they have that weak memory. So what is the goal that we might be working on? The student will improve their understanding of spoken paragraphs.

00:14:39 Hallie: What's the measurable task? The student will be able to answer WH questions correctly after listening to a paragraph heard, right? Not only they're gonna be able to answer questions, but what type of questions can they handle? Maybe they can verbally discuss the main idea after hearing a paragraph. Maybe they can answer an inferential question as they hear a paragraph. Now again, if you use my Lego baseline tool, you know exactly where they're in in that comprehension level, okay? 

00:15:04 Hallie: So just because they're expected in their fifth grade, we work on an inferencing doesn't mean that's the only thing you're gonna work on. Where are they? So, how are we gonna do this? We're gonna utilize graphic organizers so they can hone in on what they should be listening to to improve their memory again and understanding what is expected of them. 

00:15:23 Hallie: We're gonna model our thinking about our thinking and we're gonna teach them some note-taking strategies and some listening for keywords to help them, okay? And how is this relevant to them? Well, by working on answering questions based on paragraphs heard, it will facilitate a better understanding of classroom lectures and reading comprehension. 

00:15:44 Hallie: Okay, so those are three examples how you can take the information gathered from the test and figure out, okay, and get more information with the student that you have and the teachers and all the other professionals working in it, it's testing that student as well to get more information so that you can enhance the student's performance and make sure that our goals directly support their students' academic and social needs and not just teaching to the test. 

00:16:12 Hallie: We want to make sure our goals are functional, and that is how we make sure our school, our activities are relevant. Remember the key to successful speech lessons lies in making them relevant and functional. We can turn those assessment scores into stepping stones for real world skills. If we're just creating goals based on the subtests, we aren't working on functional skills. And it will be difficult to demonstrate what we're doing in the speech room is relevant to the classroom and ensure carryover.

00:16:42 Hallie: And our students are not gonna be motivated. They're not gonna see how this is helping them. They're gonna get frustrated and you're gonna get frustrated and they're not gonna make progress. And in the end, what is our goal? That they make progress. So if our ultimate goal is for them to make progress and to see carryover in their classroom, we cannot be just teaching to a subtest. 

00:17:04 Hallie: All right, I hope you found this helpful. You can apply this to any grade level, but really when it comes to working with those older speech students, we wanna make sure their lessons are relevant, engaging and motivating, and we build that intrinsic motivation. And by doing so, we need to be able to show our students how what we're doing in the speech room is relevant to what they're doing outside of the speech room. If we're just teaching to the subtest and drilling, or quizzing, we're not teaching. 

00:17:31 Hallie: All right. Always end my episodes with a joke, so let's do it. How much money does a skunk have? One cent, get it? Scent, S-C-E-N-T, also one cent, C-E-N-T. Vocabulary fun, builds rapport. I hope you're using these jokes of the week to build rapport with your speech students, build language, have a lot of fun and create that safe and comfortable environment that your students need. 

00:18:02 Hallie: Again, make sure you head on over to speechtimefun.com/baseline to check out that Lego baseline tool so that you too can have another tool in your toolbox to get more information about the students you have in front of you. It'll make writing reports super easy, writing goals easy, and again, see more results. Until next week, everyone, stay out of trouble.

00:18:28 Hallie: Thanks so much for tuning in to another episode of SLP Coffee Talk. It means the world to me that you're tuning in each and every week and getting the jolt of inspiration you need. You can find all of the links and information mentioned in this episode at my website, speechtimefun.com. Don't forget to follow the show so you don't miss any future episodes. 

00:18:52 Hallie: And while you're there, it would mean the world to me if you would take a few seconds and leave me an honest review. See you next week with another episode full of fun and inspiration from one SLP to another. Have fun guys!