Newsroom Article

Coronavirus and Schools: Virtual Baselines


Posted on in Press Releases and Announcements

What is your guidance about using a baseline obtained virtually for an annual IEP that is being done now? For example, a baseline for a manding goal. I am concerned about doing this. Should I be?

Validity and reliability are important for goal baselining and for progress monitoring—but not as much as they are when administering standardized testing. Whether you can obtain a usable baseline virtually will depend on the skill being assessed. To take baseline data on a “mand” goal, for example, the assessor needs to verify that the child produced a discernable verbal request for a particular reinforcer. The ability to control (or at least carefully observe) the stimulus presented to the child and to observe the conditions under which the “mand” is produced will be as important as the ability to hear the words the child uses. If those observations can occur virtually, an acceptable (if not ideal) baseline might be established. To take data on a reading fluency goal, for another example, the passage will need to be visible to both the child and the assessor, and the sound connection will have to be clear enough that the assessor can reliably gauge accuracy.

None of these baselines will have the quality or precision of ones taken in the immediate presence of the child, where the conditions of the observed performance can be closely observed and controlled. Certainly, some acknowledgement of the less-than-ideal conditions should accompany the baselines in the present levels section of the IEP, such as, “The following baselines were obtained virtually and might not reflect as accurate an assessment of present levels as would be obtained under natural classroom conditions.”

Do not read this opinion as suggesting that you must or even should obtain baselines virtually. We are simply suggesting that for many skills—but not all—you may obtain and use them. Our opinion in the current environment is that you should strive to do as much as you can to meet the high bar established by the IDEA. If virtual baselines bring your IEP that much closer to meeting legal expectations—and in most cases they will—by all means attempt them, adding the cautionary language we have suggested above.