I Am HISD profile showcases Educational Diagnostician Week
In this week’s I am HISD, which features HISD students, graduates, and employees, we are highlighting Educational Diagnostician Week across Texas by interviewing HISD Lead Evaluation Specialist Tacy Gilmore. Gilmore talks about when she became a diagnostician, how she evaluates students for disabilities, and who decides which students are evaluated.
How did you come to be a diagnostician for HISD?
I was working as a seventh-grade math teacher in Alief ISD, when I became interested in becoming an Educational Diagnostician. As a general education teacher, I wanted to know how I could have a greater impact on student achievement and the process to get the individualized support needed. I attended graduate school at Prairie View A&M University, where I became certified, first as a counselor and then as a diagnostician.
How long have you been with HISD?
I came to work as an Educational Diagnostician for HISD in 2001.
What does a diagnostician actually do?
Diagnosticians assess and diagnose the learning problems of students. We review academic records and obtain information from teachers as well as parents, and administer various cognitive and achievement tests. Through the assessment process, we determine if a child has a learning disability or other condition that may be impacting learning. A full and individual evaluation (FIE) report is written documenting the results. The FIE is used to determine if a child has a disability and, if so, the nature and extent of the need for special education and related services.
For some reason, I thought that diagnosticians primarily administered tests.
Although the tests are a very important part of the assessment process, I believe how the results are used to create an individualized education program for the child is most important. This is done during an ARD/IEP meeting, which stands for Admission, Review, and Dismissal/ Individual Education Program. This is the Texas name for the meeting of a group of people who develop an IEP for the student. Teachers, parents, a diagnostician or other special education specialists, and a school administrator meet at least once a year to review the student’s progress based on his or her IEP.
Who decides which students are evaluated?
Referrals can be made by parents, guardians, teachers, counselors, or other school staff members who suspect a child is showing signs of learning difficulties, but generally it’s the teacher who initiates the referral, because the child is not achieving commensurate with his or her peers. In HISD, we have an intervention assistance team (IAT) composed of school staff that problem-solve around students for whom the standard instructional process is not effective. Educational diagnosticians serve on the IAT and help decide if a student needs to be referred for evaluation.
What happens to a student after he or she is evaluated?
That depends on the impact of the disability. If the child’s disability requires very specialized support, the student may spend part of the day or most of the day in a specialized class taught by a special education teacher. In most cases, however, students with disabilities attend classes in general education settings with their peers. In the general education setting, the classroom teacher makes appropriate adaptions and accommodations to instruction, assessments, and other classroom activities so the student with a disability can access the same grade-level curriculum as non-disabled peers. This could include things like text-to-speech capabilities through Kurzweil software, visual aids for memory, math manipulatives, clarification and rephrasing for vocabulary support, or other universally designed accommodations and supports.
Which high schools do you serve?
I divide my time among Energy Institute High School, Houston Academy for International Studies, the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, and Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy.
Do you enjoy what you do?
I enjoy my job and feel very fortunate to be able to do what I do.
Do you have any children?
Yes, I have four children, and they are all products of HISD. Only one is still in school – he’s at DeBakey High School for Health Professions – and another went there as well. The others attended High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and Booker T. Washington High School for Engineering Professions.