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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why has Testing and Assessment Gotten Such a Bad Rep?

The common job description of a school psychologist looks something like this: "Administer diagnostic assessments and evaluate student performance. Develop, implement and monitor goals and objectives of the school and program. Work with parents in the development of each student."

As most of us know, not only will we be testing, assessing and working with parents and teachers to help school children, but at times we will be called on for crisis interventions, therapeutic counseling, etc. There is no question that working as a school psychologist can be both rewarding and challenging. But our jobs shouldn't just stop there.

When discussing the primary role and function of a school psychologist, all agree that testing and assessment has A LOT to do with it. And if done correctly, assessment can help the client benefit from the many special services he/she may need. So if the tests are designed to get the child the help they need, why does the help only occur if assessment is done correctly? Why are so many kids, failed by misdiagnosis? In my opinion, assessment is a collaborative process and can only be done correctly if there is parent, teacher, and of course student cooperation. We can't assess on testing alone. In addition to using tests in the decision making process, we need to examine:

Day-to-Day Observation



Performance tasks

Exhibitions and Demonstrations



Teacher-created tests


Self- and peer-evaluations

By using all of this in addition to having the involvement of parents and teachers, we as school psychologists can truly make an accurate assessment. One question remains however, is this too much to ask from the teacher and parent? And is going "beyond the test" asking too much of the school psychologist?

This blog was created by Tahina Reyes.


Desiree Antas said...

I don’t think that asking parents and teachers to provide us with vital information is too much to ask. The more information we gather the better we can make accurate classifications and in turn make better recommendations. I believe that parents and teachers would want to provide us with that information, because it will only make their jobs, as well as ours, easier.
I believe that it is our role as a school psychologist to go beyond using cognitive measures of ability. The courses we have taken thus far prepare us with the knowledge we need to not only assess, but to also give counseling, devise behavior intervention plans, be culturally sensitive and to recognize psychopathological symptoms. Our title is “school psychologist” to me all of the things aforementioned embodies what it means to be a competent school psychologist.

Jamie Cowan said...

I do not think that this is asking too much of teachers and parents at all. Parents are supposed to want the best care possible for their child, they shouldn't shrink away from getting their child the correct and most accurate diagnosis simply because it invovles a little effort on their behalf. The same goes for teachers. Many teachers already feel they have enough on their plate with regular day-to-day classroom responsibilites, however, they need to understand in the long run spending an extra 20 min or so a week consulting and interviewing with the school psychologist to provide helpful information will only benefit them. It is absolutely crucial when considering classifications, analyzing test scores, and planning interventions to look at the entire spectrum of the child's performances, abilities, and behaviors in several different contexts.

Angelica said...

In order to provide adequate assessment of a child and the implementation of adequate services to suit that child's needs, collaboration between parents, teachers, and the psychologist is definitely crucial. Any normal involved parent would want what's best for their child's needs and educational concerns. If the child's best interest revolves around providing some extra time and effort towards reaching consesus about assessment and services, then it is the parent's duty to provide so. Likewise, as a teacher who cares for his or her student's progress and success, it is also in their own best interest to provide time and work collaborately with the psychologist to ensure that the child is receiving the approrpriate modifications and plans as necessary. This way, not only would the child possibly have an increase in performance and better understanding of certain materials, the teacher his or herself would also have some ease and better understanding of the child.

It is definitely apparant that a school psychologist's role and function keeps expanding as time goes by. I do not feel that going 'beyond the test' is too much to ask for. If individuals are really in their jobs with the purpose of helping those that need it, then a few extra time will be beneficial for all. With more and more demands from both teachers, parents, and school psychologists, the best thing they can do is create a positive environment of mutual collaboration so that all jobs may be facilitated and the child's needs accurately assessed. It is absulutely crucial to perform interviews, collect data and look at the child's entire performance of strengths and weaknesses within varying contexts and environments to ensure that the appropriate educational plan and services are implemented.

Jessica S said...

In regard to the question about misdiagnosis, most text books will tell you that it's better to make a false-positive error and assume that a student does in fact have a learning disability. A false-positive error may lead to a student receiving services that aren't necessary, but a false-negative diagnosis would mean that the student is missing out on very much needed special services.
I agree that diagnosis can only be accurate when a number critieria, as you mentioned, have been met. However, only two assessments are required when evaluating a student for special education. It's my opinion that something needs to change.
As an effective school psychologist, it our DUTY to look beyond these silly standardized tests and really get to the heart of the matter. While standardized tests can be a very useful tool, by no means are they the "be all, end all."
What some teachers don't realize is that complying with modifications will benefit them in the long run. However, a school psychologist can't just throw a list of modifications at a teacher and say "Now do it." As a school psychologist, I intend to train teachers how to effectivly implement these strategies. Training is paramount, and it's necessity gets overlooked a lot of the time.If it's asking too much of the parent to give 120% to their child, then maybe steps should be taken to remove the child from the home. I know this is unrealistic, but it just blows my mind as a parent that one would not stand on her head if she had to in order to help her child succeed. I digress...

Laura M said...

I also do not think going beyond the test is too much to ask of the school psychologist. I still think that most of the evaluation does come from testing though, and I believe that is correct. Just as we can't solely assess on testing alone, we can't solely depend on observation and parent & teacher comments either. It is just something else to consider. Sometimes, however, parents are not cooperative and teachers aren't always accurate in their observations and testing has to be relied on. If a teacher says a certain student is way below grade level for reading and you find through testing that he is not, what carries more weight - the teachers evaluation or yours?

SBartolozzi said...

I agree with everyone in that asking the parents and teachers to do more and contribute more information is not too much to ask. Everyone in the situation wants what is best for the child, so they should be willing to help as much as they can.

Obviously, sometimes there are parents and teachers who aren't as cooperative as others. In those cases, we need to work with what we have. We might have to rely more on testing and observations in those cases. However, we must try and get as much contribution from the parents and teachers as we can in order to get a good overall view of the child. There are a lot of factors that we can't see through testing and observing, to which the parents and teachers can attest. We have to do as much as possible to gather all of the information in order to properly proceed with the child's case.

Tami said...

I agree with everyone that has stated that it is not too much to ask for teachers and parents to take such an active role in the assessment of a student. Both parents and teachers serve as a vital part of this process, and will be able to provide us with relevant up to date information on a student. A teacher interacts and observes a child five days a week for approximately seven hours a day, this is a decent amount of time where they are learning about the student. The parents see their child for a great part of the remainder of the time, granted if they are involved parents. Therefore, teachers and students will be able to provide information about the student, that not many other people will be able to do. The student's best interest should of the utmost importance, so providing information about a child should be something they are willing to do.

I also do not feel is it too much to ask for school psychologists to go beyond the test. Again, the child's best interest should be key to the school psychologist; therefore, the psychologist should be willing to put effort and take on any other tasks in order to properly assess and work with the student. Working with cooperative parents and students is a way, for example, a psychologist could evaluate a student other than merely basing assessment on a test. Helping a student receive the education they deserve, as well as reach their full potential should be the goal of parents, teachers, and school psychologists; consequently, stating that it would be asking 'too much' for an increase in involvement is utterly ridiculous.

Melissa said...

I don't think that asking for teachers and parents to cooperate is asking too much. They should want the best for the child and if the best requires an extra effort, than that is what has to be done. If we don't have enough information than it will be difficult for us to be confident in our reccomendations. It is important for us to gather as much information as we can so we can see the whole picture instead of trying to piece together a puzzle. As school psychologists, it will be our responsiblity to stay current with new assessment methods. We don't want to rely solely on measures of cognitive ablites when there are other methods that are just as helpful. We should incorporate all the techniques we have learned when we are evaluating a child. We want to avoid making errors when classifying children. Incorporating different methods will make it less likely for children who need services to go unnoticed. Our role is not set in stone and we should take whatever measures are necassary to provide children with the help that they need.

Tjasa said...

I think that we as future school psychologists need to ask teachers and parents all the necessary information that will potentially help us with better serving a particular child. Since a child spends most of his time in school (with a teacher) and at home (with a parent) these individuals will have the most information on a child’s functioning. Also, it should be in any parents’ special interest to do as much as they can for their children.

However, many times there’re situations where parents are in denial that there’s something wrong with their child and when that occurs, we need to come up with the best solution for this child based on the information we have. Other times, parents may have limited knowledge themselves so they may not provide us with the best information on their child (not because they don’t want to but they simply can’t understand certain concepts).

Jesse S said...

ASking the parents and teachers to help in the process is not too much. THe goal of anyone working in a school and any parents should be the well being of the child and in situation such as this the child would benefit greatly from this type of approach. A test performed by the school psychologist and the results obtained from it cannot and should not be used as the primary factor determining placement and classification. As I have experienced while shadowing, there are many time my supervisor gets the results of a test and says "this is what the test says but I've known this student for a while and they are capable of more than this shows." I understand that teachers have a lot of students, school psychologists have a heavy caseloads and sometimes parents are less than eager to be involved, but the determination of where to place a child is made up of many factors and asking for any level of involvement from all parties is necessary.

Roxane said...

It is definitely not too much to ask and it is in the best interest of the child. Parents and teachers must be interviewed and asked to fill out questionnaires such as the BASC. I also think that student's should be interviewed as well as observed. I believe it is an essential part of assessment. It is needed to develop a complete picture of the child.