Mastering the Maze Draft 8

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					                       ASSESSMENT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Planning the Initial Evaluation Process

1. Q. After intervention strategies have been implemented in the regular education class, how
      can that information best be linked to the reason for referral and selection of the most
      appropriate assessment measures?

   A. Intervention strategies for the child should be comprehensively reviewed by the
      Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team to evaluate the following: techniques used
      to implement, adapt, and monitor multiple interventions; specific behavior(s) and skill(s)
      targeted for intervention; measures of the effectiveness of the interventions, and the
      child’s response to the interventions. The IEP Team should review all available data,
      such as observations, interviews, learning history, grades, work samples, and state
      assessment data. Available data should be used to identify what additional data, if any,
      are needed to evaluate the child.

2. Q. If a child receives interventions for reading from the Building Based Student Support
      Team (BBSST) but other deficient areas are identified during the assessment, does a child
      have to return to the BBSST to receive additional interventions for the other newly
      identified area(s)?

   A. No. The timeline for eligibility determination began when the public education agency
      received the consent to evaluate signed by the parent. The eligibility process would
      already be in progress when the new area(s) of difficulty was discovered. Therefore, the
      child would not return to BBSST for additional interventions. If the child is eligible to
      receive special education services, the other areas of weakness can be addressed when the
      IEP is developed.

3. Q. What are some discussion points for determining what areas to evaluate for an initial
      evaluation? Should a comprehensive achievement test that covers several or all areas be
      administered or must a test be administered only in the areas of suspected disability when
      a specific learning disability is suspected? When is it appropriate to assess only the area
      of suspected disability?

   A. General principles to use when planning an initial evaluation are: (a) review existing data,
      such as school records, work samples, classroom behavior, state assessment data,
      information from teachers and parents, and referral intervention strategies to identify
      what additional data, if any, are needed; (b) ensure the assessment includes a
      comprehensive and individual evaluation of educational needs; and (c) confirm the
      evaluation is comprehensive enough to identify all of the child’s needs, whether or not
      commonly linked to an area of disability. When assessing only in the area of a suspected
      disability, such as reading or math, clear evidence must be present to indicate that the
      child is progressing in all other areas at the appropriate age and grade level. For example,
      this may be a consideration for a child who makes D’s and F’s in reading and A’s and B’s
      in all other subjects.

4. Q. Does the IEP Team decide on the specific assessment instruments that must be
      administered by the school psychologist/psychometrist?
   A. Based on the information gathered, the IEP Team decides which area(s) needs to be
      assessed. The area(s) to be assessed is checked on the Notice and Consent for Initial
      Evaluation form or the Notice and Consent for Reevaluation form. For example, if the
      IEP Team decides the child needs an intellectual assessment, “Intellectual” is checked on
      the form. The school psychologist/psychometrist reviews the data provided by the IEP
      Team and determines which instrument(s) is the most appropriate to reflect the child’s
      ability.   The IEP Team may also make recommendations to the school
      psychologist/psychometrist for specific assessments to be administered.

5. Q. When intelligence and achievement tests are administered first, and there is no severe
      discrepancy, must the other evaluation criteria, such as behavior rating scales, work
      samples, Environmental, Cultural, and/or Economic Concerns (ECEC) checklist, data
      from state assessment(s), be given/collected before the Eligibility Committee and/or IEP
      Team reviews information needed to determine eligibility for a child suspected of having
      a specific learning disability?

   A. Yes. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires a full individual
      evaluation for each child being considered for special education and related services.
      Therefore, all required data for the area of referral must be collected prior to making the
      decision for eligibility. Much of the other required data should be collected before the
      intelligence and achievement tests are administered. For example, the work samples,
      ECEC checklist, etc., should be reviewed prior to determining the most appropriate
      intelligence and achievement tests to administer.

6. Q. When a specific learning disability is suspected, should the examiner “search for a
      discrepancy?” For example, after giving the first achievement test and finding that no
      score is low enough for a severe discrepancy, should additional tests be administered
      until a discrepancy is found?

   A. No. The evaluation process should be planned by the IEP Team prior to testing with the
      goal of being comprehensive enough to identify all of the child’s needs whether or not
      commonly linked to a disability area. In addition, the evaluation plan should be based on
      an extensive review of existing data prior to identifying what additional data, if any, are
      needed. Since the assessment is planned carefully in advance, an IEP Team typically
      should NOT continue to search for a discrepancy.

7. Q. Is it appropriate to use traditional measures for children who are English Language
      Learners (ELL) and who have not passed the English Proficiency Test?

   A. When considering the need for special education services, the IEP Team must rule out,
      environmental, language, cultural, and/or economic concerns that would impact on the
      student’s learning and therefore exclude him from being identified as a student with a
      disability. The IEP Team needs to carefully review all available data prior to making a
      decision about the use of any assessment instrument(s). Grades, work samples, learning
      history, observations, state assessment data and other pertinent information should be
      reviewed carefully. If the IEP Team decides testing is appropriate, assessments must be
      administered in the child’s native language that do not discriminate and/or show false
      positives. The IEP Team should also consider the use of interpreters and alternate form
      tests, such as Spanish versions.

8. Q. When the IEP Team decides to use a nontraditional or nonverbal intelligence test, due to
      language issues with English Language Learners (ELL) and uses a traditional
      achievement test should the two instruments be used to calculate a severe discrepancy for

   A. The use of a nonverbal intelligence test and a traditional achievement test to calculate
      severe discrepancy is not appropriate in most cases. For example, if a nonverbal
      intelligence test was selected due to the child’s limited English skills, then a Standard
      English achievement test probably would not be appropriate either. Another issue for
      consideration is the extreme cultural differences between some children and the cultural
      content of some intelligence tests. The nontraditional test may be selected because of the
      child’s background rather than the issue of English language skills. It is important to
      keep in mind that the nonverbal test may be most valid after considering the exclusion of
      primary conditions such as environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. Most
      importantly, if at all possible the decision to use a nontraditional test should be made
      prior to the initiation of testing.

9. Q. If a comprehensive traditional intelligence test is administered at initial evaluation, and
      the verbal score is higher than the performance score, or the performance score is higher
      than the verbal score, must a nontraditional test be used at reevaluation?

   A. No. A verbal-performance split at an initial evaluation, even one that is large enough to
      be extremely rare or statistically and clinically significant according to the test author,
      would be useful information, but insufficient evidence by itself to decide to use a
      nontraditional or nonverbal test. Assessment instruments selected should be those that
      are best suited for the individual child and should provide the IEP Team with the most
      accurate information. The decision to administer another cognitive ability test depends
      on whether or not the information obtained will provide new data that was not known
      from the administration of a previous assessment.

10. Q. When the split between verbal and performance scores is statistically significant or rare
       on tests of intellectual ability, is the full-scale score meaningless, or invalid, for
       determining eligibility?

   A. Generally, a full-scale score is considered to be the best estimate of intellectual ability for
      the typical child. However, splits between verbal, performance and nonverbal scores for
      children suspected of having a disability provide some evidence that the overall full-scale
      score may not be a good indicator of the child’s intellectual potential and additional
      testing may be indicated. Some instruments have subtests that discriminate against a
      child with a disability. For instance, a child with language deficits might be at a
      disadvantage if his intellectual ability is measured with a test that places heavy emphasis
      on verbal skills. Many of the newer test instruments provide more than one total or full-
      scale score in a particular area. Refer to the author’s manual to determine when and how
      certain scores should be used, for example performance measures are not the same as
      nonverbal measures because they measure different skills. Matching the proper test with
      the child’s area of strength will usually result in a valid score acceptable for determining

11. Q. When using scoring programs or test manuals for intelligence and/or achievement tests,
       predicted achievement values are sometimes reported. The values reported in scoring
       programs or test manuals do not always match the discrepancy tables provided by the
       State Department of Education (SDE). Should the values reported by the test scoring
       programs or test manuals be used instead of the SDE tables to calculate severe

   A. Yes. If a scoring program or test manual for an intelligence test and the companion
      achievement test, such as the WISC-IV and the WIAT-II or WJ-III Tests of Cognitive
      Abilities and WJ-III Tests of Achievement, the predicted achievement values reported by
      the test authors may be used instead of the SDE predicted achievement tables. It is
      important to note that the intelligence test must be matched to calculate predictive
      achievement values.

12. Q. Should paraprofessionals administer achievement tests?

   A. Examiner qualifications are described in test manuals and may vary from one test to
      another. The IEP Team should refer to the examiner qualifications for each specific test
      and match the qualifications with the examiner whether it is a paraprofessional or a
      teacher in the regular classroom.

Planning the Reevaluation Process

13. Q. What are discussion points for determining if a new intelligence test(s) and/or
       achievement tests(s) needs to be administered when a child is reevaluated in the area of
       Mental Retardation (MR), Specific Learning Disability (SLD), and/or Emotional
       Disturbance (ED)?

   A. Relevant factors in making decisions about the need for a new intelligence test(s) and/or
      achievement test(s) at reevaluation include stability of previous tests, consideration of
      evaluation data in other areas, for example general behavior, behavior in the classroom
      and other environmental impact of economic concerns and social factors. General
      questions that should be used by the IEP Team when planning the reevaluation include:
      (a) After a comprehensive review of existing data, what additional data, if any, are
      needed? (b) Does this student continue to have a disability requiring special education?
      (c) Is the child’s current IEP and special education program effective? (d) What, if any,
      changes in instruction, placement, etc., are needed to help the child attain appropriate
      goals and participate in the regular education class. Review of existing data include
      assessment results from school records, previous evaluations, and ongoing observations
      and data collection, for example initial evaluation data, classroom assessment data,
      continuous curriculum-based evaluations, assessment data and changes in circumstances.

14. Q. If a particular test is administered to a child, and a revised version of the test is available
       at the next reevaluation, must the revised test be administered simply because there is a
       new version of the test available?

   A. No. If the IEP Team determines that no additional data are needed to make a decision
      about the child’s status, then a new test would not be needed even though a revised
      version of the test is available. If the IEP Team determines that additional data are
      needed because the child’s status may be different, or the IEP Team is not sure of the
      status, the revised version of the test is appropriate since it will have the most up-to-date
15. Q. If a test or rating scale (achievement, intellectual, or behavior) with an age range of 5-12
       years was administered to a child at age 11 and the child is age 14 at the three-year
       evaluation, must a new test or rating scale be administered?

   A. No. A current age-appropriate measure is not required at reevaluation if the child is no
      longer within the age range from a previous administration. In other words, the primary
      factor for the IEP Team to consider is the need for current data but not based on the fact
      that the child is now out of the age range. The IEP Team should review all relevant
      information and existing data, including but not limited to: other tests administered in the
      years following initial evaluation; continuous academic performance data; school
      records; work samples; classroom behavior; state assessment data; and information from
      teachers and parents to identify what additional data, if any, are needed. If the IEP Team
      determines that no additional data are needed to make a decision about the child’s status,
      then a more current test/rating scale would not be needed even if the child is out of the
      age range from the previous evaluation.

16. Q. Should paraprofessionals be allowed to conduct observations for initial eligibility and/or
       for reevaluations?

   A. There is no specific rule prohibiting paraprofessionals from conducting observations.
      The IEP Team should make the decision if it would be appropriate based on each
      individual situation, such as, the problems exhibited by the child and the skill/training of
      the paraprofessional for conducting and documenting an appropriate observation.

Planning the Eligibility Process

17. Q. Can an intelligence test administered within the past year be used with a current
       achievement test to calculate a severe discrepancy for Specific Learning Disability

   A. Tests administered within the past year are considered current for initial evaluations and
      may be used to calculate a severe discrepancy.

18. Q. What are discussion points for determining that cognitive ability is not the primary cause
       for occurring problems when considering ED?

   A. The Eligibility Committee and/or IEP Team should consider the following relevant
      factors when determining that intellectual ability is not the primary cause for learning
      problems: behavior rating scale results; observations; interviews with parents and
      teachers; school history; and any additional data or documentation that would suggest a
      relationship between the child’s learning problems and emotional/behavior problems.

19. Q. What are discussion points for determining that behavior is not the primary cause for
       occurring problems when considering SLD?

   A. According to the Alabama Administrative Code (AAC), the Eligibility Committee and/or
      IEP Team should consider the following relevant factors when excluding
      emotional/behavioral problems as the primary cause for the learning difficulties: behavior
      rating scale results; observations; interviews with parents and teachers; school history;
         and any additional data or documentation that would suggest a relationship between the
         child’s learning problems and emotional/behavior problems.

20. Q. Are school psychologists/psychometrists required to be members of the Eligibility
       Committee and/or IEP Team?

   A. An individual who is trained to interpret the instructional implications of results is a
      required member of the IEP Team. This individual may or may not be the school
      psychologists/psychometrist. However, there is one exception to IEP Team required
      membership. When either the Eligibility Committee and/or IEP Team meets to consider
      eligibility for a child suspected of having a specific learning disability, at least one person
      qualified to conduct individual diagnostic examinations of children, such as school
      psychologist/psychometrist, speech-impaired pathologist, or remedial reading teacher, is
      a required to be a member of the Eligibility Committee and/or IEP Team.

21. Q.    At least one person qualified to conduct individual diagnostic examinations of children,
          such as a school psychologist/psychometrist, speech-language pathologist or remedial
          reading teacher, is a required member of the Eligibility Committee and/or IEP Team for
          eligibility determination for children suspected of having a specific learning disability.
          What kind of qualifications do these individuals need?

   A.     Decisions about specific qualifications for school psychologist/psychometrists are made
          by the State of Alabama through the credentialing process. Any standardized test used
          with a child must be administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel and in
          accordance with any instructions provided by the test author or publisher. Test findings
          obtained from an uncredentialed test examiner are considered unacceptable due to the
          high incidence of examiner error and chance for misidentifying a child with/without a

          Otherwise, decisions about specific qualifications are made at the local level so that the
          composition of the team can vary depending on the specific expertise of a local staff
          member, the nature of the child’s disability, and other relevant factors. For example, for
          a child suspected of having a specific learning disability in the area of reading, it would
          be appropriate to include at least one reading specialist as part of the eligibility team.
          However, for another child suspected of having a specific learning disability in the area
          of listening comprehension, it might also be appropriate to include a speech-language
          pathologist with expertise in auditory processing disorders. A speech-language
          pathologist would certainly be included if the child was referred for speech or language
          difficulties. Flexibility at the local level ensures that the team is made up of individuals
          with expertise and specialized knowledge necessary to interpret evaluation data and
          make informed decisions as to whether or not a child is a child with a disability.

22. Q. How should the information from the Environmental, Cultural, and/or Economic
       Concerns (ECEC) checklist be reported on the eligibility report the number of checks
       does not provide sufficient information for the IEP Team?

   A. A summary statement noting relevant information from the Environmental, Cultural,
      and/or Economic Concerns (ECEC) to eligibility determination must be written on the
      eligibility report.

23. Q. May the General Ability Index (GAI) on the WISC-IV be used as a full scale score when
       determining eligibility for a child suspected of having a disability?

   A. Yes. The GAI is designed to measure intellectual ability for some types of children with
      special needs and/or disabilities. Information on when and how to use the GAI may be
      found in a special report supplement to the WISC-IV. The total score may be used for
      eligibility determination. The report is on the WISC-IV Website (
      Note: the GAI should not be used routinely when assessing children suspected of having
      a disability.

24. Q. Should the IEP Team use the standard error of measurement (SEM) when determining
       eligibility for SLD and MR?

   A. No. The obtained overall test score is considered to be the single best estimate of a
      typical child’s performance, and according to the Alabama Administrative Code (AAC),
      should be used for eligibility determination. However, when interpreting and making
      suggestions for the development of educational programs, consideration of the
      confidence interval and standard error of measurement may provide useful information.

25. Q. The IEP Team that is responsible for developing the IEP is required to include an
       individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results. Explain
       who is qualified to interpret evaluation results.

   A. An individual who is qualified to conduct a particular assessment does not necessarily
      have the skills or knowledge to assist the IEP Team in determining the special education,
      related services, and other supports that are necessary in order for a child to receive
      FAPE. An individual(s) who can “interpret the instructional implications of evaluation
      results” would include individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the
      child or those who can explain the results of the evaluation in a manner that would assist
      the IEP Team in making appropriate decisions.

General Assessment

26. Q. What are “test user qualifications” and “professional limitations?”

    A. Many of the most important ethical considerations include user qualifications and
       recognizing professional limitations. The phrase “test user qualifications” refers to the
       combination of knowledge, skills, abilities, training, experience, and, where appropriate,
       practice credentials that APA and the State of Alabama considers desirable for the
       responsible use of psychological tests. Responsible assessment does not focus narrowly
       on the calculation of scores or description of profile patterns, but rather on developing a
       broader understanding of a child’s uniqueness, using a wide range of assessment
       information collected by an experienced, trained professional. It is typically assumed
       that all test users have the college and/or graduate-level training in general measurement
       and statistical concepts essential for understanding test scores. It is essential that all test
       users have experience in supervised administration and reporting results of individually
       administered cognitive batteries to accurately administer, score, and interpret
       intelligence batteries. It is expected that the test user assume professional responsibility
       to restrict themselves to specialties and areas in which whey have been trained.

        Although it may be possible to administer the objectively scored sections of an
        assessment with only a measurement course without supervised training from a highly
        trained professional, there are subtleties to establishing rapport, observing the examinee,
        and scoring items that require examiner judgment. Practical use of tests of intelligence
        requires a great deal more than novice and limited experience. (Roid, G.H. (2003).
        Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales, Fifth Edition, Examiner’s Manual. Itasca, IL:
        Riverside Publishing. ).

27. Q. When a publisher revises an assessment instrument, what is a reasonable length of time to
       continue using the outdated editions?

   A. Technically sound instruments must be used at all times, including tests that have up-to-
      date standardization data and that are not out-dated or obsolete. Generally, revised
      instruments should be used instead of an older version as soon as possible after the
      publication date in order to make the best educational decisions using the most current
      normative data. Using out-dated norms can cause a child to be misidentified as a child
      with/or without a disability. Test manuals and other publisher information typically
      provide data comparing the old to the new tests and make recommendations about
      continued use of the old tests. As soon as possible includes a reasonable amount of time
      for the public agency to purchase a new instrument, train the staff, and provide
      opportunity for staff members to practice using the new instrument.

28. Q. Test authors require practice when learning to administer new tests. Can you administer
       practice tests on children in special education?

   A. No. Children referred for an evaluation, or those currently receiving special education
      services, should never be used as practice subjects. There is, however, one exception.
      Graduate students currently enrolled in approved training programs leading to
      certification to administer individual intellectual evaluations may administer individual
      intellectual tests as part of training if the test is part of a reevaluation and written reports
      are approved and cosigned by a person properly certified by the SDE.

29. Q. How long do you have to keep test protocols?

    A. Test protocols are considered part of a child’s educational record in Alabama.
       Educational records can be destroyed five (5) years after the termination of the special
       education program for which they were used. At the end of the five-year period, the
       public agency must inform the parents when personally identifiable information
       collected, maintained, or used is no longer needed. Information must be destroyed in a
       manner whereby confidentiality of the information is maintained, for example shredding.
       Disposal of confidential information must be attended to by the individual disposing of
       the protocols. Protocols should not be given to other people for disposal, put in
       dumpsters, or anywhere confidentiality could be compromised. Additionally,
       confidential information must be destroyed at the request of the parent. However, a
       permanent education record that contains the child’s name, address, telephone number,
       his or her grades, record of attendance for special education services, classes attended,
       grade level completed, and year completed may be maintained without time limitation.
       [AAC 290-8-9.08(2) (h)].

30. Q. How does the IEP Team proceed when the school psychologist/psychometrist reports that
       an administered assessment is invalid due to the child's poor behavior during the testing
       period, i.e., refusing to attempt to participate, is uncooperative, silly and/or refuses to be

   A. Generally, an invalid assessment should not be used to determine if a child is a child with
      a disability. A report with documented notations as to validity must be provided to the
      IEP Team so that informed decisions can be made. A good examiner will always ensure
      that the examinee is assessed under optimal conditions. At the beginning of the testing
      period when the examiner is establishing rapport, the examiner must make a judgment
      call before testing begins as to whether or not the child is in the proper state of mind so
      that the child is capable of putting forth his/her best efforts. If for any reason the
      examiner detects that the child does not feel well, is having a bad day, or is otherwise
      uncooperative, testing should not be started. Also, testing should be stopped and
      rescheduled if there is a legitimate reason, such as, the child gets sick.

31. Q. Will the SDE provide a comparison chart of subtests and composites for commonly used
       achievement tests for determination of a severe discrepancy for SLD?

   A. No. Each test manual provides descriptive information regarding the construct of
      subtests and composites. The public education agency should designate someone with
      experience and formal training in the field of assessment, such as a school
      psychologist/psychometrist, who is capable of reviewing test manuals and making
      recommendations for public education agencies to use.

32. Q. Is there an updated State approved list of assessments?

   A. No. Public agencies may appoint an individual(s) with the expertise to determine the
      psychometric qualities (validity and reliability) of an instrument. The public education
      agency may choose to develop its own list of approved assessments.

33. Q. What is the difference between an assessment and an evaluation?

   A. An assessment refers to a single test. For example, an assessment of intellectual ability
      (IQ) is one of many assessments administered to the child being evaluated. An
      evaluation includes all assessment information, such as work samples, observations,
      hearing and vision, interviews, collected about the child and making judgments about its
      worth or effectiveness.

34. Q. What is the difference between validity and reliability?

   A. A valid measure is one that measures what it is supposed to measure. Validity refers to
      getting results that accurately reflect the concept being measured.

       Reliability is the consistency of a set of measurements or measuring instrument.
       Reliability does not imply validity. That is, a reliable measure is measuring something
       consistently, but not necessarily what it is supposed to be measuring. For example, while
       there are many reliable tests of specific abilities, not all of them would be valid for
       predicting school performance.

       A valid measure must be reliable, but a reliable measure need not be valid.

35. Q. What is a standardized test?

   A. A standardized test is a test given to a group of individuals under uniform conditions,
      with the same instructions, time limits, etc. Tests are designed by sampling the
      performance of other individuals using results as a norm for judging achievement. In
      other words, when a child makes a certain score on an achievement test, his or her score
      is compared to the other individuals in the norming group.

36. Q. What is the background for development and use of the regression tables for severe

   A. According to the AAC, a regression model is used to determine the difference between
      predicted achievement (based on intelligence) and obtained achievement. In general, the
      procedure that is used is to determine the obtained achievement score(s) from a complete
      test, or two composites or two subtests in the area of referral from two different tests.
      Compare the obtained achievement to the predicted achievement score, based on the
      intelligence tests, by using tables from the test publishers or, if not available, SDE tables.
      The obtained achievement must be at least 16 points lower than predicted achievement to
      identify a severe discrepancy. The regression model is based on the predicted
      achievement model. In this model, the tables are used to predict what the child will
      achieve at a level comparable to their intelligence. A severe discrepancy is determined
      when a child’s achievement is not comparable to what is predicted (as per the tables).
      However, an intelligence test score is exactly equal to predicted achievement only if there
      is a perfect correlation between IQ and achievement. The correlation is NOT perfect;
      therefore, IEP Teams must take into account regression to the mean for statistical
      accuracy. With regression to the mean, predicted achievement will be closer to the mean
      than the intelligence test score. Test publishers’ tables provide data to convert the
      intelligence test score to a predicted achievement score based on actual correlations
      between the intelligence and achievement test. If test publishers tables are not available,
      SDE tables provide the conversion of intelligence test scores to predicted achievement
      scores and are based on assumption of .65 correlation between intelligence and


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