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
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
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
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
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
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
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 (www.wisciv.com).
Note: the GAI should not be used routinely when assessing children suspected of having
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.
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