First and foremost, tests must be selected on the basis of the referral problem and according to the specific needs of the individual child. You should always question the practice of assessing all students on the same test (or series of tests) since each student is a special and unique individual. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.304; Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56320.]
The language used by assessment staff who administers assessments to a child too often intimidates parents of the child with special education needs. Tests are not as complex as they may first appear. A competent psychologist, speech clinician, learning specialist, or other assessment staff in the public schools can easily explain the tests to you. You have the right to ask about tests, how they are put together, and what the results of a test mean in clear and plain language. Never hesitate to exercise this right; your child’s future may be decided on the results of such assessments. Here are some questions you can ask, especially if you are or your child is a member of a multicultural population:
- How reliable and valid is the test? That is, if given again, is it likely that the results will be about the same (reliability)? Does this test measure adequately the ability it is supposed to measure (validity)?
- Are the norms for this test based on a representative sample of the population of which the child is a part? That is, if the child is Asian-American, are Asian-Americans included in the normative sample?
- Is the response format of the test appropriate to the child? That is, if the child is non-verbal, can he respond without giving a verbal response? If your child is visually impaired, can the test be given without visual material? If your child speaks only Spanish…has a physical impairment…has a hearing impairment…etc., can he take the test without interference from physical or linguistic limitations?
- Is the examiner skilled in administering the test, knowledgeable about normal and abnormal patterns of development, capable of observing qualitative features of test performance, and proficient in interpreting results? Your child has the right to receive assessment services from a competent, qualified examiner. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56320(a) & (b)(3).]
- Has the examiner provided a setting and developed a procedure that will assure the student’s maximum performance so that results will not be affected by outside circumstances? Such circumstances might include, for example, illness, anxiety, hunger, trauma, motivation, confidence, temperature, lighting, etc. A good assessment must acknowledge the influence of such variables and estimate their impact on assessment results.