Along with interviews, questionnaires and report reviews, a variety of testing is done to assess a child if he/she is having learning challenges. Testing is broadly categorized into three areas: psychological, psychoeducational and neuropsychological. All three can reveal information about underlying issues.
A psychoeducational evaluation answers the question “Does my child have a learning difference?” It includes assessments of cognitive ability and academic achievement. These evaluations are conducted by licensed clinical psychologists or school psychologists
Schools perform this evaluation as part of the IEP process and the tests are tailored to the child’s suspected disability. Parents have to sign off on the broad areas to be tested. A majority of students who receive special-education services have some kind of learning disability. In these cases, the evaluation measures cognitive ability (usually by using intelligence or IQ tests) and academic achievement.
Individual achievement tests measure an individual’s current level of academic skills, such as reading, writing, and math. The assessment also includes an evaluation of specific abilities needed to acquire academic skills such as perception, memory, and discrimination. Educational evaluations are carried out by an educational specialist or a resource teacher using a variety of standardized tests, as well as, some informal diagnostic procedures.
Services are provided if there is a significant discrepancy between these two measures. (Note: The discrepancy method does not work very well for children younger than those third grade. However, many schools still use this method and it may require persistence on the part of parents to insist on an IEP.) Based on parent concerns and feedback from teachers, doctors and others who work with the child closely, the school will conduct different types of testing. Results from all the tests are carefully interpreted and a diagnosis is given in the form of a report. The report will also include how to move forward with educating the child, specifically if an IEP, or 504 Plan or other accommodations are needed.
The different types of psychoeducational testing include :
Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) is an individually administered intelligence test for children between the ages of six and 16. The test usually takes 45–65 minutes to administer. It generates an intelligence quotient or IQ score that represents a child’s general intellectual ability. It also provides five primary index scores: Verbal Comprehension Index, Visual Spatial Index, Fluid Reasoning Index, Working Memory Index, and Processing Speed Index. These indices represent a child’s abilities in discrete cognitive domains. This test covers many other subtests that measure math ability and fluency. The average score is 100 and any score from 90-109 is considered average.
Weschler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT) measures academic achievement. The subtests measure areas such as Word Reading and Pseudoword Decoding to give a Reading Composite score, Numerical Operations and Math Reasoning for a Math Composite score, and Spelling and Written Expression for a Writing Composite score. The average score is 100 and any score from 90-109 is considered average.
- For Cognitive Abilities: a set of intelligence tests administered to children from age two all the way to adults. The 35-40 detailed tests include Numerical Reasoning, Pattern Recognition, Spatial Relation, Visual Matching, Decision Speed, Sound pattern and so on. All of these combined allow for a considerably detailed analysis of cognitive abilities.
- For Academic Achievement: screening, diagnosing and monitoring progress in reading, writing and mathematics achievement areas.
- For Oral Language: tests that help determine and describe a student’s ability to use expressive language and phonological processes.
- For Math Skills: looks at a child’s ability in computational skills, fluency, mental computation and qualitative reasoning,
Mathematical Fluency and Calculations Tests (MFaCTs) is a repeatable test that is designed to evaluate and track progress in math fluency and calculation skills appropriate to grades 1 through 5.
Comprehensive Mathematical Abilities Test (CMAT) is based on state and local curriculum guides and math education tools used in schools. The test uses real-world problems to assess the math skills taught in schools today. It has a many other detailed subtests.
Peabody Individual Achievement Test for ages 5–22 years old. Kids are asked questions on a range of subjects like reading, math and spelling. They can then look at multiple-choice answers and point to what they believe is the correct response. Because this is a “show me” test, it’s often used with kids who have trouble communicating verbally.
Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE) measures the ability to decode words quickly and accurately. It also tests the ability to recognize familiar words.
Test of Written Language (TOWL) has several subtests, which measure vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, logical sentences and sentence combining for ages 9 and up.
Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT) measures accuracy, fluency and comprehension when a child reads aloud a paragraph.