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What Types of Tests Should I Ask for?
Advice to Parents and Advocates
by Pat Howey, Advocate

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I am an advocate, not a psychologist. Therefore, I try to avoid suggesting specific testing instruments to parents or their independent evaluators. It is much more important that parents have faith that the evaluator the parent has contracted with knows which testing instruments to use with the child and that the parent understands the importance of providing the proper information to the evaluator so that all of the proper tests can be administered.

This is not to say that parents and advocates should not try to understand something about testing materials in general. It is helpful to understand the difference between criterion-referenced versus norm-referenced tests. It is also important for advocates and parents to understand that testing instruments must have high validity and be highly reliable. Last, it is important that parents know that the validity of testing instruments is also dependent upon the use of standardized representative samples. In other words, the sample used to determine the norms for the test is made up of individuals similar to those for whom the test is to be used. It is also best for parents and advocates to know how to interpret test results using the Bell Curve.

A parent or advocate can understand all of the above items, but they must also understand their state's rules and laws that set the requirements for testing special
needs children. If not, the school may reject the independent evaluation the parents have paid good money to obtain. It is just as important for parents and advocates to understand state requirements as it is for them to understand what tests are used and the purposes for which they are used.

For example, Indiana requires that children who are being tested to determine eligibility for a specific learning disability be tested in at least the following areas:

1. Ability testing, i.e., IQ
2. Achievement testing i.e., educational needs
3. Additional measures of achievement for identified areas of deficit identified by
the first two areas of testing
4. Classroom observation

511 I.A.C. 7-26-8 (b) (1), (2), and (3)

Note: Please refer to 511 I.A.C. 7-26-8 (b) for other requirements.

Therefore, advocates must advise parents that the independent evaluator is required to assess all of these areas, as well. The last thing an advocate should want is to have a parents' expensive independent testing thrown out because it didn't meet all of the components required by law, when the parent relied on the advocate's advice.

For a student who is suspected of having some degree of mental retardation, I must remember to tell the parent that for this category, Indiana law does not require a classroom observation. However, I strongly suggest that the parent request an observation anyway, because he or she can obtain valuable information about how the child performs in the classroom situation. Indiana requires at a minimum, the following testing be administered for a child who is suspected of having mental retardation:

1. Ability testing, i.e., IQ
2. Achievement test, i.e., educational needs
3. Adaptive Behavior assessment

511 I.A.C. 7-26-9 (b) (1), (2), and (3).

Note: Please refer to 511 I.A.C. 7-26-9 (b) for other requirements.

When advocates take on the responsibility of representing to parents what "types" of tests are required, then they also assume the duty to ensure that the parent understands all of the requirements under Indiana law.

If the parent trusts the independent evaluator, he or she must trust the evaluator's ability to determine the appropriate testing instrument for the child. However, parents and advocates should not assume that all independent evaluators understand each and every requirement under Indiana law. Being able to provide parents with this type of knowledge is part of what makes advocates such an important resource for parents of special needs children. (That, as well as knowing which of the independent evaluators is reputable and which are on the school's referral list).

Pat Howey
January 1, 2005

Meet Pat Howey

Pat Howey is an Indiana advocate who has helped parents obtain quality special education services for their children with disabilities since 1986. She also helps parents resolve special education disputes with their school districts. (If Pat cannot assist you, she will refer you to attorneys for legal advice and assistance.)

Pat is active in several advocacy organizations including The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. She is the author of many articles, including:

Understanding the Playing Field: Power Struggles, Meetings, Follow Up Letters
Advocacy Strategies: Filing a Complaint with the State

As a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau, Pat provides special education legal and advocacy training for parents, educators, and others who want to ensure that children receive quality special education services. These programs are designed to meet the needs of parents, educators, health care providers, advocates, and attorneys who represent children with disabilities. Learn more.

"Changing the World -- One Child at at Time."

Contact Information
Pat Howey
Special Education Consulting
POB 117
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117
Website: patriciahowey.com
Email: specialedconsulting@gmail.com

Copyright © 2005 Pat Howey

Revised 03/27/2012

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