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What Tests Should I Request?
by Pat Howey, Advocate

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I am an advocate, not a psychologist. I try to avoid suggesting specific test instruments to parents or their independent evaluators. It is far more important that parents have faith that the evaluator knows what test instruments to use and that the parent knows the importance of providing proper information so the evaluator can administer appropriate tests.

Learning About Tests

This is not to say that parents and advocates should not learn about testing materials in general.

It is useful to understand the difference between criterion-referenced and 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 for parents to know that the validity of test instruments depends upon the use of representative samples. In other words, that the sample used to determine norms for the test was made up of individuals who are similar to those for whom the test is to be used. It is also important for parents and advocates to know how to interpret test results using the Bell Curve.

Learning Your State Rules About Testing

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

For example, Indiana requires that children who are being evaluated to determine if they have 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.

XXX ADD info re: IDEA 2004 testing 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 wants is to have a parents' expensive independent testing be thrown out because it doesn't include all the components required by law - especially when the parent relied on the advocate's advice.

Requesting a Classroom Observations

For a student who is suspected of having some degree of mental retardation, I must remember to tell the parent that Indiana law does not require a classroom observation for this category. However, I strongly recommend that the parent request an observation anyway, because an observation will provide valuable information about how the child performs in the classroom. Indiana requires, at a minimum, that the following tests be administered to 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 the requirements under Indiana law.

Selecting Appropriate Tests

If the parent trusts the independent evaluator, he or she must trust the evaluator's ability to determine appropriate test instruments for the child. However, parents and advocates should not assume that all independent evaluators are knowledgeable about each and every requirement under Indiana law.

Being able to provide parents with this knowledge is part of what makes advocates such an important resource for parents of special needs children. (That, as well as knowing which independent evaluators are reputable and which are on the school's approved "referral list").

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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