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Why Parents Should Get a Comprehensive Evaluation by an Independent Evaluator
Recently, we offered parents this advice: "Get a comprehensive evaluation of your child by an independent evaluator in the private sector - this evaluation will give you a roadmap for the future. Choose an evaluator who is independent of the school district and who is willing to work with the school staff."

In response to this advice, we received mail from school psychologists and parents. Some school psychologists were so angry about our advice that they unsubscribed from the newsletter. Most said they benefit from the information in the newsletter, although they do not always agree with our advice. One wrote: "I'm glad you stood by your advice. I would not object to a parent getting an evaluation because . . ."

I am very upset that you feel that independent evaluations are more comprehensive than evaluations by school psychologists.

School psychologists know more about learning disabilites and eligibility than any independent evaluator. T
he only time I agree that an outside psychological may be useful is when it is performed in a hospital setting as a comprehensive neurological assessment. - Susan


How about something about how you know when a school psychologist is not up to snuff instead of advising flat-out that parents should "get an independent evaluation"? Not all school psychologists are as you describe them. How inconsiderate of you . . . shame, shame, shame! - Daniel

I am a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology. I decided to unsubscribe to the newsletter because of your comments regarding school evaluations.
Most outside evaluators do not have experience in the schools and do not understand school/teacher expectations or needs of the student at school. Your comments about only using outside evaluators does not help foster parent /school relationships that will benefit children. - Cheryl


I am glad you stood by your advice. As a school psychologist who is competent and secure, I would not object to a parent getting an independent evaluation. I think those who objected are taking your advice too personally.

You did not state that the school psychologist was incapable of providing a comprehensive evaluation. The emphasis should be on the advice that parents have the option of getting an evaluation that is independent of the school system. That is good advice, especially for parents who question or disagree with the school's evaluation.

I applaud you stating that the evaluators should be willing to work with the school staff. Thank you for your newsletters, they are always helpful. - Sandra

Our Response to All

We did not say evaluations by independent evaluators are always superior to evaluations by school psychologists. In our experience, there is great variability in the quality of evaluations by school psychologists and evaluators in the private sector.

There are good psychologists, mediocre psychologists, and incompetent psychologists who should not be allowed to practice. The same statement can be made (and often is) about doctors, attorneys, teachers, electricians, psychotherapists, plumbers, etc etc etc.

If you read our books and articles, you know we encourage parents to gather information and develop expertise about their child's disability, strengths, weaknesses, and effective educational remediation methods. This usually means parents need to get more than one evaluation of their child.

When we do this in the health care field, it's called getting a second opinion. If a health care provider objected to my plan to get a second opinion or claimed that he or she knew more about me and my condition than anyone else, I would find another health care provider. You probably would too.

We urge parents to be proactive. In our training programs, we teach parents how the special education laws are organized and how to find essential information in the statutes. We encourage parents to read what the laws actually say, and not to depend on what others tell them.

We give the same advice to teachers, service providers, and school administrators.

In our training programs and our book From Emotions to Advocacy, we teach parents about tests and measurements, the bell curve, standard scores, percentile ranks. We teach parents (and teachers) how to chart out a child's test scores to see if the child is making acceptable progress - so they do not have to rely entirely on what others tell them. (We give the same advice to parents of chronically ill children who are dealing with health care providers - learn what tests measure and what test results mean.)

Understanding Your Child's Test Scores, Wrightslaw Multimedia Training DownloadUnderstanding Your Child's Test Scores Training Download - by Peter W. D. Wright, Esq

Pete teaches you about the mean, standard deviations, standard scores, percentile ranks, subtest scores, composite or cluster scores, and subtest scatter. Find out how to use your child's test scores to create powerful progress graphs. (Multimedia Training 1.5 hrs)

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If you have read our books or attended one of our training programs, you know we encourage parents to build good working relationships with school personnel, to be polite, and to thank people who help them. Parents also need to understand their role and the "Playing Field."

We encourage parents to ask questions and seek information. We do not encourage parents (or anyone else) to have blind trust in others. Read a warning from a school psychologist about "the dangers of blind trust."

If you still question the need to get a comprehensive evaluation by an independent evaluator, read The Blame Game: Are School Problems the Kids' Fault? about the power of school culture on the findings of 5,000 evaluations by school psychologists. Next, read Teachers Say School Assessments Fail to Give Relevant Information.

We still stand by our advice.


Last checked: 01/21/20