Educational Testing


Educational TestingIn order to understand educational testing, one must grasp the following:

When psychological and educational testing is included in an overall assessment of a person’s academic functioning it is called a psycho-educational assessment. Psycho-educational assessments help assess Learning Disorders (LD), information processing deficits, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) all of which may have a significant negative impact on academic achievement.

What is a Learning Disability?

Learning disabilities occur in children with average or above average intelligence. A learning disability is a neurologically based disorder affecting one or more functions. It can involve understanding and using spoken and written language; specifically, listening, thinking, speaking, writing, reading, and spelling. It can also affect mathematical calculations. There may be difficulties in processing information, organizing oneself, problems with visual and auditory memory, with verbal expression, and/or with motor control. Such difficulties can interact, further complicating matters.

A child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or (ADHD) has difficulty focusing. Whether in the classroom, at home, or in sports, the child may be inattentive, distracted, restless, and/or hyperactive. Thus, learning suffers even if the child has good academic skills and strong mental abilities.

Testing for Learning Disabilities

Learning DisabilityLD and ADHD can affect all people including children, adolescents and adults. They do not discriminate based on gender, race or socioeconomic status. LD and ADHD can be life-long disabilities. Psycho/Educational assessment is necessary to diagnose LD and ADHD.

Psychological testing is crucial for the diagnosis of learning disability. A learning disability is diagnosed when a specific ability, such as reading, is significantly lower than a person's general ability, usually measured by an IQ test and standardized achievement test. Specific abilities can be measured with academic achievement tests such as the Wechsler Individualized Achievement Test (WIAT) or any of Wechsler’s Intelligence Tests (IQ).

Achievement TestingEducational tests, such as the (WIAT), measure what has been learned in school or from daily life. Unlike tests of overall potential or aptitude, educational testing does not ask "whether" you have the ability to do math. Educational testing asks, "Did you learn math in school?" A person could have very low educational achievement but that does not mean the person cannot learn the school work. A person who leaves school early may score low on tests of educational achievement because she has not experienced the materials that are taught in school. Low achievement alone, then, cannot document LD and/or ADHD.

According to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), people with documented disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations. Children with LD or ADHD may need proof submitted to school systems and college testing services that they have such a condition in order to obtain special accommodations such as longer time to take an exam. These accommodations require that disabilities are measured with tests and documented.

Types of Learning Disabilities According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual

The DSM-IV (psychiatric diagnostic manual) lists these learning disorders:

  • Reading Disorder: Reading skills are weaker than general ability. Included in this is difficulty with decoding words and/or reading comprehension. Another term for reading or writing disorders is Dyslexia.
  • Disorder of Written Expression: Writing skills are weaker than general ability. This can include the quality of written expression, spelling, and/or writing syntax.
  • Mathematics Disorder: Calculation skills are weaker than general ability.
  • Learning Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified: Can be diagnosed when there is a mild deficit in two or three of the areas listed above (reading, writing, and math) that individually fall short of diagnostic criteria but together can be considered as a significant impairment.
  • Other Learning Disorders: Other disorders are often diagnosed in educational settings but are not listed in the DSM-IV. These include Auditory Processing Disorder (verbal skills weaker than nonverbal) or Visual Processing Disorder (spatial skills weaker than verbal) or Visual Motor Integration Problem (deficits in visual/spatial integration)

Performance TestTesting can also be used to diagnose or rule out attention deficit disorders. A continuous performance test, performance on certain IQ subtests, and teacher and/or parent reports can be combined to make a definitive and accurate diagnosis of Attention Deficit related problems. In addition, testing can be done to determine the presence of a Central Auditory Processing Problem. Given the complexities of these problems and close relationship between one another, testing is critical in determining the specific nature of the problem and types of recommendations which will most benefit the learning needs of a particular client. We all learn differently!

The results of testing can be profound and lead to the creation of special accommodations which flow from an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan. These two types of plans are tailored to specific recommendations and accommodations for the learning needs of a given child. They are created based on the results of testing, needs of the child, and general standards of the Broward County School System.

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