Understanding Psycho-Educational Evaluations


Understanding Psycho-Educational Evaluations

Psycho-educational evaluations are an important type of special education assessment. Sometimes, these evaluations can be hard to understand. Below is information to help you read these assessments, including: (1) Components of a Psycho-Educational Evaluation, (2) Types of Tests Commonly Used, and (3) Common Terms Defined.

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Psycho-educational evaluations are an important type of special education assessment. Sometimes, these evaluations can be hard to understand. Below is information to help you read these assessments, including: (1) Components of a Psycho-Educational Evaluation, (2) Types of Tests Commonly Used, and (3) Common Terms Defined.

Components of a Psycho-Educational Evaluation

A psycho-educational evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of a student’s cognitive, academic, and socio-emotional functioning. These evaluations are used to determine if a student is eligible for special education. Additionally, psycho-educational evaluations inform the delivery and type of related services your student will receive. Psycho-educational evaluations are usually standardized. This means that the student’s scores are compared to typical students of the same age and gender. However, keep in mind that a school district may use additional or different tests to best determine your student’s needs.

While individual evaluations may be different, most psycho-educational evaluations will have seven sections:

Background information and developmental history.

To better evaluate your student, an examiner will need to have a complete picture of their development leading up to the evaluation. Information asked might include your student’s birth history, developmental history, medical history, academic history, social/emotional history, family history, and areas of concern. This information is helpful in developing a diagnostic strategy and planning appropriate interventions for your student.

Assessment of cognitive functioning.

Examiners will administer a group of tests to determine how your student learns. These assessments often include verbal or visual tests to examine verbal and nonverbal reasoning, certain types of memory, and the speed at which your student processes and responds to information.

In addition to collecting scores, this area of testing will also give the examiner the opportunity to see how your student approaches problem solving.

Assessment of processing.

Examiners will also look at other processing areas that will help them determine your student’s strengths and weaknesses. This might include speech and language processing, auditory processing and other forms of memory, attention, organization and visual-motor processing. Note that the definition of a Specific Learning Disability includes a processing disorder. The school district must assess a student’s processing in order to appropriately identify a Specific Learning Disability.

Assessment of academic functioning.

Academic assessments, sometimes called achievement assessments, help examiners understand your student’s academic strengths and weaknesses. Examiners will assign tasks related to reading, writing, spelling and mathematics to evaluate general academic skill. Academic fluency and efficiency are also often measured.

Examiners might also add other academic assessments if they see your student is having trouble in a specific area. For example, if they see your student has trouble with reading single words, the examiner may test phonological processing and reading efficiency to find out why your student is having trouble.

Social/emotional functioning.

Examining your student’s social and emotional functioning is also important to determining their strengths and needs. This can be done in different ways depending on your student’s age and the examiner’s approach.

For younger children, examiners will often use parent questionnaires to assess the student’s social/emotional and behavioral functioning. They may also ask teachers to complete a questionnaire about your student’s learning and behavior. Examiners may also have your student complete a questionnaire on their feelings as they grow older. Your student may also be given a test to measure how they cope with, and view, social relationships.

Recommendation on Eligibility.

The evaluation should include a recommendation on your child’s eligibility for special education. For an initial evaluation, the examiner should make a recommendation about whether your child qualifies for special education based on the assessments they administered. For a triennial evaluation, the examiner should make a recommendation about whether your child continues to qualify for special education.

There are 13 different categories of eligibility for special education. Because the psychoeducation evaluation is just one type of special education assessment, it may not cover all 13 areas of eligibility. While a special education assessment does not formally diagnose a child as having a medical condition, it can help to determine whether a child has a disability that qualifies them for special education.

Remember, the recommendation is not a final determination. The IEP team must meet and decide as a team whether or not the student qualifies for special education under any of the categories.

Recommendations for IEP.

If the evaluation recommends the student is eligible for special education, they should also make recommendations about the student’s IEP. For example, they may make recommendations on appropriate goals, services, supports, accommodations, and modifications. You might consider asking the evaluator their opinion on your child’s goals, services, supports, accommodations, and modifications during the IEP meeting.

Types of Tests Use

Achievement Test: A test of academic subjects such as Reading, Math, and Writing. Examples include the Woodcock-Johnson II Test of Achievement, the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement, Second Edition (KTEA II), and the Wide Range Achievement Test 4 (WRAT-4).

Adaptive Behavior Rating Scale: Examines a child’s ability to perform certain tasks, such as eating, dressing, completing schoolwork, etc., and is completed by both the parent and the child’s teacher. Examples of this are the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System (ABAS) or Vineland-II.

Behavior Rating Scale: An instrument completed by parents and teachers which is used to pinpoint behavioral, academic, and social problems. They are also used by mental health professionals to diagnose specific psychiatric conditions. Examples include the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC), Connors Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scales (CRBS), and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).

Intellectual or Cognitive Tests: A test designed to measure intellectual ability and/or potential. Examples of commonly used tests are the Weschler Individual Achievement Test (WISC IV), the Stanford Binet 5, and the Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT).

Common Terms

Baseline: Describes a student’s current performance of a skill or strategy in measurable terms before intervention or treatment. The baseline serves as a starting point for an IEP. Examples may include words per minute or level of prompts necessary to sustain a behavior.

Diagnostic Test: A test used to identify or diagnose a child’s problem areas.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ): A score from a test designed to measure intelligence. Tables are used to compare children’s performance to the performance of same age peers.

Lexile: A reading measure that provides information about an individual's reading ability or the difficulty of a text. It can assist in matching a reader with the appropriate difficulty level or text for decoding and comprehension. The Lexile reader measure can also be used to monitor growth in reading ability over time.

Mean: The mean is the average score on a test, generally the mean is 100.

Norm-referenced Tests: Tests that are given to a large sample of children so that it is possible to know how children compare with others of the same age or same grade.

Percentile Rank: A way to compare test scores by first getting an average, or the mean, and then looking at how the scores vary around that average.

Valid: A test or intervention is valid if it is used or interpreted in the manner prescribed and measures what it claims to measure. Most widely used tests have research to support their validity.

Quantile: A method for evaluating test scores. Nationwide test scores for an assessment are organized along a bell curve with the mean score placed at the peak of the curve. National scores are then separated into four groups, typically numbered Q1-Q4. Q4 will typically be the group to the far left and contains the lowest scores, while Q1 will be placed at the other end of the spectrum and will contain the highest scores.

Standard Deviation (SD): A measure of how far from an average score a student’s score is. In most psychological and educational tests, the standard deviation is 15. Average scores should be very close to the mean of 100. For example, a score of 85 is one standard deviation below the mean or average while a 70 is two standard deviations below the mean.

T-Score: Used by behavior scales to report results, a T-score has a mean or average of 50 and a standard deviation of 10.

Stanine: Some tests report scores in stanines, or in a nine-unit format. On a stanine test, a 5 is an average score, a 9 is the highest and a 1 is the lowest.