A Sample Assessment and Psychological Report (page 3)
After completing a psychological assessment, a school psychologist will write a report that summarizes the test scores. This report may be mailed to the student's home so that parents can see the results before the meeting that will be held to discuss the test results. This meeting gives parents and teachers the opportunity to learn about a child's strengths and weaknesses and what can be done to help maximize his learning.
Psychological reports vary widely. They may be as short as three pages or as long as twenty pages or even more. Many reports include tables of scores, which may be integrated in the report or attached at the end. Despite the many variations in psychologists' reports, most of them include the following essential information:
- Assessment procedures
- Referral and background information
- General observations and impressions
- Test results and interpretations
- Summary and recommendations
In most psychological reports, there is a section in which the school psychologist lists the tests and other assessment measures that were used in the evaluation, which may include cognitive, processing, or achievement tests; behavioral rating scales completed by parents, teachers, or the child; or classroom observations. The section might look like this:
Woodcock-Johnson III NU Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJ III NU Cog.)
Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS)
Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration, Fifth Edition (VMI-5)
Woodcock-Johnson III NU Tests of Achievement (WJ III Ach. NU)
Test of Written Language, Fourth Edition (TOWL-4)
Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition: Teacher Rating Scales (BASC-2: TRS)
Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition: Parent Rating Scales (BASC-2: PRS)
Children's Depression Inventory (CDI)
Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, Second Edition (Piers-Harris 2)
Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale, Second Edition (RCMAS-2)
Referral and Background Information
A psychological report includes a section that describes the reasons for the referral and relevant background information. If a child is having behavior problems and her parents have recently divorced, for example, this information will be included. It is important to know about any environmental factors that might explain a child's unusual behaviors or sudden drop in grades. A school will list the number of absences, tardies, office referrals, and days suspended, if applicable, as well as current grades.
School districts may use their own background information form to collect data on developmental milestones, behavior at home, hobbies, others who live in the home, and so on. Often, this form does not provide a comprehensive assessment of a child's background, so a school psychologist may supplement it with a form such as the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition: Structured Developmental History (BASC-2: SDH). The BASC-2: SDH is a twelve-page history and background questionnaire that is completed by parents or other caregivers. It provides a thorough review of a child's developmental, educational, medical, psychological, and social history. While it may take parents some time to fill it out, it is an excellent source of information. On many occasions, by including this questionnaire, we have obtained helpful information that parents forgot to provide in other paperwork or even in an interview. Some parents do not wish to share certain information; we understand that. We offer parents the opportunity to share personal information via telephone rather than including it on a form that many people may see.
Here is an example of how background information might be presented in a psychological report:
Mary was referred for a psychological evaluation because she made little academic progress during this past school year. She also appears sad at times and does not interact much with her friends at school.
Information concerning Mary's developmental progress, birth history, school history, and behavior at home was provided by her parents on the Student Support Team's background form. No problems during Mary's birth were reported. Major developmental milestones were reported to have been reached within normal time ranges. Her parents indicated that she broke her femur at age four and had to wear a body cast for fourteen weeks. They also indicated on a brief behavior checklist that Mary can be trusted, acts younger than other children her age, is overly dependent on others, is restless, and is easily frustrated.
School records indicate that Mary had two excused absences because of illnesses this school year, as well as two unexcused tardies. She has no office referrals or suspensions. Mary attended preschool and repeated kindergarten. Her grades for the last marking period were all C's except for a B in art. Mary's written work is poorly developed, and she has difficulty with sequencing a story. When Mary works with her teacher and is prompted, her story is quite a bit better and more consistent with appropriate grade-level work.
Mary passed her vision and hearing screenings on 05/04/10. The screenings were completed by the school nurse.
General Observations and Impressions
Observations of the child during the assessment period are reported in the psychological report. A school psychologist may conduct a classroom observation or multiple observations in different settings (perhaps the classroom, lunchroom, and playground) to get a broad picture of a child's behavior. The psychologist's notes on the child's behavior toward others, attention level, activity level, on-task behavior, response to teacher redirection, and other behaviors will be recorded and reported as part of the evaluation.
Observations during psychological testing are helpful in order to assess whether the child's behavior had a negative impact on the test results. If it did, the evaluation may be invalid, and additional testing may need to be completed.
General observations in a psychological report might look like this:
Mary was evaluated in the conference room at the front of her school. Testing conditions were good; the ambient temperature was comfortable, the lighting was appropriate, and the noise level was very minimal. Rapport was readily established, and she was cooperative during the testing session. During the evaluation, Mary appeared to be in good health. She was dressed appropriately for the weather and displayed adequate grooming skills. She related well to the examiner, used language appropriate for her age level, maintained good attention and a normal activity level, and used good interpersonal and communication skills. The test results are believed to be valid.
Test Results and Interpretations
The section that reports test results will be the longest part of a psychological report. The results of all the tests that were administered will be analyzed and reported. Some school psychologists report all test results individually, while others may integrate some test results. For example, if two different achievement tests were administered, they may be summarized together because they measure similar things. We discussed in previous chapters what the scores mean. Rather than repeat that information here, we'll simply provide an example of part of a psychological report that summarizes different test results:
The Woodcock-Johnson III NU Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJ III NU Cog.) is a norm-referenced measure of cognitive ability that is designed to assess the various skills that an individual uses to learn new information. The WJ III NU Cog. includes tasks that measure different aspects of cognitive ability. Clusters of tests provide the primary basis for test interpretation.
Results indicate that Mary's General Intellectual Ability, or her overall level of intelligence, falls in the low average range.
The Verbal Ability cluster is a measure of language development that includes the comprehension of individual words and the comprehension of relationships among words. Verbal Ability is an important predictor of cognitive performance. Mary's performance falls in the low average range.
The Thinking Ability cluster represents an aggregate of the abilities that allow a child to process information that has been placed in short-term memory but cannot be processed automatically. Mary's performance falls in the low average range.
The Cognitive Efficiency cluster represents the capacity of the cognitive system to process information automatically. Mary's performance falls in the average range.
The Long-Term Retrieval cluster represents the ability to store information and fluently retrieve it later in the process of thinking. Mary's performance falls in the very low range. This is her weakest area.
Working Memory refers to the ability to hold information in immediate awareness while performing a mental operation on the information. (Simple memory span tests are not tests of working memory.) Mary's performance falls in the low average range.
The Short-Term Memory cluster represents the ability to apprehend and hold information in immediate awareness and then use it within a few seconds. Mary's performance falls in the low average range.
The Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS) is an individually administered test of intelligence.
On the Verbal Index, Mary demonstrated low average skills. The Verbal Index involves tasks such as using verbal clues to identify objects and solving verbal analogies. Tasks in this area require verbal comprehension, expression, and reasoning skills.
On the Nonverbal Index, Mary demonstrated low average skills. The Nonverbal Index involves tasks such as identifying the object that is different within a group of objects and identifying the missing item in a picture. Tasks in this area require abstract and concrete reasoning as well as visual discrimination skills.
On the Memory Index, Mary demonstrated low average skills. The Memory Index involves tasks such as reciting facts from a story read orally by the examiner as well as identifying a previously viewed object from a group of similar objects. Tasks in this area require auditory and visual short-term memory skills.
The Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration, Fifth Edition (VMI-5) requires a student to copy geometric forms on printed pages within restricted areas, without any erasures. These drawings are scored very strictly, and neatness is an important factor in scoring a figure. Mary attained a standard score of 79, which falls in the low range. This score suggests a weak ability in complex visual-motor integration, and this weakness may negatively affect Mary's ability to efficiently complete written assignments.
The Woodcock-Johnson III NU Tests of Achievement (WJ III NU Ach.) and Test of Written Language, Fourth Edition (TOWL-4) are norm-referenced measures of academic achievement.
Oral Expression is a measure of linguistic competency and expressive vocabulary. Mary's performance falls in the average range. Listening Comprehension is a measure of listening ability and verbal comprehension. Mary's performance falls in the low average range.
Written Expression is a measure of a student's overall ability to express herself in writing. Mary's performance falls in the low and very low ranges. Basic Reading is a measure of reading decoding. Mary's performance falls in the low average range.
Reading Comprehension is a measure of the ability to comprehend what is being read. Mary's performance falls in the low average range. Reading Fluency is a measure of the speed of reading sentences and answering yes-no questions. Mary's performance falls in the low average range.
Math Calculation is a measure of problem solving. Mary's performance falls in the average range.
Math Reasoning is a measure of the ability to solve math problems by using reasoning skills. Mary's performance falls in the low average range.
The Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2) is an integrated system designed to facilitate the differential diagnosis and classification of a variety of emotional and behavioral disorders of children and to aid in the design of treatment plans. This measure was completed separately by Mary's classroom teacher and her mother. Scores in the clinically significant range suggest a high level of maladjustment. Scores in the at-risk range may identify a significant problem that might not be severe enough to require formal treatment or may identify the potential to develop a problem that needs careful monitoring. According to both respondents, Mary is not exhibiting significant problems with internalizing, externalizing, or adaptive behaviors.
The Children's Depression Inventory (CDI) is a self-report checklist consisting of questions that are designed to evaluate the presence of depressive ideation. Based on Mary's responses, it does not appear that she is experiencing higher levels of depression than other girls her age.
The Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, Second Edition (Piers- Harris 2) is a self-report instrument that assesses self-concept in children and adolescents. The scale presents a number of statements about the way some children feel about themselves. Children respond to each statement by deciding whether or not it describes the way they feel. Based on her responses, Mary does not appear to be experiencing significant problems with self-concept.
The Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale, Second Edition (RCMAS-2) is a self-report instrument designed to assess the level and nature of anxiety in children and adolescents. Based on her responses, Mary does not appear to be experiencing significant problems with anxiety. However, it is important to note that her pattern of responses suggests she may be "faking good." Thus, there is a chance that she is experiencing problems with anxiety and is attempting to cover them up.
Summary and Recommendations
The final section of a psychological report summarizes the test results. It will likely be a brief summary that doesn't include individual scores. The school psychologist will include a list of recommendations that may help mitigate any weaknesses the child may have. Here is an example of a summary:
Mary is a nine-year-old female student in the third grade who was referred for a psychological evaluation because she made little academic progress during this past school year. She also appears sad at times and does not interact much with her friends at school.
Current test results indicate that Mary's intelligence is low average. Her cognitive efficiency skills are average; her verbal ability, thinking ability, working memory, and short-term memory skills are low average; and her long-term retrieval skills are very low.
Mary's visual-motor integration skills are very weak.
Achievement test data indicate that Mary's performance is average in oral expression and math calculation; low average in listening comprehension, basic reading, reading comprehension, reading fluency, and math reasoning; and low to very low in written expression.
Behavior rating scales completed by Mary's classroom teacher and her mother do not indicate that she is experiencing significant problems with internalizing, externalizing, or adaptive behaviors. Self-report rating scales completed by Mary do not indicate significant problems with self-concept, depression, or anxiety.
Mary's eligibility for special education services will be determined by an interdisciplinary team. The team should consider all available information in making this determination.
Mary's test results indicate that she has three problems: poor long-term retrieval, visual-motor integration, and written expression skills. Recommendations should be made to address these three main areas. It is possible that Mary's problems with writing can be attributed to difficulties with the creative process of writing. Writing tasks may require that she retrieve stored memories, which may be difficult for her because she has trouble with long-term retrieval. Mary would benefit from techniques to help her recall information. Because she has handwriting issues, Mary may try to get away with writing as little as possible if the task is difficult. Consequently, an evaluation by an occupational therapist may be warranted to see whether Mary has a problem with fine motor skills and how they can be improved.