Types of Tests Used in Special Education (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Individual Academic Achievement Tests  

Most students in special education, and those referred for special education consideration, will be weak in one or more academic areas. In order to determine most precisely which academic areas are of concern, a psychologist or educational evaluator will administer at least one broad ranging, multiple-skill academic achievement test to the child. The results of the test will tell how the child stands in key academic skills such as reading, written expression, arithmetic, general information, and specific school subjects.

Traditionally, professionals have used norm-referenced academic achievement tests for formal evaluations to help determine a student's special education eligibility, placement, and IEP goals. These tests will also be useful for documenting the academic progress of students over a long period of time.

Unlike the administration of intelligence tests, which requires the evaluator to receive specific clinical training, teachers can usually administer academic achievement tests. When they do, they must carefully follow administration guidelines. Like most special education teachers, you are likely to take at least one course on special education assessment. During this course you will probably learn how to administer and interpret at least one academic achievement test. Tests that you may have the chance to learn about include the Peabody Individual Achievement Test—Revised/Normative Update (PIAT-R/NU) (Markwardt, 1998), the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement/Normative Update (K-TEA/NU) (Kaufman & Kaufman, 1998), and the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, Second Edition (WIAT-II) (Wechsler, 2001).

Adaptive Behavior Scales  

A student with mental retardation (or intellectual disabilities) must exhibit a deficit in adaptive behavior. Adaptive behavior skills are those that are especially useful for daily functioning. Typical items on adaptive behavior scales include daily living skills; community participation skills; and functioning in specific ability areas such as demonstrating appropriate social behaviors, communication, motor abilities, and applying basic academic skills.

A teacher or another person can assess a person's adaptive behavior skills by using a commercially produced adaptive behavior scale. You do not need formal training to use an adaptive behavior scale, although it is very important that each scale be carefully reviewed before use. Using the scale requires an evaluator to rate each item using the scale's specific rating system. The evaluator must either be very familiar with the student (e.g., a teacher, parent, or caregiver) or interview someone who is knowledgeable about the student's ability.

Among the most commonly used scales are the second edition of the AAMR Adaptive Behavior Scales (ABS), including the Residential-Community versions (ABS-RC:2) (Nihira, Leland, & Lambert, 1993) and the School version (ABS-S:2) (Lambert, Nihira, & Leland, 1993). Other useful scales are the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (2nd ed.) (Vineland-II) (Sparrow, Cicchetti, & Balla, 2005) and the Scales of Independent Behavior—Revised (Bruininks, Woodcock, Weatherman, & Hill, 1996).

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