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New Guidelines, Standardized Test Accommodations

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Tuesday, January 12, 2016

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By Janet Thibeau

For years, students with disabilities have been denied accommodations when taking the LSAT exam, even when they’ve submitted the proper paperwork. This year, that’s changed, and not just for the LSAT, but for all national standardized tests. This ruling has far-reaching implications for any student who will be taking a standardized test and requesting accommodations. If you are student or the parent of a student who will be taking a standardized test, it’s important to understand these guidelines, each testing entities’ process for requesting accommodations, and the appeal process to use if your request for accommodations is denied.

Background

In 2010, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) began an investigation into the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the group that administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). In 2012, the Department of Justice intervened in the class action. They alleged widespread failure to accommodate exam takers with disabilities, even in cases where applicants had submitted proper paperwork and demonstrated a history of testing accommodations. In 2014, the lawsuit was settled, and on September 8, 2015, the Justice Department issued a technical advisory about standardized testing accommodations that applies to many of the most popular national tests.

What standardized tests are covered?

The advisory applies to exams administered by any private, state, or local government entity, including:

  • High school equivalency exams (such as the GED)
  • High school entrance exams (such as the SSAT or ISEE)
  • College entrance exams (such as the SAT or ACT)
  • Exams for admission to professional schools (such as the LSAT or MCAT)
  • Admissions exams for graduate schools (such as the GRE or GMAT); and
  • Licensing exams for trade purposes (such as cosmetology) or professional purposes (such as bar exams or medical licensing exams, including clinical assessments.)

Key points

Key points in the new advisory include:

  • Students who receive testing accommodations in school based on an IEP or Section 504 Plan should generally receive the same accommodations on standardized tests.
  • Students who receive informal accommodations should not be considered ineligible for accommodations on standardized tests.
  • Students who receive testing accommodations in a private school, without an IEP or Section 504, should generally receive the same accommodations on standardized tests.
  • High grades should not prevent a student from receiving accommodations. Students who perform well academically may still be entitled to test accommodations.
  • Students who receive accommodations on similar standardized and high-stakes tests should generally receive the same accommodations for additional tests. Documentation of previous accommodations should be sufficient.
  • Documentation used to support a request for testing accommodations must be reasonable and limited to what is needed to determine diagnosis and the need for accommodations. Acceptable documentation should include recommendations from medical professionals, proof of previous accommodations, and observations of educators.
  • Testing entities should defer to documentation from a qualified professional who has made an individualized assessment of the candidate that supports the need for the requested testing accommodations.
  • A testing entity must respond in a timely manner to requests for testing accommodations so as to ensure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.
  • Testing entities should report accommodated scores in the same way they report scores generally. Flagging policies that impede individuals with disabilities from fairly competing for and pursuing educational and employment opportunities are prohibited.

ADA Testing Accommodations

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About the Author

Janet Thibeau works for Barlow Thibeau & Associates Education as a college consultant and educational advocate. She is the President-elect of MABIDA, the Massachusetts Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Janet and her husband Jim have five children, four who have dyslexia. One of her children is a Landmark School alum and another is a current Landmark student.  

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Tags:  Accommodations ACT dyslexia GED Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities SAT standardized testing testing accommodations

Psychoeducational and Neuropsychological Evaluations Explained

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Wednesday, May 16, 2018 Byline:  By Anne Bellefeuille, Ph.D.

 

If a child is struggling at school and parents or teachers suspect that the student has a language-based learning disability (LBLD), parents should consider either psychoeducational testing or neuropsychological testing for the student.

The terms are often used interchangeably because of the overlap in assessment measures and the professionals performing them; however, the two types of evaluations differ in the scope, depth, and usage of the evaluations.

If a child is struggling at school and parents of teachers suspect that the student has a language-based learning disability (LBLD), parents should consider either psychoeducational testing or neuropsychological testing for the student.

The Psychoeducational Evaluation

A psychoeducational evaluation can be performed by a licensed psychologist,school psychologist, or a special education professional. At a minimum, a psychoeducational evaluation consists of formal assessment of cognitive/intellectual functioning (IQ) and academic achievement. This evaluation seeks to measure the discrepancies between cognitive and achievement levels. If academic skills do not meet the expected level given the cognitive/IQ profile, then a learning disability will be identified.

While the psychoeducational evaluation can be useful in identifying certain learning disabilities (such as LBLD), it is inadequate for assessing other aspects of functioning that can negatively affect learning. For example, the psychoeducational evaluation does not formally assess attention, executive functioning, and/or emotional factors that may be co-occurring with the learning disability. As such, psychoeducational evaluations will yield limited information to guide interventions.

I explain psychoeducational evaluations to parents as targeted evaluations that quantify the difficulties in reading, writing, and/or math. The psychoeducational evaluation is useful to qualify students for services and/or accommodations in school, such as extended time on tests. It falls short, however, in determining the specific services and/or interventions needed for the child to succeed.

The Neuropsychological Evaluation

The neuropsychological evaluation is performed by a licensed psychologist with a specialty in neuropsychological assessment (i.e., a neuropsychologist). It can sometimes be performed by a school psychologist who has received additional training in neuropsychological assessment. Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology that seeks to understand brain-behavior relationships. As with a psychoeducational evaluation, the neuropsychological evaluation includes cognitive/intelligence (IQ) assessment. In school-age children, the neuropsychological evaluation also includes academic testing. Thus, a psychoeducational evaluation is usually incorporated in a neuropsychological evaluation in school-age children. The neuropsychological evaluation is broader, however, as it includes assessments of specific domains. These domains include: language, visual-perceptual abilities, information processing, attention/executive functioning, learning and memory, sensory functioning, and psycho-emotional functioning. With a neuropsychological evaluation, the results obtained on cognitive/intellectual testing and academic testing (i.e., psychoeducational evaluation) are analyzed within the greater framework of brain-behavior relationships. Thus, the neuropsychological evaluation yields broader and deeper information about functioning than the psychoeducational evaluation. It provides information about how the underlying neurocognitive processes affect learning. In other words, the neuropsychological evaluation provides information as to why a child is struggling in school. A learning disability may not be present, and/or it may be co-existing with another disorder. The neuropsychological evaluation can help with differential diagnoses, such as LBLD versus ADHD, anxiety, sensory impairment, autism spectrum disorders, or language disorders, which can all have an impact on learning. By understanding the child’s functioning in greater depth and knowing strengths and weaknesses, the neuropsychological evaluation will help develop more specific individualized interventions.

Which Evaluation Should I Choose for My Child?

The choice of evaluations depends on the referral question. When diagnostic information and guidance regarding interventions are needed, a neuropsychological evaluation is usually preferred. When a child has already been diagnosed with a learning disability and only needs documentation for accommodations in school (such as extended time on tests), then a psychoeducational evaluation can be sufficient.

About the Author

Anne Bellefeuille, Ph.D. is a clinical neuropsychologist who works with students with learning disabilities, attentional disorders, and other developmental disorders. In addition to neuropsychological and educational testing, Dr. Bellefeuille also provides working memory training using Cogmed. 

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Tags:  assessment cognitive testing intellectual testing language-based learning disability neuropsychological evaluation neuroscience psychoeducational evaluation testing accommodations
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