Friday, September 10, 2010

Testing, Testing

I've been exchanging phone calls with M, a psychologist from our Central Committee of Special Education (CSE) building, this week to arrange to pick up my test kits. See, probably the biggest part of being a school psychologist is conducting psycho-educational tests to determine if a child is eligible for special education services. These most often contain a cognitive test (read: IQ test; the "psycho" part) and an achievement, or educational, test. These measure a child's potential to learn (the cognitive) and what they actually have learned (the achievement). In traditional school psychology, if a student's cognitive ability, or their ability to learn, is not comparable to their actual achievement, their may be reason to suspect that they have an educational disability. So, if Sadie's IQ is 100 (the average standard score), while in math, reading, and writing she has standard scores below 70, it suggests that she is capable of learning at a typical rate, but that she has not achieved to the "average" level. This is called the discrepancy model, which is quickly being replaced with Response to Intervention (RTI), as per federal and state mandates. In the RTI model, students who are identified as struggling are engaged in targeted academic interventions in order to increase their skills before they fall low enough to qualify for special education. The whole discrepancy vs. RTI battle is something I could write about forever, so to spare you, there's information about the two models here at the LD Info website. You're welcome.

Anyhoo, I digress. Being a new psychologist in the district, I had no test kits available to me at my building. The psychologist who was previously in my spot took them all when she went to her new building. M called me this morning to say I could come over to another building in the district to get my test kits. Hooray! You must understand, getting test kits is like Christmas for school psychologists. New manuals to read, new manipulatives (read: toys) to test out, etc. They're like a security blanket, the one constant in the job that rarely changes and that we come back to day in and day out. Remember how I said I was a dork? Indeed.

When we spoke this morning, M suggested that I come early so that he could get some test kits that he had been saving specifically for me. After driving around the building block literally 5 times trying to figure out where to park (I still hate big city transportation drama), I finally get inside and find M. What blew my mind was the sheer lack of resources that were available. In the tiny stock room, there were many test kits that were extremely out of date, masses of test booklets but no way to score them, and very few kits of the tests used most frequently by psychologists. I couldn't decide if I was surprised by this. But, all of that aside, I should be very thankful that I got what I did, especially being a brand new psychologist and at the bottom of the feeding chain. I struggled back to my car with a few cognitive tests, behavior rating scales, and a visual-motor processing evaluation. Time to hunker down with my security blankets.

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