7 Problems with Standardized Speech-Language Tests

by Sarah Smith, M.S., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

We’ve all heard it, we all know it… standardized assessments don’t adequately represent all of our learners. For this reason, we are required by North Carolina regulations to include a variety of assessments when identifying a disorder. Federally we are required, through IDEA 2004, to provide an evaluation free of culturally and racial biases.

Still, we like the numbers.  A student scores a 90 on the OWLS-II and we breathe a sigh of relief, “nope, no disorder.” It’s concrete, efficient, and easy but it might be wrong.

The Quick and Dirty about Standardized Assessments:

  1. The syntax and morphology of children acquiring English as a second language will have the same characteristics of children with speech language impairments.
    • Current Research tells us that performance on vocabulary assessments such as the PPVT and EVT is heavily affected by socioeconomic status, regardless of race.
  2. Vocabulary Bias : Vocabulary is entirely based on prior exposure
  3. Cultural biases exist in testing procedures, linguistic structures, and vocabulary.
  4. Assumes prior knowledge and determines whether the learner has acquired that knowledge.
  5. Static- right or wrong, disordered or typical.
  6. The CELF-5 ages (5-7) relies heavily on assessment of morphological endings
  7. Using standardized assessments to identify disorders leads to a disproportionate number of minority and ELL students being placed in special education.  
Static Assessments make it easy to misdiagnose a language difference as a language disorder.

Check out this link for in-depth test reviews!

Standardized assessment scores used to diagnose a disorder are only appropriate when : 

  • The student’s cultural and linguistic background is adequately represented in the normative sample
  • The student is only exposed to Standard American English.
  • No modifications in protocol
  • Test meets federal and NC regulations

 

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