ERIC Identifier: ED391985
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Rosenfield, Sylvia - Nelson, Deborah
Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
The School Psychologist's Role in School Assessment. ERIC
Psychological services for children originated within a diagnostic testing
model. Psychometric techniques were developed to assess individual children's
cognitive-intellectual, personality and academic functioning. Today, testing
techniques have achieved a high degree of prominence and testing is a major
Recently, however, assessment in the field of school psychology has been
changing and reshaping itself to meet the demands of public policy and
litigation, the requirements of an increasingly diverse student population, and
the constant shifting of educational concerns. There have been, as well,
continual refinements in the concepts and technology of measurement (Taylor,
Tindal, Fuchs, & Bryant, 1993). These changes have challenged all school
professionals to modify their assessment practices in order to adapt to them.
However, within the schools, it remains true that there are few others with
training, experience and expertise in assessment comparable to that of school
Traditionally, school psychology has emphasized diagnosis and classification
of individual students, and school psychologists have acted as gatekeepers for
special services. But as the current ethical, political, legal and educational
context has evolved, there has been a re-examination of the purposes and
applications of data gathered during the assessment process (Taylor, et al.,
1993). In a position paper on the Role of the School Psychologist in Assessment
(1994), the National Association of School Psychologists endorsed the
proposition that assessment practices must be linked to prevention and
intervention to provide positive outcomes for students. Thus, there is an
increasing emphasis on information that is "useful in designing, implementing,
monitoring, and evaluating interventions" (Reschly, Kicklighter, & McKee,
1988, p. 9-50). Moreover, it is suggested that school psychologists assist both
local education agencies and state education agencies in restructuring schools
in positive ways. One of the constant elements in the school restructuring
movement is the call for greater accountability at every level, which has
resulted in "innovative thinking about alternative forms of assessment"
(Stiggins & Conklin, 1992, p.3).
This broader, more outcome based approach to the use of assessment in schools
has had an impact on the assessment practices of school psychologists.
Currently, there are at least three major purposes of school psychological
assessment: informing entitlement/classification decisions, planning
interventions, and evaluating outcomes.
Although, historically, the school psychologist has been the professional to
develop an individual diagnosis of a referred student using psychoeducational
tests, that role became even more routinized as a result of the 1975 federal
legislation, P.L. 94-142, requiring testing for classification prior to
delivering services to children with handicapping conditions. However, there
have been recent changes in the field of special education, with pressure
increasing for inclusive placements in regular education classrooms even for
students with severe and profound disabilities. These pressures arose from
research demonstrating limitations of the traditional classification, labeling,
and placement procedures, many of which relied upon school psychologists'
testing of students referred for problems. Challenges to the norm referenced
tests used to justify the classification and placement decisions arose for many
reasons, including "lack of data to support the use of certain types of
tests..., litigation related to the discriminatory nature of other types..., and
the general feeling that most tests did not provide educationally relevant
information" (Taylor, et al., 1993, p. 114).
Since federal law and related state regulations still, in most cases, require
labeling for funding purposes, norm-referenced psychoeducational assessment will
likely continue in the schools to fulfill the legal mandate. However, currently
there is an emphasis upon improving the technical characteristics of the most
commonly used tests to answer growing concerns about the soundness of many of
these instruments. In addition, several basic constructs underlying these tests
have been revised, and new constructs of cognition and neuropsychological and
psychological processes, such as memory and metacognition, are finding their way
into new test construction and revisions of older instruments (Taylor, et al,
1993). How useful these new and revised tests and their underlying constructs
are remains open for further study, although there continue to be weak or
nonexistent links to interventions for most psychoeducational tests (Macmann
& Barnett, 1994). In addition, as requirements for eligibility for funding
are modified, the use of tests for these purposes will also evolve.
"Assessment Linked to Intervention"
Perhaps the most far-reaching change in the role for school psychologists has
been an increased emphasis on linking assessment and intervention, so that
information from the assessment process leads directly to intervention
strategies rather than just to a diagnostic label and alternative placement for
the student. School psychologists have moved from relying upon standardized/norm
referenced testing practices to frequent use of more natural and dynamic forms
of assessment that impact directly on classroom instructional delivery and
behavior management. The importance of this shift arises from the current state
of classroom assessment. While the instructional and management decisions that
teachers make about their students have been recognized as critical to important
outcomes, relatively little attention has been paid to the quality and process
of classroom assessment in research or practice. This has been true in spite of
evidence that teachers are concerned about the quality of their own assessments,
and have limited knowledge of assessment methodologies and their use in
instructional decision making (Stiggins & Conklin, 1992). Increasingly,
school psychologists have become involved in developing and delivering
behavioral and curriculum-based assessment procedures useful for classroom
decision making to assist teachers.
A recent development has been the growth of curriculum-based assessment
methods that use direct observation and recording of student performance in the
classroom curriculum itself to gather information for instructional decisions.
Two major forms of this type of assessment are the curriculum-based assessment
for instructional design (CBA-ID) model (e.g., Gickling & Rosenfield, in
press), and the curriculum-based measurement (CBM) model (e.g., Deno, 1986).
CBA-ID was designed to assist teachers in planning instruction for individual
students, whereas CBM was developed primarily to assess pupil progress in the
classroom. The information derived from these techniques are used by school
psychologists consulting with teachers to support them in developing
interventions related to instruction and classroom management (Rosenfield,
1987). These classroom based models of assessment are also used by prereferral
and support teams designed to provide assistance to teachers and students.
School reform has created a focus on the outcomes of education. Psychologists
are involved in discussions of a possible national test to be given to all
students, and state assessments aligned with state content standards are in the
process of development. Many of these will be performance assessments, which
still have serious technical issues that need to be resolved (Ysseldyke, 1994).
School psychologists have a role in helping school personnel understand and use
the results of these external assessments.
At the local level, outcome assessment is also changing. Reform in regular
and special education often involves the creation of new programs. School
psychologists can bring their assessment expertise to the school reform agenda
by helping school systems and individual schools evaluate the effectiveness of
different programs and organizational changes designed to meet specific goals.
School psychologists can provide assistance in systems change efforts, including
needs assessment prior to program implementation, as well as on-going monitoring
of program implementation and effectiveness along a broad array of outcome
dimensions, depending upon the goals of the school personnel. Conducting
research and evaluation to answer important questions about effective programs
is an additional assessment role in which many school psychologists can
School psychologists can play a unique role in
schools because of their assessment expertise. Traditionally, they have been
most involved in individual psychoeducational assessment for classification and
labeling purposes, but the limitations of this form of assessment for building
intervention strategies has led many school psychologists to broaden their role.
Techniques linking assessment to interventions are being demonstrated by school
psychologists as they consult with teachers to enhance the classroom performance
of students. Further, school reform initiatives have required more program
evaluation at the building and system level, and school psychologists are
engaged in these activities as well. Assessment is an important task in the
schools, and school psychologists can increase their impact on school
effectiveness by contributing their expertise in this domain at many levels.
Deno, S.L. (1986). Formative evaluation of
individual programs: A new role for school psychologists. School Psychology
Review, 15, 358-374.
Gickling, E., & Rosenfield, S. (in press). Best practices in
curriculum-based assessment. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.). Best practices
in school psychology, Vol. 3. Washington, D.C.: National Association of School
Macmann, G.M., & Barnett, D.W. (1994). Structural analysis of correlated
factors: Lessons from the verbal-performance dichotomy of the Wechsler Scales.
School Psychology Quarterly, 9, 161-197.
National Association of School Psychologists (1994,). The role of the school
psychologist in assessment. Washington, D.C.: Author.
Reschly, D.J., Kicklighter, R., & McKee, W. (1988). School Psychology
Review, 17(1), 9-50.
Rosenfield, S. (1987). Instructional consultation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence
Stiggins, R.J., & Conklin, N.F. (1992). In teachers' hands. Albany, NY:
State University of New York Press.
Taylor, R.L., Tindal, G., Fuchs, L., & Bryant, B.R. (1993). Assessment in
the nineties: A possible glance into the future. Diagnostique, 18, 113-122.
Ysseldyke, J. (1994,). Assessment: Current directions and misdirections.