Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Perfect Reading Test - Is that Possible?

No test is perfect, and test scores, without proper interpretation and without corroborating information, can damage children. Inaccurate scores can easily lead to a reading program, a class placement, or an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that backfires.

To better understand test scores and help ensure that your child’s reading program is effective, read and save these quotes from a test manual I reviewed for the University of Nebraska’s Seventeenth Mental Measurements Yearbook.
  • Examiners should be cautious in interpreting the results of even those tests that are reliable at the highest levels because they still possess considerable error. For example, a test with almost perfect reliability (i.e., .95) … still contains about 15% error. As a result, test scores, especially when they are used to make judgments about individuals, must always be interpreted carefully…. In every case, diagnoses and hypotheses resting on test data have to be confirmed by other observations. (GDRT-2-Manual, p. 34).
  • Too often examiners forget the dictum that ‘tests don’t diagnose, people do’ and base their diagnoses exclusively on test results, a hazardous enterprise at best. Test results are merely observations, not diagnoses. They specify a performance level at a given time under a particular situation, but they do not tell the examiner why a person performed as he or she did.
  • The questions concerning the why of the test performance are the very essence of diagnosis, and they can be answered only by an insightful, competent test examiner. Test results make useful contributions to diagnosis; but in the end, practical diagnosis rests on the clinical skills and experience of examiners. Test results are only aids to clinical judgment. (GDRT-2-Manual, p. 34).
Remember these quotes when reviewing a single test score or set of scores from a single test. If, for example, your child was given a learning evaluation and the examiner administered only one reading test (with several subtests), and other information contradicts your child’s reading test scores, discuss these quotes with the examiner.

Ask her to get objective, representative samples of your child’s reading that supports or disputes her findings. (Good professionals welcome such opportunities; they know all tests and test results contain error.) If impressive corroboration is not found, do not trust the scores. Instead, seek further information, which may include a far more comprehensive assessment of your child’s reading abilities.

Bryant, B. R., Wiederholt, J. L., & Bryant, D. P. (2004). Manual for the Gray Diagnostic Reading Tests-Second Edition (GDRT-). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

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