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3.1 (3K1B): Awareness of the tools used by the district for student assessment, diagnosis, and evaluation.

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Factors Affecting Assessment Results

The use of tests can provide valuable information to be used in developing a successful educational plan, but testing results alone cannot fully determine a student's needs. A licensed staff will always be responsible for interpretation of test results, but the paraprofessional may help with scoring, proctoring, or recording during the testing. In addition, the paraprofessional may have insight into the student's stress level during the test or other factors that may affect results in some way.

There are many factors that can affect testing results, regardless of the quality of the tests being used. The results of a test can be skewed by factors outside the control of the student. Your role as a paraprofessional should never include evaluating test results. However, in the course of assisting with this process, you may offer valuable information to the assessment team. If you think that something may be affecting the test results, let the teacher who directs your work, or other team member, know of your concerns.

Activity: Factors Affecting Test Results

printer icon Get a worksheet that you may print for this activity.

If you are taking this course on your own, write your thoughts in your portfolio journal. If you are taking this class with a learning group (online or face-to-face), discuss your thoughts with your peers.

Jot down as many factors that you can think of that may affect testing results. When you are done, continue on through the next several sections to read more about factors that may affect assessment results.

Compare the following lists with what you wrote in the previous section. As you read through these factors, consider their effects on testing results.

Physical, Mental, Home, and School Factors

Physical and Mental Factors

  • physical disabilities (hearing loss, visual impairment, etc.)
  • general health condition
    • Is the student suffering from a cold, flu, head lice, or other temporary or chronic illness?
    • Did the student get enough sleep before taking the test?
    • Had the student eaten breakfast that morning?
  • the student's school attendance record
  • the student's school learning ability levels

Home Factors

  • Do the parents take an interest in their child's education?
  • Is the student a native speaker of another language or is he/she bilingual?
  • Is there stimulation for learning within the home (i.e., books, television, internet, etc.)?Is the student able to receive help on school work at home?
  • Does the student have a happy home life?

School Factors

  • Does the student appear interested in school work?
  • Is the student markedly over- or under-age for the grade?
  • Is instruction generally at an appropriate level for the student?
  • Is there sufficient time allotted to the subjects which present the greatest difficulty for the student?
  • Is the student emotionally adjusted (i.e., not fearful, compulsive, frustrated, insecure, rejected, etc.)?
  • Is the school program challenging to the student?
  • What are the student's study and work habits?
  • Are realistic expectations being set for the student?
  • Is there a personality clash between teacher and student?

In addition to individual factors, looking at the test itself or the group who has taken a particular test may offer additional insight. For example, if 90% of the students in the class got the same question wrong, there is most likely a problem with that question.

For an Individual Student

  • On which test did the student score highest? Lowest?
  • On which tests were the score differences greatest?
  • On which tests, if any, did the student's performance differ greatly from that of the class as a whole?
  • On which tests, if any, did the student score significantly higher (or lower) than would be expected in light of school learning ability or previous test scores?

For a Group

  • On which tests did the class as a whole score highest? Lowest
  • On which tests was the spread of scores greatest? On which the smallest?
  • How many students achieved at low, average, and high levels on each of the tests?
  • How much change is apparent since the previous testing in each of the content areas?
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Cultural Bias in Assessment

Children and adults with disabilities and their families are often subjected to a multitude of evaluations and assessments. In order to be eligible for almost any service, a person with a disability must have 1) a medical evaluation, 2) a psychological evaluation, and 3) a developmental assessment. It's important to recognize that the assessment or evaluation process itself can be riddled with cultural biases. For example, most of the professionals and agencies or organizations in which people receive these assessments and evaluations are based on traditional Western values, time lines, etc., and typically employ a majority of individuals from the dominant European-American culture. Many professionals completing these assessments often don't have specific training regarding cultural differences (and in some cases don't have adequate training about disability issues), which can result in misinterpretations and false assessments. It's also important to recognize that many people don't feel comfortable giving information to someone from a different culture.

There have been efforts to create more culturally appropriate assessments in recent years. However, students from minority cultures are still over-represented in special education due, in part, to cultural bias in the assessments being used. An over-representation of minority cultures in special education can result from misunderstandings during pre-referral interactions in the classroom. For example, in some cultures, making eye contact with an authority figure is taught to be disrespectful. In Euro-American culture, this lack of eye contact may be seen as rude, a sign of dishonesty, or lying. When the two cultures meet in the classroom, misunderstandings and false assumptions may set the stage for escalating conflict. In turn, the conflict between teacher and student may lead to a referral to the problem solving team, building antagonism between the family and the school, or disciplinary actions. Developing an awareness of these differences between cultures will lead to a more accurate perception of a student behaviors and needs.

Family Focused Assessment

When assessment is conducted, a family focus must be maintained. This means that the family should be involved in all aspects of assessment. Observations may take place in the school setting, in the home, or in any other location where the behavior of interest is occurring. Observations and testing should take place when it's convenient for the family and where the family feels most comfortable, whether it be in the home, school, church or synagogue, doctor's office, or anywhere else the child spends time.

Many times parents may feel nervous about the upcoming assessment and may not realize their opinions and feelings are important to the professionals conducting an assessment. More involvement by the people who know the child the best will result in more accurate outcomes of the assessment. Therefore, everything possible should be done to increase the level of involvement and comfort of the student and family during this process.


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