NASP Member Exchange

Topic: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

1.  New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 8 days ago
Hi all,

So I'm a new school psychologist at a new district this year ... I have been approached by my SPED Director about when is appropriate for giving cognitive assessments. From my research and contacting to colleagues, I have been instructed that typically if a student has been tested one time with a full cognitive battery and they were at least 6-7 years old, AND there's no reason to believe the test is inaccurate, then this measure of ability should be representative of the student as he/she progresses throughout school. My SPED Director and I seem to be in solid agreement about this...

HOWEVER -- My SPED Director (and other SPED teachers in the building) have repeatedly said "STUDENT is a junior (or senior) this year and up for re-evaluation, so he/she will need a new cognitive assessment" ... Basically, they have been under the impression that students who are eligible for SPED in the district should be given a new full cognitive assessment (WISC-V) because they "may go to college and will need the new scores to get help in college."

Is this accurate?? On internship, we rarely (if ever!) tested students once they reached late middle/high school unless there was a clear need/reason to do so, which certainly did not include "testing them for free now so they have a new test for college."

Any insight is appreciated -- maybe I just missed this whole section in EDSP 101!
Thanks,
Megan

Megan E. Rescinito
School Psychologist
rescinitom@floyd.k12.va.us

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[Megan E.] [Rescinito,] [Ed.S., NCSP]
[School Psychologist]
[Floyd County Public Schools]
[Blacksburg] [VA]
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2.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 5 days ago
​I've worked in three different school districts. It was not the practice to give IQ's for college at the first two districts, but it is now in my current district. The "reasoning" at the district is that it relates to the student's transition plan. At one point, we were testing almost every junior and senior. We're working on getting it down to only those that are for sure going to college. I cannot tell you how many seniors I tested in January/February who had no idea what they were wanting to do after high school. It can be such a waste of everyone's time and student's time out of class, especially when most likely no one will look at this evaluation.

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Emily Morgan-Smitley NCSP

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3.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 4 days ago
Special education Evaluations are done for the school team's purposes - not for colleges. If two have been done and are very similar and the student's needs are well understood, there is no need to repeat in high school.

Sent from my iPad




4.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 5 days ago
Hi Megan,

I have encountered teachers at my school who believe students in the Intellectually Disabled category require new cognitives prior to graduation also. These students may have 5 cognitives on records but I still get push back if I say it's not necessary. In my training and previous district it was common practice to do a file review and if there are 2 cognitives on file that so not demonstrate discrepancy outside of the confidence interval it is not necessary to repeat a cognitive. A letter stating the accuracy of these cognitives has always proven sufficient.

In January this year College Board no longer requires cognitive testing results for SAT accommodations either. I think this is further support that high school school students should not require another cognitive evaluation unless there was a significant reason to believe they have had a change that would constitute a change in placement.

I have gone back to the fact that we are school psychologists that provide testing for programming purposes at our level of education. We can't be doing testing for other agencies to have information if it doesn't benefit the student at the high school level. We have too much outside of evaluation testing in our responsibilities to test every Junior and Senior because "that's how it's always been done".

Good luck at your new school!

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Julia Richardson NCSP
School Psychologist
Aurora CO
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5.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 5 days ago
Megan -

You raise a good question, one I have tried to answer for myself in contrasting ways (my guess is you didn't miss anything in EDSP 101).  Having worked at a high school for many years, I have heard (and promulgated) the arguments for and against the need for cognitive testing for high school students.  There is evidence to suggest that a student's cognitive profile shifts over time, particularly in adolescence, so scores on updated assessments will likely be different than when he/she was in early elementary.  However, it is unlikely that the shift in one's cognitive scores would result in a change in special education eligibility or services (other assessment data, including the student's classroom performance, may result in a change in placement).  In regards to the argument that a student needs updated assessments for college, there is some truth in that.  The College Board often requires recent assessment data )including cognitive data) for students applying for accommodations for the SAT/ACT.  Also, many colleges want recent assessment data (often specifically identified) when students are looking for support in school.  It is my belief (and I think there might be court cases to support this, but I can't cite them) that assessments (cognitive, educational, whatever) are required for special education eligibility and planning, not for college admissions, so therefore we shouldn't be required to complete cognitive assessments in high school, particularly when it is unlikely to impact planning/IEP development.  With that said, who would bear the brunt of difficulties if we do not update assessment data?  The student and his/her family, as they may not be able to acquire this information independently.  Ergo, we often make sure a student gets a complete assessment sometime in high school; if we plan accordingly, the family may have agreed to a waiver in middle school, but not always.  A similar argument can be made for students with significant development disabilities.  Often the adult agencies request current cognitive scores (and adaptive measures) to qualify the student for adult assistance.  This is a particularly challenging situation for multiple reasons: some students have considerable difficulty with formal assessments; reporting scores to parents is not easy; and, sometimes the composite score is slightly better then the prescribed cut score from the adult agency.  In this last case, information from adaptive measures is essential to document the student's need for support services after age 22.  Bottom line - there isn't a clear answer (and there shouldn't be a blanket reason for either argument), but I always try to keep in mind the best interest of the student when deciding whether or not to administer a cognitive battery.


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Andrew Butler
Florence MA
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6.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 5 days ago

​We often need to administer a cognitive assessment for older students if they are transitioning to vocational rehabilitation or another adult service provider that requires a cognitive assessment for admission. I suppose we could say that if they are requiring the assessment, then they should do it. But, we want the transition to go smoothly. We are the folks that know the students best, so it makes sense that we would do the assessment.

Ruth


Ruth Fodness, S.Psy.S., NCSP
School Psychologist
Watertown School District
 
 
WSD Special Services
601 - 11th St NE
Watertown, SD 57201
605-882-6399
cell 605-520-4035
 
☮"If we are to have peace in the world, we must begin with children."--Gandhi





7.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 4 days ago
Hi Ms. Rescinito,
I currently work with high school through 22 years (transition), and there are several reasons I might do updated testing. As a general guideline, I’m typically only doing cognitive testing for students with a known or suspected intellectual disability, or to rule out such a disability when determining initial eligibility (Illinois does not allow for the sole use of the discrepancy model, so I’m not doing an IQ for all my SLD students). The biggest reason I update testing for my students with more significant disabilities is that the state or other agencies and supports often require testing from within the last 3 years in order to qualify for services/assistance. I believe this is part of our job to support students in transitioning to post-secondary supports and services, even if it is not required by law for this update to be done at school. My families will most likely be unable to afford private neuro-psych testing once they leave school, so I try to catch all such students before they accept their diploma or age out.

Another reason I might do an update is that the child has not been tested since early elementary or has only been tested once. When it comes to IQ testing, you are unlikely to “fake good” (test higher than your true abilities), but you could “fake bad” (perform lower than your true abilities) for a variety of reasons, such as testing fatigue, distractions, illness, poor sleep, and so on. Having at least two data points gives you a better idea about how reliable or representative the scores might be. I have found more variance than one might anticipate in scores from cognitives given at 6 years old and where the student is performing later in high school.

A final reason I might update scores is that some students make significant gains through intensive early therapies, especially in regards to communication skills. I may see non-verbal IQ testing a student received in kindergarten or first grade, but have a decently verbal high school student in front of me. I would want updated testing for these students to get a better estimate of skills they did not posses when they were last assessed (in this case it might be a verbal and non-verbal battery, for students who made significant gains in fine motor control, or attention and focus, scores might reflect these gains).

I hope that this is helpful!

Julia Dixon, Ed.S., NCSP
School Psychologist
Rich East High School
Park Forest, IL
RTHSD 227




8.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 4 days ago
​Good morning ...
As a university administrator, I met with staff in our Office of Disability Services to talk with them about their requirement for applicants to provide a written report (from an appropriately licensed/certificated professional) "diagnosing" a learning disability -- i.e., a "medical model" psychological report, in which they expect to see a cognitive test result obtained in the past 3 years. My explanation of alternative methods (under IDEA) for identifying a learning disability didn't persuade them to consider modifying their requirement. Although others responding to this thread offer several reasons why it may be a good or bad idea, college and university regulations (re: eligibility for accommodations under Sec. 504 and ADA) seem to be a bottom line rationale for school districts to provide these assessments/reports at parent request.

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Kathy McNamara NCSP[Associate Dean, College of Sciences & Health Professions]Cleveland State UniversitCleveland OH
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9.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 3 days ago
Chiming in, my understanding of IDEA is that school-based teams do evaluations due to suspicion of disability or a change in disability.  Though colleges often require updated testing (i.e., testing within one year) in order to provide services, that doesn't mean the public school is responsible for completing such.  Generally my districts have not condoned testing exiting seniors who require updated testing for college purposes or SAT/ACT for that matter.  That said, however, if a parent requests testing, regardless of the reason for such, though a district can refuse such documenting the refusal on the Prior Written Notice (of proposed or refused action), often districts will not do so because they would much rather take the path of least resistance/least financial responsibility.  In other words, we don't volunteer to complete testing for outside-of-school purposes, but if a parent requests such it's often cheaper to do so ourselves rather than fight the parent on such and risk mediation/due process/the cost of an IEE/etc.

Amy

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Amy R. Cannava, Ed.S., NCSP
School Psychologist
Montgomery County Public Schools
Chair, NASP LGBTQI2-S Committee
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10.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 2 days ago
Hi all,

When I ultimately think about the spirit of IDEIA, the goal of identification and FAPE is to provide special education services and related services to meet their unique needs and prepare them for 1) further education, 2) employment, and 3) independent living.

Ive interpreted this to mean if I need to give another cognitive test or obtain news performance levels to help a student transition to college/technical school, work, or even to an assisted living facility, I'm more than willing to do it.  I view my assesssment services as an extension of what we provide to get them ready.

Best,

Thomas





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Thomas Schanding NCSP
Associate Professor
Univ of Houston-Clear Lake
Houston TX
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11.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 2 days ago
My experience is this depends on your district and state... my current district we test all students at least once in high school and to be honest a cognitive is usually administered at most triennials here at any grade level . At high school, in CT, there is a big state focus on transition planning. Most colleges require updated testing within the past 3 years or DDS wants updates testing for our students with intellectual disabilities... not saying I agree 100% with it but also in q district with parents more likely to pursue due process and independent evaluations.

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Christina Orsi, NCSP
School Psychologist
CT
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12.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 2 days ago
Hi everyone! Thank you for your input. A few updates to this as I've talked with more people over the last few days:

1. When exploring around on collegeboard, I found that the requirements for cognitive testing for students differ depending on the disability category the student is trying to receive accommodations for. For example, a student with ADHD can have "cognitive testing older than 5 years, but testing performed before the 3rd grade may not provide a valid indication of the student's current ability". What a gray statement that is! However, there is not information for how "new" testing must be for a student with ASD. It simply states that "psycho-educational evaluations (both test scores and narrative) must document functional limitations".

2. A friend of my working at a school near Philadelphia, PA, was told by another SPSY that they test all seniors with a full cognitive/achievement battery because colleges around there often require cognitive testing within the last YEAR.

3. My supervisor shared that one of the previous psychologists in this district started the practice of testing sophomores/juniors/seniors in their final 3-year re-evaluation with full cognitive evals because she thought student ability changed at age 16 so we should update for college (and because it changed ... )

4. I know I am not alone in this, but I am the only psychologist in this district. While I am always keeping student need(s) at top priority, I just don't see testing every SPED-eligible sophomore/junior/senior as realistic or practical in the slightest. However, I certainly appreciate feedback from those of you who say that testing for college-bound students should be a valid part of their transition plan. I think at this point, I am planning on contacting parents to determine students' future plans and testing if it includes the possibility of college.

Please feel free to share any other thoughts you may have!

CollegeBoard.com. (2017). Disability documentation guidelines. Retrieved from Disability Documentation Guidelines. 

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[Megan E.] [Rescinito,] [Ed.S., NCSP]
[School Psychologist]
[Floyd County Public Schools]
[Blacksburg] [VA]
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13.  RE: New Cognitive Testing for High School Juniors/Seniors ??

Posted 2 days ago
I've been watching this thread with interest and fought the impulse to respond. It's Friday morning, the coffee hasn't kicked in and I'm trying to avoid working on another procedural compliance issue, a NASP accreditation document.

Note the word "procedural" in the last sentence. (Re)-Administering a cognitive test at the high school level certainly sounds like a procedural compliance issue. Jim Ysseldyke, my graduate school advisor and legend in the field, nearly always began every question about assessment with the question, "what decision are you trying to make?" His corrollary was that if you don't know what decision you're trying to make, you're likely to be confused.

There are really 5 major assessment decisions, and without trying to be pedantic,
1. screening--giving a HS student who is receiving SE ANOTHER cognitive test is not screening
2. eligibility--the student is already eligible.  And even if the student's scores changed markedly--not likely--the real question for continued eligibility is not "does the student still qualify" but does the student still NEED SE. Sadly, we're not very good at answering that Q as important as it is because we are still stuck in the idea that eligibility is the most important decision of all. So, I'd say, this decision does not apply to this instance.
3. intervention planning...I know of no data to suggest that knowing a S's cognitive ability score helps plan intervention of any kind. What does help intervention planning is understanding the student's NEEDS.  See #2 above. If we lack data on how to plan intervention K-12 based on cognitive ability scores, then how would this help in post secondary planning? I believe we can rule this one out.
4. progress monitoring. Cognitive ability tests--and scores--are not indicative of progress. Progress monitoring should be tied to assessment of reduced discrepancy in student NEED(s). There's that word again. And there's that problem that we're not so good at assessing it (and we should be GREAT at it).
5. Program evaluation. Typically for groups about whether something makes a difference.

OK, so to me, none of these apply. That leaves we do it cuz someone else wants it/requires it.

If anyone has been left behind in contemporary assessment and decision making w students with disabilities, it is higher education. For whatever reason, some IHE's don't trust the IEP decision--and they are not in a position to judge--so they stay in the 50s-60s-70s and ask for data that drove ELIGIBILITY determination in those times. The cognitive test score--and often an accompanying achievement test. So, at best, they can use an ability-achievement discrepancy model. Psychometrically flawed. Morally wrong.

When we collect data at HS (or any other level) because someone "requires it," from an ethical perspective, I must express discomfort and when possible, at least make some effort to educate. Advocacy for best practices and best practices for individual students should drive our efforts.

Now although I'm naive, I'm not that naive that someone with a checklist somewhere, with no background/training can change their policy. Under those circumstances, Jim Y taught me to do it ethically and efficiently. If someone requires a cognitive test that has little consequential validity, I would use a short form, report the results as consistent with previous testing in as little time as possible. If the results are radically different from previous results--which seems weird and would make me Q other things, then I would be compelled to administer the complete test.




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Mark Shinn
Professor
National Louis University
Highwood IL
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