Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Employment Testing of Persons with Specific Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Employment Testing of Persons with Specific Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-36) and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act (P.L. 93-112) obligate nearly all U.S. employers to consider making test accommodations to job applicants with disabilities. Inferences about a person's ability to perform, made from a nonstandardized test administration, however, may or may not reflect an accurate appraisal of his or her abilities. An accurate appraisal of a person's ability to perform a job could result in dissatisfaction of both employee and employer. Yet, to not allow persons with a disability a test accommodation is to deny them equal opportunity to prove they are qualified for the job. Therefore, professionals assisting clients with job placement need to fully understand the positive and negative implications of requesting testing accommodations. It will be shown later that a newer concept in psychometric theory, known as validity generalization, testing for general abilities rather than specific job aptitudes, may be a one alternative to modifying standardized tests. A focus on adults with specific learning disabilities (SLD) is needed as there have been a number of studies on employment-related testing of persons with either mental retardation, sensory disabilities, or physical disabilities (Botterbush & Droege, 1972; Botterbush & Michael, 1985; Carbuhn & Wells, 1973; Cautilli & Bauman, 1987; Droege, 1987; Hull & Halloran, 1976; Levine, 1987; Lofquist, Dawis, & Weiss, 1970; Sherman & Robinson, 1982), while few have addressed persons with SLD (Heaton, Nelson, & Nester, 1980; Hursh, 1984; Nester, 1984). A definition of SLD begins discussion of the regulatory, legal, and technical considerations to guide test use with this population.

SLD Defined

Persons formally diagnosed as having SLD are thought by many experts to have problems with the ways in which they process information (Duane, 1979; Stanovich, 1988; Swanson, 1988; Torgesen, 1988). These processing problems have been correlated with the occurrence of below-average achievement in reading, arithmetic, or written language performance. Warner et al. believe that cognitive processing difficulties diminish academic achievement because "success on tasks requiring deliberate memorization |as most early school learning tasks do~ partially depends on the ability to exert appropriate executive control during the learning session" (Warner, Schumaker, Alley, & Desherler, 1989, p. 107). They define the executive function as "that part of the information-processing system that regulates and sequences specific (subordinate) control processes" (p. 108). Deficiencies in executive control "are increasingly being implicated in mildly handicapped students' |such as SLD~ failure to transfer and to generalize what they have learned" (p. 107). While persons with SLD have been able to narrow their academic deficiencies over time (Bruck, 1985; Hartzell & Compton, 1984), there is no evidence to suggest that their cognitive difficulties disappear with time (Johnson & Blalock, 1987; Rogan & Hartman, 1976; Spreen, 1984). It is these SLD identified children and adolescents--as adults--that can be at a distinct disadvantage when taking examinations that require recall and processing information for problem solving in a limited time situation. Thus far, test accommodations for adults with SLD, in college admission testing situations, have primarily been extra time, assistance in deciphering the verbal directions of a test, and assistance in recording test-item responses (Bennett, Rock, & Kaplan, 1985; Gerber, 1985; Willingham et al. 1988).

Employment Tests

Employment tests are standardized, objective, and validated examinations based on analysis of a specific job in a specific setting (Hale, 1982). It is generally accepted among most employment personnel professionals that a business can increase productivity by significant dollar amounts through using valid tests to select workers (Schultz, 1985). …

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