Academic journal article Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development

The Screening Test for Emotional Problems: Studies of Reliability and Validity

Academic journal article Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development

The Screening Test for Emotional Problems: Studies of Reliability and Validity

Article excerpt

This study provides preliminary analysis of reliability and validity of scores on the Screening Test for Emotional Problems, which was designed to identify students ages 5 to 18 years who are referred for wide-ranging emotional disturbances categorized under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Matched teacher and mother responses for 4 independent samples were analyzed.

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Originally enacted in 1973, Public Law 94-142, formerly known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (U.S. Department of Education, 1973), and now known as the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA; U.S. Department of Education, 2004), guarantees special education services to students with a wide range of disabilities. Although the number of students receiving services under the IDEIA has grown steadily since its introduction (Epstein, Nordess, Cullinan, & Hertzog, 2002), confusion remains among school personnel regarding assessment of eligibility for students with some disabilities. Perhaps the most ambiguous category of disabilities is emotional disturbance. Eligibility guidelines for this category, although detailed, are in large part subjective, making consensus among school personnel difficult (Cullinan & Sabornie, 2004; U.S. House of Representatives, 1997).

Part of the difficulty experienced by educators is that few inventories exist to help accurately screen or identify emotional disorders based on the five diverse characteristics outlined in the IDEIA (U.S. Department of Education, 2004), and of those that do, cost, time, training, and legal liability present substantial barriers. This article examines the five specific eligibility characteristics for the category of emotional disturbance defined in the IDEIA and presents preliminary pilot studies of reliability and validity of mother and teacher responses on the Screening Test for Emotional Problems (STEP), a new screening-level test designed to aid in the identification of school-age youth with emotional disturbances as defined by the IDEIA.

IDEIA ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

The eligibility criteria for emotional disturbance are twofold. To receive services, a student must demonstrate the presence of an emotional or mental disorder as defined by descriptions contained in the IDEIA (U.S. Department of Education, 2004) and further demonstrate that this disorder significantly impairs learning and academic success. Section 300.7(c) of the law defines an emotional disturbance as

  a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics
  over a long period and to a marked degree that adversely affects a
  child's educational performance:
  (A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual,
      sensory, or health factors.
  (B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal
      relationships with peers and teachers.
  (C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal
      circumstances.
  (D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
  (E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with
      personal or school problems.

Although the IDEIA (U.S. Department of Education, 2004) certainly can serve as an aid for categorizing or structuring the identification of emotional disturbances, it can hardly be viewed as a theory-driven model for understanding mental disturbance and educational implications in school-age youth. Educators, including professional school counselors, are charged with collecting assessment data about student emotional disturbances and making decisions about program placement (i.e., the IDEIA), accommodations (i.e., Section 504 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973), or referrals (e.g., to private or community sources) and look to other authoritative sources for identification of mental and emotional disorders. …

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