Educational assessment for students with possible disabilities is an activity carried out by a diverse group of professionals. Regional and local practices determine which specific professionals within the local education agency (LEA) assume such responsibilities. Nationally, such assessments may be completed by any of the following: school psychologists, special educators, general educators, reading resource specialists, educational diagnostics specialists and others (Taylor, 1997, Venn, 2000). With the exception of school psychology, certification/licensure standards qualifying individuals for educational diagnostic practice are nonexistent in most states. As a result, establishing and maintaining the quality and uniformity of practice is a significant issue yet to be resolved (McLoughlin, 1985, Overton, 1996).
In 1998, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) launched a constructive initiative to redress issues involving professional preparation and credentialing. CEC established the Professionally Recognized Special Educator (PRSE, 1998) to address inconsistencies characterizing certification/licensure standards. CEC established preliminary criteria for granting the PRSE Certificate in the category of Educational Diagnostician. The decision to extend an invitation to all special educators across the practitioner pool to qualify for PRSE certification may be viewed as a direct attempt to encourage, support and recognize field-wide high-level professional competency.
Effective 2001, and published in "What Every Special Educator Must Know: The Standards for the Preparation and Licensure of Special Educators" (Council for Exceptional Children, 2000) are the specific knowledge and skill standards which must be demonstrated by applicants seeking PRSE certification as educational diagnosticians. The CEC documents have been submitted to the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) for approval and are aligned with the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) Special Education Sub-Committee recommendations for standards and licensure of general and special education teachers (Council of Chief State School Officers [CCSSO] 2001).
This article provides an overview of federal expectations for qualified educational diagnosticians. Details are provided concerning the role of individual states in establishing and maintaining professional standards. The article concludes with a call for state educational agencies (SEAs) to develop certification/licensure standards for educational diagnosticians.
Federal guidelines for assessment of exceptional children maintain uniform expectations for personnel administering the evaluation. Under the original heading of "Evaluation Procedures" (section 300.532 P.L. 94-142, 1975) the law stated:
State and local educational agencies
shall insure, at a minimum, that
tests and other evaluation materials
are administered by trained personnel
in conformance with the instructions
provided by their producer.
In sub-section 300.344 (Participants in Meetings) of the 1975 federal law, the clarification of evaluation personnel for an exceptional child stipulated the inclusion of at least one member of the school staff or public agency with a degree of competency in interpreting evaluation procedures and results. Twenty-two years later, the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA-97) was published with much the same language describing requirements for qualified educational diagnostic staff. In addition to that directive, IDEA-97 outlines the expectation that teams comprised of professionals to serve exceptional children include "an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results ..."
Compulsory participation by competent educational diagnostic personnel is further stated within subsection 300. …