Contemporary Intellectual Assessment: Theories, Tests, and Issues

By Dawn P. Flanagan; Patti L. Harrison | Go to book overview

19

The Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test
A Multidimensional Measure of Intelligence

R. STEVE MCCALLUM
BRUCE A. BRACKEN

The Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT; Bracken & McCallum, 1998) is a language-free test of cognitive ability; that is, it requires no receptive or expressive language from the examiner or the examinee for administration. The need for nonverbal assessment in the United States is obvious. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census (2000), 31,844,979 people did not speak English as their primary language, and almost 2,000,000 had no English-speaking ability. According to estimates from the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA, 1997), nearly one of three (of the nation's 275,000,000 people at that time) was a member of a minority group—either African American, Hispanic, Asian American, or Native American—as of 2000. And, taken together, minority children constitute an ever larger percentage of public school children, particularly in many large cities. For example, minorities constitute an overwhelming percentage of the school population in Miami (approximately 84%), Chicago (89%), and Houston (88%). In addition, the population with limited English proficiency (LEP) population is the fastestgrowing in the nation. There are over 200 languages spoken in the greater Chicago area (Pasko, 1994), 140 in California (Unz, 1997), and 61 in Knoxville, Tennessee (S. Forrester, personal communication, March 12, 2002). In fact, in the nation's largest two school districts, students with LEP make up almost half of all students at the kindergarten level. A fact causing concern is that there are discrepancies in the levels of referral and placement of minority children in special education (e.g., although African Americans make up 16% of the population, they constitute 21% of the enrollment in special education). These statistics prompted the framers of the 1997 reauthorization of IDEA to state that “greater efforts are needed to prevent the intensification of problems connected with mislabeling … minority children with disabilities” (p. 4). In most U.S. school systems, IQ tests are used as part of the referral-toplacement process. Because existing tests cannot be translated to accommodate all of the languages spoken, nonverbal assessment of these at-risk childrens' intelligence seems like the best and most viable solution. And consistent with this recommendation, IDEA admonishes educators to select and administer technically sound tests that will not result in discriminatory practices based on racial or cultural bias.

Similar assessment-related problems exist for children with limited hearing abilities or

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