Ethics and Law for School Psychologists

By Susan Jacob; Dawn M. Decker et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
ETHICAL AND LEGAL ISSUES IN
PSYCHOEDUCATIONAL ASSESSMENT

Psychological testing and assessment techniques, in common with most tools, can
be used for a diversity of purposes, some destructive and some constructive, and
their use cannot be separated from the training, competence, and ethical values
of the clinical-user (Matarazzo, 1986, p. 18).

This chapter focuses on ethical and legal issues associated with the assessment of individual students within the context of an established school psychologist–client relationship.


TESTING VERSUS ASSESSMENT

In their work with teachers, parents, and children (and in their own thinking), it is important for school psychologists to distinguish between testing and assessment. Testing and assessment are not synonymous, interchangeable terms (Matarazzo, 1986). A test is a tool that may be used to gather information as part of the assessment process. Assessment is a broader term. Mowder (1983) defined the assessment process as “the planning, collection, and evaluation of information pertinent to a psychoeducational concern” (p. 145). A psychoeducational assessment of a student referred for individual evaluation is conducted by a psychologist trained to gather a variety of different types of information (e.g., school and health history; cultural, language, and experiential background; observations; test results) from a number of different sources (e.g., student, teacher, parents) and to interpret or give meaning to that information in light of the unique characteristics of the student and his or her situation.

Practitioners also need to be familiar with the distinction between the medical and ecological models of school psychological assessment. In past years, practitioners often were trained to accept a medical model that views learning and behavior problems as a result of within-child disorders or disabilities. In contrast, the ecological model encourages an assessment approach that takes into account the multiple factors that affect learning and behavior, including classroom variables, teacher and instructional variables, characteristics of the referred student, and support available from the home for school achievement. The ecological perspective has gained acceptance because it is viewed as potentially more beneficial to the child. To reverse a student’s pattern of poor progress, systematic assessment of factors in the child’s learning environment is needed (Ysseldyke & Christenson, 1988). Messick (1984) suggested that, ethically, a

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