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How to Report and Interpret Extreme Raw Scores


We recently received the following question about the CASL test:

When the Norms Book lists a standard score (SS) associated with a raw score of 0, but the manual guides interpretation differently, which reporting/interpretation strategy do you use?

Although a normative score equivalent is reported in norms tables for scores of 0, best practice would be to follow the recommendations in the manual. Page 73 of the CASL manual, for example, states the following: “If the examinee responds incorrectly to Items 1, 2 and 3, do not administer the test. No normative information can be derived. However, the examiner may wish to describe qualitatively in a report the examinee’s difficulty with the task.”

In addition, page 88 in the CASL manual deals with extreme raw scores. Essentially, raw scores that are 0 or “nearly perfect” should be interpreted with great caution.

From a psychometric perspective alone, it’s important to know that an associated SS is possible for raw scores of zero. In the CASL norms tables, zeros complete the range of possible raw scores. However, from an interpretive perspective, even though an associated score is mathematically and statistically possible, the examiner must consider the usefulness or meaningfulness of a score of zero. Caution is always recommended when attempting to interpret a score of zero on any assessment.

School districts may want to see a score, but if that score is meaningless, the examiner must consider the implication for the examinee of a misinterpretation or misuse of that score.

In short, we recommend that you follow the manual’s directive regarding raw scores of zero, and do not report the SS for a raw score of 0.

Comments? Add them below!

Scoring Nuances of the Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language, Part 3: Zero Scores


Clinical Café By Kathy Swiney, CCC-SLP, BRS-FD

Accurate raw scores are the foundation for obtaining meaningful test results. Without adherence to the standardized administration procedures, reliable standard scores cannot be obtained. Precision in administration and interpretation of standardized tests allows evaluators to compare the skills of one specific examinee to those of participants of the same age in the normative sample. Understanding zero raw scores is one important aspect in achieving accuracy in scoring and interpretation on the CASL. Because of their unique nature, zero raw scores can result in either a standard score or no score at all. This article has been prepared to help clarify when each of these situations occurs.

Zero Scores:

You will inevitably have examinees who obtain raw scores of “0″ on one or more of the CASL tests. Zero scores are treated differently than other raw scores:

  • depending on how they were obtained
  • in the way they are interpreted
  • in the method used to calculate index scores.

Understanding these unique properties actually starts with the administration of the examples preceding each CASL test.

Role of Examples in the Administration of CASL tests:

Proper administration of the examples is essential for scoring accuracy. Examples are provided so the examinee has an opportunity to understand the task required on each test. The examiner can administer the examples for younger children if there is reason to believe an examinee will have difficulty with the examples at his or her age-level (see Examiner’s Manual p. 73). Examples may also be repeated (see EM p. 72). Specific procedures for administration of the examples are provided in the Test Books on the pages immediately following the tab for each test. These instructions, like all other administration procedures, should be followed exactly.

Responses obtained on the examples play a very important role. They determine whether testing begins at the age-appropriate Start Item or at Item 1. The examiner uses the accuracy of an examinee’s responses on the examples to make this determination. Most tests provide two examples for each of one or two age ranges. The exceptions are Paragraph Comprehension which provides one example paragraph, Sentence Comprehension which provides one example with two parts (Part A and Part B), and Grammaticality Judgment which provides one set of three examples for all examinees.

For the majority of tests, the following procedures apply.

    First Example for age range:
    Correct response – Examiner continues with the second example for the age range.Incorrect or no response—Examiner repeats the example, models the correct response, and continues to the second example.

    Second Example for age range:
    Correct response – Examiner continues testing with the administration of the actual test items starting with the age-appropriate Start Item.

    Incorrect or NR—Examiner repeats the example, models the correct response, and continues with the administration of the actual test items starting with Item 1, not the age-level Start Item.

(See specific instructions in the Test Books for Paragraph Comprehension, Sentence Comprehension, and Grammaticality Judgment.)

When a “zero” score yields a standard score:

Standard scores are a representation of how far from average an examinee’s score falls. One or more participants in the standardization sample actually scored “0″ and, therefore, that score is a certain distance from average given the examinee’s age level peers. In other words, any raw score can translate to a standard score in the distribution of scores. If the examinee understood the task required on the test, presented his or her best effort, and still obtained a raw score of zero, the standard score obtained should be considered as valid as any of the others for this test.

An example of this situation can occur when the examinee responds correctly to the examples and the answers on the scored items, while incorrect, at least indicate the examinee understands the task required. The following scenario is an example of just such an occurrence.

Scenario A – Zero score that yields a standard score

Student A, aged 11-1, is taking the Grammatical Morphemes test. The examiner administers Examples 3 and 4 which Student A answers correctly. The examiner proceeds to administer Item10, the age-appropriate Start Item. Student A responds incorrectly to Item 10. Following an incorrect response to the Start Item, the examiner administers test items in reverse order all the way to Item 1 in an attempt to obtain a basal of three consecutive scores of 1. The student does not answer any of the items correctly. On items administered, the examinee provides responses that, while incorrect, indicate she understands the task required. She obtains a raw score of “0.” In this case, the standard score of 50 applies.

NOTE: When using the CASL ASSIST scoring program, zero scores obtained in this manner can be used in the calculations for all indexes. Enter “0″ in the field for the test(s) on the ASSIST.

When a zero score does not yield a standard score:

There are instances in which a zero raw score cannot be used to derive a standard score. This situation occurs when an examinee starts at Item 1, which can happen under a number of conditions:

  • the examinee’s age-level Start Item on a test is Item 1
  • the examiner believes a particular examinee will have difficulty with the age-appropriate Start Item and determines that the appropriate Start Item should be Item 1
  • the examinee responds incorrectly to the examples (see EM p.73)

When any of these situations occurs and the examinee provides incorrect responses to all of the example items administered, as well as to Items 1, 2 and 3, testing is discontinued and no standard score can be obtained. An example of this scenario follows.

Scenario B – Zero score does not yield a standard score

Student B, aged 10-3, is taking the Antonyms test. Based on the student’s age, the examiner administers Example 3 and Example 4. Student B responds incorrectly to both examples. The examiner adheres to the instructions on the tab for this test in Test Book 1. Testing continues from Record Form 2 with Item 1 rather than the age-level start item. Student B cannot respond correctly to Item 1, Item 2 or Item 3. The examiner must conclude that this examinee does not understand the concept of the test. Testing is discontinued (see EM p. 72). “No normative information can be derived” (EM p. 73), and no standard score can be obtained. If the test is a Core Test, a Core Composite cannot be obtained. If this situation occurs on one of the tests that make up a Category Index (Lexical/Semantic, Syntactic, or Supralinguistic), a standard score for the category index cannot be obtained.

NOTE: When using the CASL ASSIST scoring program, zero scores obtained in this manner should not be used in the calculations. Do not enter any score in the field for this test on the ASSIST. The program will calculate all other scores accordingly.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I ever considered how much information can be found in “0″!

Scoring Nuances of the Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language (CASL) Part 2: Administration, Prompting, Repetition, and Questions


Clinical Café By Kathy Swiney, CCC-SLP, BRS-FD

No matter how thorough the instructions are in the Examiner’s Manual, situations invariably arise which seem to fall outside the range of these instructions and require further clarification. It is these situations we hope to address in this series of columns.

Follow the order of administration instructions

Instructions in the CASL Examiner’s Manual state that tests must be administered in order. The examiner should give the Core tests first, starting with those in Test Book 1, then those in Test Book 2, followed by those in Test Book 3. Supplementary tests may be administered in any order.

Administration

Test Order

I test a lot of very young children. Wouldn’t it save time and improve performance if I could administer all of the Core and Supplementary tests from each test book at one time?

You are certainly right to be concerned about the attention span and fatigue level of young children when administering any standardized test. There are, however, two reasons that the core tests must be administered in order and prior to the administration of any supplementary tests.

First, to obtain standard scores for the examinee, the tests, including test order, must be administered in the same manner as done during the standardization process. This makes it possible for the child’s performance to be truly compared to the normative group. Secondly, the core tests measure those skills most representative of each category for each of the six age bands. From this standpoint, it is important to administer the core tests first, when the child is most attentive. The supplementary tests provide additional diagnostic information and should be administered at the end of the test session or during a subsequent test session. The supplementary tests are selected at the discretion of the examiner and may be administered in any order.

Sentence Comprehension

In this test, two pairs of sentences are read. The examinee has to respond correctly to both sentence pairs for a score of 1. If the child misses the first sentence, would the examiner have to read the second sentence?

You must give all the sentences in the Sentence Comprehension of Syntax test because that follows standardization procedures. The “1″ is simply a scoring rule. In addition, if you don’t administer the items like you told the child you would, it could be confusing, misleading, or inappropriately indicate to the child that he or she missed an item.

This same procedure also applies to Grammaticality Judgment. For this test, the procedure is clearly defined in “Important Points to Remember During Testing.” The instructions related to this topic are repeated here:

  • If the examinee says “yes” to an incorrect sentence, go on to the next item.
  • If the examinee says “no” to a correct sentence, let him or her try to fix it. Do not indicate at any time other than with the examples that the examinee has given an incorrect response (from Test Book 2).

Scoring Nuances of the Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language, Part 1: Basal and Ceiling Rules


Clinical Café By Kathy Swiney, CCC-SLP, BRS-FD

The Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language (CASL) is fast becoming “the test of choice” for identifying oral language skills in children and young adults aged 3 to 21. As more and more examiners use the CASL, specific questions arise about the administration of the instrument. This article will address questions that have been posed regarding the basal and ceiling rules.

Dr. Elizabeth Carrow-Woolfolk, author of the CASL, has made the administration particularly logical and straightforward. It is, however, the examiner’s responsibility to have a thorough knowledge of the administration instructions for each of the fifteen tests in the CASL test battery. It is essential that each examiner read the Examiner’s Manual thoroughly before administering this or any other standardized assessment instrument. Unless the CASL, or any other standardized test, is administered in the same manner utilized during the standardization process, the results obtained may not be interpretable. (Examiner’s Manual, p. 68).

Before we address specific questions, it might be helpful to review some of the guidelines contained in the Examiner’s Manual for obtaining accurate results.

Consider the special needs of the examinee. (Examiner’s Manual. p. 30, 31, 68.)

    Does the examinee have visual, aural, physical, attentional, articulatory, emotional, or English proficiency limitations that might affect his or her responses? Any adaptations made in the administration of the tests must be documented and considered during interpretation. If sufficient modifications are made, the use of normative scores may not be possible. If so, the examiner’s clinical judgment may be used to formulate a qualitative evaluation of the examinee’s skills.

Adhere to the prompting, repetition, basal, and ceiling rules. (E.M ibid. p. 7, 69.)

    Keep the Test Book open to the appropriate tabbed page for prompting and scoring information. This information is repeated on each Record Form in a box preceding the section for recording responses. The majority of tests have the same basal, three consecutive correct responses, and ceiling, five consecutive incorrect responses, rules. On the Sentence Comprehension of Syntax test and Ambiguous Sentences, while the basal and ceiling rules follow the general format, the examinee must give a correct response to both parts of the stimulus item(s) to receive a score of 1. Paragraph Comprehension and Grammaticality Judgment have unique basal and ceiling rules.

Specifics on Basal and Ceiling Rules

Double Basal/Double Ceiling

What is Dr. Carrow-Woolfolk’s rationale for using the lowest basal and the highest ceiling when obtaining raw scores on the CASL?

The goal in the testing world is to capture the most complete view of a child’s abilities. The lowest basal and highest ceiling rule allows you to obtain as much information as you can without tiring or frustrating the examinee by administering too many items that are either too easy or too difficult for him/her.

Earned Ceiling vs. Tested Ceiling

What should the examiner do when an open-ended question is administered and the examiner is not sure that the response is correct?

In this case, the examiner should not break the continuity of the test administration. The examiner should continue administering items until he or she is sure a ceiling is met, checking questionable responses after the test is complete.

Does the highest ceiling rule apply in this case?

When the examiner goes back to score the test, he or she should keep in mind that the child’s performance drives where the ceiling is, not the examiner’s decision to keep testing. So, if the examiner, after the fact, scores a child’s response as incorrect and that creates a child’s “earned” ceiling, then that is the ceiling to be used.

What Your Test Manual Will (and Should) Tell You—Part 4


Clinical Café by Debby Hutchins, MS, CCC-SLP

Do you find preparing diagnostic reports cumbersome? Time-consuming? A bit of a drag? If you would like to streamline the process, take a close look at this month’s Clinical Café. Along with your test manual, this article offers some helpful tidbits that you can keep in mind for your next client evaluation.

Do you remember when you were in graduate school writing all those diagnostic reports for your practicum? If so, did the clinic supervisor tell you that your report must present a vivid picture of the client’s ability? Well, the world is still the same today. There are diagnostic reports and then there are DIAGNOSTIC REPORTS.

Here’s a prime example. I recently received two speech and language evaluations of school children from two different agencies. I didn’t know either child. One of the reports resembled a bare vine, while the other blazed like a plant in full bloom. When I had finished reading the first report, I wondered how I was going to write speech and language goals and benchmarks for this child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The report told me nothing beyond the tests’ raw and standard scores. On the other hand, the second evaluation gave me a vibrant, detailed picture of the child’s strengths and weaknesses—a huge difference!

As you begin to score tests, remember that not only are the numbers important, but descriptive analysis is priceless. Luckily, tests and test manuals available today can provide us with much of this information without having to rack our brains for words to explain our impressions and observations. Here are some examples:

  • Diagnostic analysis worksheets—If you use the Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language (CASL), descriptive analysis worksheets are available for many of the CASL tests. The Oral Written and Language Scales (OWLS LC/OE and WE) also offer descriptive analysis worksheets. These worksheets break down a child’s responses and target specific skills, making it easier to formulate IEP goals and benchmarks. Vocabulary with Ease, a companion tool for the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Third Edition (PPVT-III) and Expressive Vocabulary Test (EVT) is filled with expressive and receptive intervention strategies and also contains reproducible descriptive analysis worksheets for the PPVT-III and EVT.
  • Test publisher descriptions of tests and subtests—Test manuals provide concise descriptions of tests and subtests. Many of these resources are available on publishers’ Web sites as well. You can incorporate these descriptions right into your diagnostic report.
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)—Make sure to check out the FAQ resources attached to product pages within the publishers’ Web sites. Along with test manuals, these Web sites present practically everything you need to know about scoring and reporting.

Looking for a way to create diagnostic reports effortlessly? There’s more. Software programs now exist that give you scores, interpret results, and provide reports—often with graphical profiles and easy-to-read scores. Computer programs are the new dream tools of choice for speech-language pathologists. To complement your test manual, Pearson offers software tools for the following tests:

If you are in a school system as I am, you’re either on or coming back from a much needed “break in the action.” Why not make a New Year’s resolution to investigate ways to add depth and breadth to your diagnostic reports? Take a few moments to check out these ideas in your test manual and on the Internet. You might be surprised just how much you can expand your knowledge of the children you serve!

Happy New Year!

What Your Test Manual Will (and Should) Tell You—Part 3


Clinical Café by Debby Hutchins, MS, CCC-SLP

Since it can be difficult getting back into the school routine after a summer break, we as SLPs need to do what the children do—sharpen our skills on previously learned material. One way we can do this is through reviewing. And what better place to start than by looking at our test manuals.

Manual, according to The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language, is a “compact volume; handbook of instruction or directions; designed to be retained for reference.”

Dust off those test manuals!

Do you know where your test manuals are? When was the last time you took this valuable part of your assessment out of the closet or its fancy bag? Authors and publishers of tests include manuals in their packages for good reasons!

This subject of manuals came to mind when I recently mentored a new, very conscientious SLP. She had just administered the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation-2 (GFTA-2) to a young child. I was reviewing the information prior to our staff meeting. Many of the phonetic symbols on the protocol seemed to indicate a very unusual pattern.

I asked the SLP, “What did you hear in the child’s speech that led you to use that symbol?” She explained that another SLP told her to use that symbol when a phoneme sounded distorted. I explained that the phonetic symbol she used meant, according to the manual, that the child exhibited nasality. She stopped and thought about it for a minute. Then, she smiled and said, “Now I see why it is so important to read the manual!”

All manuals include in-depth instructions on proper procedures and details on how to enhance the use of the instrument. Think about this. Would you prepare a fancy new dish for dinner without following a recipe? Okay all you gourmet cooks, this example does not include you. However, this story about the new SLP shows how important reading the test manual can be. There are other reasons too:

  • Administration standards—Standards 6.6, 8.1, and 11.3 (CASL p. 67, GFTA-2 p. 15) are spelled out to keep us on the right track when choosing assessments. All AGS Publishing instruments should be administered and interpreted by professionals who are trained to use them, or by students in training who are supervised.
  • Scope and organization of the test—If you read through the GFTA-2 manual, you will see that pages with blue shaded edges (GFTA-2 pp. 16-25) contain helpful information. For instance, did you know that GFTA-2 includes six consonant clusters that were not in the original edition? More clusters were added because many of us out in the field requested them. Also, did you know that if you fold the protocol in the right way, you can compare the same sound across all sections? (GFTA-2 p. 23.) Try it.
  • Research support for item types/constructs—Look at the CASL manual’s gray shaded page edges (pp. 34-66). There you will find a short description of each CASL test. It’s a quick way to locate an easy-to-understand test description. These descriptions are perfect for sharing with parents and others at eligibility meetings. Notice that the word is TEST, not subtest. A distinctive attribute of CASL is that each test stands alone—making CASL so “usable” for SLPs. If you hear someone refer to CASL subtests, politely refer them to the manual!
  • Test construction decisions—One recent SpeechandLanguage.com discussion question concerned basals and ceilings. Guess what? The answer is clearly spelled out in your test manual. But remember, whenever you get a revised edition of a test, it’s important not to assume that the basal, ceiling, and even the administration process will be the same. Again, check the manual.

Before you can administer an assessment, you have to calculate the child’s chronological age. If you are as mathematically challenged as I am, then you will be happy to know that you can find an age calculator right on the Pearson Web site. With this handy little tool, we have no excuse for subtracting incorrectly!

A closing thought—do you ever reread favorite books for pleasure? If so, you know that when you read a book for a second or third time, you almost always find something you missed before. The same goes for all those important books called manuals. So go ahead and take the time to reacquaint yourself with them. It’s well worth it!

What Your Test Manual Will (and Should) Tell You—Part 2


Clinical Café by Tina J. Eichstadt, M.S., CCC-SLP

As a field, we’re into storytelling. A complete story includes setting, characters, events, consequences, plans, and resolutions. Likewise in complete test manuals, we look for “the story” of a test. How did the story, timeline, and events of a test’s development unfold? Content development in test manuals—that’s the topic of this month’s Café.

Have you ever seen or heard about a car for sale that looked great on the outside but when you opened up the hood was missing pieces or showed rust? Even worse, when the key was turned in this shiny new paint job, you wondered how a car that looked so good could sound so awful. Whether or not you’ve been in this situation, you can imagine your disappointment and dismay. Like any buyer, one of your first questions would be, “What’s the story here?”

And so it should be with tests and test manuals. Yes, the packaging should be attractive. Yes, the title should be memorable and explanatory. Yes, the record form should be easy to use. But what’s the story of the test? How did it come to be? What major and minor decisions were made that have fundamentally formed the test as a final instrument? What’s outside is important, but as the saying goes, “it’s what’s inside that counts.”

Why should we care about the story of a test? In a word: context. We all know how important context is in communication and that importance is no different in testing. We interview teachers and parents in an assessment process because we care about context. We observe the student on the playground, in the classroom, and in study hall or the lunchroom because we care about context. We teach code-switching skills to students because we want them to care about context. We read test manuals for the behind-the-scenes story of a test’s life and author’s thinking because we care about context.

Consider a comparison to a research article—we expect no less than adequate disclosure of background, subjects, and methodology in a good research article. Given the nature and potential impact of standardized test performance on accurate diagnosis, a child’s school placement, IEP services, and detailed intervention planning, why would we expect any less? A standardized test typically uses a series of tightly connected and hopefully well-controlled research studies. We should hold at least the same standard of “storytelling” and research rigor for tests as we do other research in the field.

Most test manuals tell you the basics of the test’s story—but how much is enough? That largely depends on you and your particular needs and questions. But here’s a list of things you can look for in test manuals—keep in mind that these may not be headings or independent chapter titles, but likely will be woven together in a chapter titled, “Content Development,” “Rationale,” “Theory Underlying Test Design,” or “Purpose, Scope, and Organization of [the test]“:

  • Theoretical ground—terms, definitions, and perspectives. For example, the Integrative Language Theory behind OWLS and CASL classifies idioms as lexical units (high-level vocabulary); also, the KLPA-2 manual explains in detail the theory behind scored and unscored phonological processes
  • Research support for theory. For example, throughout Chapter 2 of the CASL manual, numerous research references validate the author’s theory and five pages of reference details support it
  • Scope and organization of the test—content covered, not covered, and rationale for section/subtest organization. For example, the GFTA-2 manual explains why only 23 of 25 consonant sounds are measured, the rationale for including certain consonant clusters in the scope, and how the three different sections cover the scope of articulation testing. In the PPVT-III, the manual and the Technical References provide “the story” of each test revision and how the approach and content remained or changed
  • Research support for item types/constructs. For example, the EVT manual cites a research study that supports the change in item types from labeling to synonyms when measuring expressive vocabulary and word retrieval
  • Test construction decisions. For example, the new KTEA-II manual explains that the oral language subtests are specifically designed to measure listening and speaking skills that are typical for students in school. The items include examples of more formal teacher language and common situations for students

Delve into the “stories” that await you in your test manuals. You’ll find that test developers have often written a wealth of information for you!

What Your Test Manual Will (and Should) Tell You—Part 1


Clinical Café by Tina J. Eichstadt, M.S., CCC-SLP

We hear about new (and older) tests in many ways: comments from colleagues, email listservs, flyers and postcards, catalogs, presentations at conventions, and the like. How many times have you purchased a new test after seeing it in one of these communication vehicles? When you received the test, how many times have you hurriedly opened the package, grabbed the easel and record form, and run off to test the student you believed it to be appropriate for—without reading the manual? If you say, “not once,” consider yourself one of a very small number of people who deserve kudos beyond measure, or . . . maybe you should rethink your answer. For most of us, the second group is where we sheepishly belong.

Say it with me: “I confess! I’ve given a test without reading the manual first!” There…now that’s out of our system. This month’s Café will begin a series on delving into the dark places of test manuals, hopefully to shed a little light or make the dim light a bit brighter.

You need a lot of things to help you work well in the school setting: Want a brief overview of the entire test in a short, concise description for a report or IEP meeting? Interested in the variety of ways a test may be used in clinical practice? Want to know how long testing may take or who is allowed to give the test? Need a bullet-point list of the test’s key features for the justification of the test purchase to your special education director or administrator? These and many other basic test questions are answered in well-written and complete test manuals.

In the case of Pearson’s test manuals, answers to these questions translate into “everything that is in Chapter 1.” Here are a few examples of the nuggets of gold just waiting for you to mine:

  • The Expressive Vocabulary Test (EVT) manual states that this test was co-normed with PPVT-III. (pg. 1) The strength of the EVT test is not only that the test’s internal data are rigorous, but also that the psychometric link to the gold standard in vocabulary testing, the PPVT, makes it even easier to compare receptive and expressive vocabulary scores of your students or do research.
  • The Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language (CASL) manual advises that you can use the open-ended responses from students during testing for dynamic and qualitative language sample analysis (pg. 5). The CASL is not just a norm-referenced test battery (not that it wouldn’t be great even if it were)!
  • The Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS) manuals give approximate testing times for different age groups across the testing age span (pp. 6 and 7, respectively). Each manual also includes approximate scoring times for each age group. Want some clear data for caseload vs. workload support in your school? Check out these published times and start adding it up!
  • The Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation-2 (GFTA-2) and Khan-Lewis Phonological Analysis-2 (KLPA-2)actually have different examiner requirements: two levels of qualifications for the GFTA-2 and an additional qualification for the KLPA-2 (pp. 5 and 4, respectively).

These are just a few of the many nuggets you can find in Chapter 1 of most Pearson test manuals. While understandably the text may not be as riveting as a John Grisham or Harry Potter novel, it may help you in ways that you would never consider until you read each page. Begin gently&nbsp. . . with Chapter 1, which is typically eight or less full pages. Think about the “big picture” content for a while. Fit it in with what you already know and believe about testing. When you’ve had a break to consider the information, then go on to the next chapter. Scanning a manual is a good initial tool, but many of us don’t take the time to go deeper.

Go deeper. Your students depend on your depth.

From the view of a test publisher, writing and printing a manual is critical to any test development process. Authors and editors work closely together to be as complete and clear as possible without adding unnecessary information. Keep in mind that the manual must be written to a large audience who has a very wide knowledge base about testing in general and the individual test specifically. Finding a balance between not enough and too much information can be difficult, but with a solid process and competent professionals, a winning combination can be born.

Happy reading—you can do it!


Send us your “What I’d like to learn about tests this summer” list

As your partner in testing, we’d like you to know what we do, how we do it, and why. In turn, we’d like to know what other information we can provide to help you in your jobs. So send us your “What I’d like to learn about tests this summer” list to webmaster@agsnet.com and we’ll try to fulfill your wishes.

Time for “Types of Tests” Terms!


Clinical Café by Tina Radichel, M.S., CCC-SLP

Lazy, Hazy, and Crazy Summer Days

Want to keep the wheels turning during the summer months? Want to simplify your life? Look no further! In an attempt to ease your burden in having to repeatedly clarify terminology regarding types of tests, this month’s Clinical Café focuses on some often-confused terms. Spread the word! Place copies of this issue by the napkin holders in the staff lounge. Slip a copy under the door of your scanning department or your technology office. Give a prize to the person who uses them correctly in a report or a presentation. You have all summer to brainstorm.

Norm- vs. Criterion-Referenced Tests

Norm-referenced tests use a representative group to compare against an examinee’s performance. This representative group is gathered carefully and tested in a standardized way so that the group is representative of the entire population for which the test is intended.

Criterion-referenced tests use a set of benchmarks, or criteria, which have specific expectations of mastery. An examinee’s performance is then compared to these expectations of content mastery or performance—that is, to him/herself, not to any reference group.

Diagnostic/Formative/Summative Tests

Pre-learning: Diagnostic tests are the ones that we as SLPs are usually most familiar. These tests measure knowledge and skill areas of an examinee “left to his/her own devices.” We complete diagnostic tests first to accurately place students in the intervention program most suitable to their needs. The OWLS and the CASL would be considered diagnostic tests because they point to a specific direction in intervention.

During learning: Formative tests offer information about learning in the middle or throughout the learning process. Formative testing can take the shape of learning self-assessment, quizzes, practice tests, or observations.

Post-learning: Summative tests make a final, end-of-course judgment on the intervention or learning and its relative outcome and success/failure of the examinee. National certification exams, like our NESPA exam, are summative tests. The ACT and SAT also fit into this category. Not to confuse anyone, but SLPs obviously also use our diagnostic tests post-learning. Still, these tests are better classified as diagnostic tests, which are given repeatedly to track progress (for medium stakes purposes—oops, I’m getting ahead of myself. Read on!).

Low/Medium/High Stakes Tests

We’ve been hearing quite a bit about these different types of tests in recent months. Dividing tests up along this continuum is descriptive because “low, medium, or high stakes” accurately describes the different levels of impact tests can have on examinees. Whether you’re talking about verifying the identity of the individual, the item and test rigor of creation and review, the need for item and test administration security, or the number and scope of consequences as well as the “stakes” of decisions made based on the results, the category that the test falls into accurately reflects all of these components. For example, the ACT is a high stakes test. It may impact college entrance. The items and test are ultimately secure. And I’m sure you all remember the “what you need to bring to this test” form, which includes proofs of identity and signatures of the stoic proctor. Most of our speech and language tests are medium stakes tests. The items are secure due to the investment in the norms development, the test is administered by an examiner or proctor, and it generates reports that point to key placement decisions and intervention programs. Low stakes test examples include student self-assessments, like our Career Decision Making (CDM) system, which offers direction and planning for examinees and an opportunity to develop motivation and thinking skills.

Speed vs. Power Tests

Timed tests are usually assessing how fast examinees can go against how much they really know. Certainly, there are elements of both speed and power in timed tests. However, when you remove the speed demand on the examinee, the test can truly become one of power—that is, a test that measures an examinee’s ability and knowledge (remember, “Knowledge is Power!”). Examples of speed tests are the ACT/SAT tests. Tests of power include the PPVT-III, and other untimed tests. At Pearson, all of our speech and language tests are built and standardized for an untimed administration—we want to know about speech and language power!

Putting It All Together

Here are three examples of how these test types might all work together:

  1. Your school develops an end-of-year (summative) curriculum-based assessment program (criterion-referenced) for measuring progress and determining success of the students against the curriculum content (medium stakes). The tests are completed over the course of the last week of school in the classroom and are untimed (power).
  2. The local school district has purchased a set of items from an outside vendor. These items have been developed by teachers or content experts but do not have supporting, nationally developed norms and, therefore, cannot be used to compare students to their peers (which would be norm-referenced). The items sit on the school district’s network and are open to all teachers who want to create and deliver a test to their students throughout the year via self-directed computer time (low stakes) to check their learning against the state standards (formative). The tests give the students 10 minutes to answer 20 questions (speed), and provide feedback to the students in their strong and weak skill areas.
  3. You give the PPVT-III to five students on your caseload at the beginning of the year (diagnostic). You compare their results to the norms tables in the published manual (norm-referenced) and, with the rest of your assessment, make decisions about curriculum planning and/or interventions for the year (medium stakes).

Helping Children With Autism


Alecia teaching students to request snack items using PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System.) They exchange a picture for the item desired.

Today, five students with autism and two neuro-typical peers (children who have average language and cognitive abilities) are enrolled in Alecia Ellis’ model demonstration classroom. The two neuro-typical students model “appropriate language and behavior” for the others.

Although fairly new, the classroom has made an impact. Three of Alecia’s students with autism entered first grade this year. One five-year-old boy she describes as crying, screaming, and covering his ears all the time has improved significantly. “It was heart-breaking to see him because he was so over-stimulated . . . . He was miserable at school. It was not easy. He spent five years without any effective intervention,” she recalls.

They began using principles of ABA, reinforcing calm, attentive behavior. It took about a month for him to be able to come into the classroom, hang up his backpack, and participate without screaming. He would still scream when he was over-stimulated or frustrated because he had no means of verbal communication.

To help him communicate, Alecia used PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). She explains, “We taught this student to communicate beginning with primary reinforcers such as food. At lunch and snack time we taught him how to request what he wanted to eat . . .. We would start with one picture—the object or food—and then add another icon, which means ‘I want.’ The child learns to put the pictures on a sentence strip to ask for what he wants. Even though he can’t talk, he gives us the sentence strip, points to each picture, and we are his voice. Pretty soon he can create a six-word utterance with the pictures. It takes a lot of work to develop that kind of communication.”

In addition to her work for the school district, Alecia teaches courses on language disorders and their assessment at University of Nevada-Las Vegas and San Jose State University. She also lectures on understanding autism around the country and trains speech-language pathologists and others how to use CASL (Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language) and interpret the results.

According to Alecia, children with autism can vary in their ability to communicate, from not talking at all to being very verbal. However, they all have difficulties with their social use of language. Tests in CASL, such as Pragmatic Judgment, Meaning from Context, and Inference, can measure deficiencies in social communication which are often missed on language tests that only assess form and content. “CASL is a great instrument to use with students who have high functioning autism, or Asperger’s Syndrome, because you can measure the primary area of deficit,” she adds.

Alecia recommends taking the child’s whole environment into account and involving parents and caregivers as part of the remediation team. “Parents are an extremely important part of any educational program. They are the child’s best experts. By developing a collaborative relationship with families, it will give you a great advantage.”

Teaching children with autism how to use PECS helps reduce inappropriate behaviors.

Parents have indeed appreciated Alecia’s efforts. On September 22 of this year, FEAT (Families for Effective Autism Treatment) of Nevada presented Alecia with the Outstanding Educator Award. She is touched by the recognition and says, “It was the most wonderful recognition anyone could ever receive.”

What qualities are needed most for working with children who have autism? Alecia responds from her own experience, “You must care about children, be dedicated, and ready for extremely hard work.” Patience is important, too, “You have to be prepared to accept small successes and to accept that there may not be successes right away. We feel that we’ve done something phenomenal when a child looks at us and smiles . . . . Or when a kid in the classroom walks up to another and says, ‘Hi.’ Small successes are big celebrations for us.”