We Can’t WAIT!

There’s been a lot of discussion concerning COVID19 and schooling from home. In the special education domain, at least in speech-language pathology, we seem to be all over the place. Not that it’s easy it’s not. But, I hear a lot of comments and reports that school districts are suspending special education testing:

  • till schools open again
  • because standardized tests aren’t standardized for on-line administration
  • because we’re not comfortable
  • because we think that it can’t be valid

Schools Reopening

We don’t know when this is going to happen or how it will happen. I teach at the University level and I know that we don’t know what’s happening here either. But, it will be later than we think, and it will be in phases. I think it will be similar for schools across the nation.

Also, we are legally mandated to provide an evaluation wtihin 60 days of receiving consent for assessment to determine if a child has a diability. I know that one way districts are getting around this is to put off consent. But, I still worry that soon districts will find themselves out of compliance.

For kids who are bilingual especially, their services are ALREADY delayed– they didn’t get assessed in time because someone thought that it was just an ESL issue. Let’s not make it worse! There’s a cost to waiting, let’s not make it worse.


Tests Not Standardized for On-line Administration

That’s never gonna happen! It’s expensive to standardize a test. AND we don’t need to. That’s right, WE DO NOT NEED TO RESTANDARDIZE TESTS FOR ON LINE ASSESSMENT. What we need are validity studies. We need to be able to determine if we get similar results in on-line administration of a measure and face-to-face. If we can, then we can say that the measure (or that type of measure) is valid for such purposes. There are already a few studies of this kind. Here’s one on the CELF-4. I think that from a scaling out evidence perspective, we could reasonably expect that standardized measures that have tasks like those on the CELF-4 would also be valid.

I know some groups are doing validity or equivalence studies on different measures. We have one planned for the BESA as well. We are planning on making two equivalent versions of the BESA (splitting up the items) and administering the two parts in face-to-face (calling clinicians with kids in the 4-6 year age range!) and on-line conditions and comparing the two. If it works, we will move forward with a project we have planned and we can be reasonably sure that it can successfully administered on-line (we would think that if it works for the BESA, it extends to the BESOS, and BESA-ME).

And, what happened to the other things we do to assess? When did we get to be so dependent on standardized tests? Anyone can give a test and report a score. We have a minimum of a master’s degree because we learn to observe, evaluate, and interpret comunication behavior to make a determination of ability. Tests are only one of many tools we have. And we can do many of these on-line! What about language samples (there’s a paper here on that too), observations of play, dynamic assessment, parent and teacher interviews (we have a new paper on this, and we do all our interviews on the phone–it’s not yet available but I can send it to you if you email me). Come on guys, we have the training and creativity to make this work. It’s not perfect but we can do good work, we have the training.

Comfort Level

Get comfortable! Get experience. Work with a buddy! Practice till it’s comfortable and you can get beyond your own self so that you can observe the child you are testing. It may take a little time, but I think it can be done.


Belief and data are not the same. Go with the evidence, not your feeling.



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  1. #1 by Diana Castillo on May 13, 2020 - 9:09 am

    I think this is great! I was wondering if you would email me the paper you mentioned about about language samples! Thank you for all that you do!

    Diana Castillo M.S., C.C.C-SLP


  2. #2 by Elizabeth D. Peña on May 13, 2020 - 9:42 am

    the paper should be accessible through the link. Click on the word “paper”

  3. #3 by María on May 19, 2020 - 1:57 pm

    Thank you! We are just starting to experience this as well.

    Do you think you would be able to do a webinar?

  4. #4 by Elizabeth D. Peña on May 19, 2020 - 10:36 pm


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