At a glance
Evaluations of the same child can sometimes lead to different results.
Factors like how your child was feeling and the tests used can affect evaluation results.
Recommendations that come from different evaluators can be different, too.
If both evaluations are performed properly, it’s likely that the results will be similar. But sometimes the results from different evaluations can vary. Here are some factors that could affect the results.
1. How your child was feeling
How your child feels can affect the results of the evaluation testing.
Say your child is happy, alert, and well-rested when taking a test. Then it’s more likely to give an accurate assessment of abilities. But if your child hasn’t slept well, is distracted, or feels upset or even hungry, the measures may not be as accurate.
Before the evaluation, it’s a good idea to explain what the evaluation is about to your child. It’s not a punishment or a graded test. It’s just a way to pinpoint areas of strength and areas where your child might need extra help. Evaluations are a tool for figuring out what kind of support will work best.
Your child will notice how you feel about the evaluation. If you feel comfortable, it can help your child feel comfortable as well.
For younger kids who may not have been tested before, keep the explanation short and simple. For older kids, be straightforward and calm to help them feel more relaxed. Give your child an opportunity to ask questions.
It’s also important to make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep and is well-fueled before the evaluation.
2. The specific tests used
Evaluators may select different tests to assess a child’s areas of strength and weakness. There are dozens of tests that can be used to learn about your child’s reading, math, spelling, and written expression skills. Each test measures skills in a slightly different way.
Some evaluators may like one kind of test. Others may prefer different ways to measure the same skills. And some tests will be more helpful than others in understanding why your child is struggling in a particular area.
If you request a second evaluation, it’s important to give the evaluator a list of the tests that were used the first time around. Say the second evaluation uses the same version of the same test your child already took. That means your child has already seen the questions. In some cases, that can make the second round of answers invalid.
Sharing the list of tests will also help make sure you don’t miss an important testing area. Be sure to also include the results from the first evaluation when you share the list.
3. The time of year
How far along your child is in the school year can also affect testing. Early in the school year, your child may be rusty on skills the class hasn’t had a chance to practice.
As a result, evaluation results may underestimate skills in certain areas. But your child may brush up on or master those skills throughout the school year.
4. How the recommendations were reached
If your child gets a school evaluation, the evaluation team (which includes you) will discuss recommendations once testing is complete.
The recommendations will likely talk about a general approach the team feels would help your child. They may not mention a specific program.
For example, the team may suggest that your child meet one-on-one with a reading specialist three times a week for 30 minutes to work on phonemic awareness skills. But the team may stop short of naming an actual program.
If your child gets a private evaluation, the evaluator (or evaluators) may recommend a course of action. That often includes specific programs.
In other words, the recommendation from one evaluation may not be as specific as another. And in some cases, recommendations that sound different are actually very similar.
For example, recommendations from one evaluation may call for your child to get instruction through a . Another might recommend that your child get one-on-one sessions using the Wilson Reading System. The Wilson Reading System is one of several available multisensory structured language programs.
Factors that shouldn’t affect evaluation results
There are some factors you may think could affect your child’s evaluation results but that generally don’t make a difference. These include:
- Different environments. Some tests take place at school. Some may be at doctors’ offices. But most kids will adjust to a new setting within a matter of minutes. An experienced evaluator will know how to put kids at ease and will include any concerns in the narrative of her report.
- Different examiners. Depending on the kind of testing being done, your child may be working with a familiar person from school. Or your child may be meeting with strangers. Again, experienced examiners will spend time helping your child feel at ease.
- Different levels of observation. When testing is done by the school, evaluators can observe your child in different settings and get input from teachers and others on records and past performance. Private evaluators may not be able to do a site visit at school. But they will often try to gather similar information from your child’s teachers and the school.
Evaluations are key to finding the best way to help your child. That’s the goal for both public and private evaluations. Find out what to expect from the evaluation process. Learn more about what evaluation testing results mean. You may also want to look into the pros and cons of school and private evaluations.
Explaining the goal of the evaluation to your child can help with stress about testing.
Experienced evaluators can help your child feel comfortable no matter where the testing is taking place.
It’s important to make sure that a second evaluator knows exactly which tests your child took the first time.
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About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.