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Common Evaluations in Special Education

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Educational Evaluation

Educational evaluations are used to determine the student’s general knowledge in the areas of reading, writing, and mathematics. Educational evaluations are administered by Special Educators in a one-on-one test setting with the student. Often, one educational test battery is used to gather this information; however, additional subtests may be administered to gain more detailed information about a student’s profile of strengths and needs. The selection of evaluation tools is determined by the Special Educator conducting the evaluation. Common educational tests include the Woodcock-Johnson (general educational battery), Key Math, Gray Oral Reading, and the Test of Written Language (TOWL).

Psychological Evaluation

A comprehensive psychological evaluation is used to develop a multi-faceted picture of how a student thinks, learns, and approaches new information. This may consist of a number of evaluation procedures including test batteries, rating scales, observations, and interviews. The selection of evaluation tools is determined by the School Psychologist conducting the evaluation. Common components of psychological evaluations include:

  • Cognitive Battery: A battery of tests administered one-on-one with a student to measure general intellectual functioning (e.g., Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-WISC V, Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-WIAT, the Vineland, WISC Non-Verbal).


  • Memory Battery:  A battery of tests that is administered one-on-one with a student to assess memory ability as well as attention and concentration (e.g. Wide-Range Assessment of Memory and Learning- WRAML).

Measures of Social and Emotional Functioning 

These are rating scales given to parents, teachers, and/or the child that measure numerous aspects of behavior and personality. This may include symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, depression, anxiety, trouble with interpersonal relationships, and self-reliance. Examples of scales used include the Behavior Assessment Scale for Children (BASC), the Conners, and the Children’s’ Depression Index (CDI).

Measures of Executive Functioning 

These are rating scales given to parents and/or teachers that measure executive functioning (a collection of processes that are responsible for guiding, directing, and managing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functions, particularly during active, novel problem solving). This helps determine a child’s ability to function in areas such as inhibiting impulsive behaviors, organizing materials, and planning long-term projects (e.g., the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning-BRIEF).

Measures of Adaptive Skills 

These are rating scales given to parents and/or teachers that provide a picture of adaptive skills across the lifespan and look at areas such as communication, community use, functional academics, school and home living, health and safety, leisure, self-care, self-direction, and social skills (e.g., the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System- ABAS).


Interviews may be conducted with teachers, parents/guardians, and/or the student.


Observations of students may take place in a number of settings, such as the classroom, cafeteria, and school-wide activities.

Social History

The Social History consists of an interview with one or more of a student’s parents or guardians and the School Social Worker. This interview is used to gather background information about the student, including family history (e.g., members of the family, where the family has lived), environmental or family stressors, and the student’s early development and medical history. Parents also provide their perception of their child’s academic and social abilities.

Clinical Psychological Evaluation

At times, a more comprehensive psychological assessment may be necessary to gain a better understanding of a child’s functioning in school. In these instances, a Clinical Psychological Evaluation is requested. These evaluations are completed by a licensed Clinical Psychologist. The psychologist will often interview parents, teachers, and/or the student, observe the student, and review the school’s files.  Occasionally, additional evaluations (e.g., test batteries or rating scales) may be completed.