A computer simulation of psychoeducational decision making was used to study the extent to which the assessment and decision-making process differs for different kinds of students, the extent to which naturally-occurring pupil characteristics (appearance, sex) influence diagnostic outcomes, and the extent to which decision makers perceive different assessment information and pupil characteristics as influencing their decisions. The decision-making process did not differ as a function of differences in referral information. While SES, sex and physical appearance did not affect outcome decisions, the nature of the reason for referral did. Scores on achievement tests, intelligence tests, and the disparity between the two were rated as having the greatest influence on the eligibility, classification, and prognostic decisions that were made. Decision makers said they were not influenced by naturally-occurring pupil characteristics.
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Professionals charged with the task of making psychoeducational decisions about students routinely administer or use the results of pupil performance on standardized tests during the decision-making process. Test data are collected to facilitate the making of screening, eligibility/classification/identification/placement, intervention, and evaluation decisions (Salvia & Ysseldyke, 1978). Apparently, test data are collected because someone believes they are important to and useful in decision making. While a number of investigators have reported the frequency with which various kinds of tests are used in practice (Levine, 1974; Silverstein, 1963; Thurlow & Ysseldyke, 1979; Santamafia, Note 1), there are no investigations reporting specifically the kinds of tests used by different practitioners with the same referred students, and few data on the extent to which decision makers perceive different kinds of test information as influencing the decisions they make. Matuszek and Oak- The research reported herein was supported by Contract//300-77-0491 between the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped and the University of Minnesota Institute for Research on Learning Disabilities. Special appreciation is extended to Ed Arndt, Martha Bordwell, Patricia Chase, Jean Greener, Joyce Halverson, Martha Thurlow, and Mary Turnblom for assistance in data collection.
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