Public Interest Directorate
This brochure provides information on psychological tests, generally, and on the importance of ensuring that tests are appropriate with regard to a child's cultural background and language, specifically. Also included are suggestions which would help parents to assure the use of appropriate psychological tests.
What are psychological tests?
Psychological tests allow psychologists to assess your child's abilities, behavior, and overall functioning. Tests compare how your child is develop ing with how other children of the same age are developing.
Testing can provide helpful and necessary information to plan for your child's developmental and educational needs. Testing can also help your child's teachers and others identify areas that need special attention, as well as areas of great potential.
Why should a child be tested?
Parents, teachers, and others can have many questions about a child, including questions about behavior, feelings, motivation, ability to learn, intellectual potential, brain functioning, interests, and problems. Specific tests have been developed to find answers to the many questions that you or others might have about your child.
Can all tests be applied to all children equally?
No. Special consideration should be observed when testing language minority and culturally different children.
What is a language minority child?
A language minority child is one whose first language is not English and who is not fluent in English.
What is a culturally different child?
A culturally different child is one who lives in a home where the customs and values may be markedly different from the majority of the children in the social group used by the test as the basis for the comparison. Such children may even have been raised in another county.
Why are some tests not right for a child whose language or culture is different?
Tests give information in the form of comparisons with other children of the same age. If your child's language and culture differ from those of the children he or she is being compared with, the comparisons may suggest conclusions that are not accurate. For example, if your child does not understand English well, test scores may not be correct. The examiner might incorrectly conclude your child has a problem in the area measured by the test.
Test items may also relate to experiences that are unfamiliar to a culturally different child. For example, in some cultures children are taught to respond to adults with short answers. If a psychological test requires this culturally different child to give long answers, then he or she may appear not to be doing well.
Why it is important for parents to know about testing?
It is important that you help the examiner to make the best possible assessment of your child. You can do so by raising your concerns and questions about your child. Work with the psychologist to learn what the psychological tests are intended to measure.
Best possible measures of your child are obtained by the use of tests that (a) get the specific questions raised by you, the teacher, therapist, and others and (b) compare your child appropriately.
Use of tests or the interpretation of test results without consideration of language and culture might mean that your child is placed in an inappropriate school program or does not get the psychological treatment needed.
What can you do t o assure that appropriate use of psychological tests?
First, talk with the psychologist evaluating your child:
- Ask if the tests being used are being given in the language that your child understands best.
- Ask if the tests take into account your child's cultural background.
- Ask if the tests used can compare your child to other children from the same cultural group.
- Ask the psychologist working with your child if he or she has training and experience with your child's language and culture.
- Ask if other information besides test scores will be used to make decisions about your child.
What if you have questions or concerns?
If you have concerns about the response to these questions, the evaluation of your child may need to be reviewed. Here are some steps that you can take:
- You can request that your child's evaluation be postponed until it can be done appropriately.
- You can ask to speak to the psychologist's supervisor about this matter.
- You can express your concern in writing and request the psychologist's response.
- You can seek further guidance and assistance by contacting: The American Psychological Association Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessment 750 First Street, NE Washington, DC 20002-4242 (202) 336-5500
Prepared by the Committee on Children, Youth and Families, the Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessment, and the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs, American Psychological Association, January, 1992.
© 1992 by the American Psychological Association. This material may be reproduced without permission, as long as the material is reproduced in its entirety and the American Psychological Association is acknowledged as the source.