Using Norm-Referenced Tests to Determine Severity of Language Impairment in Children: Disconnect Between U.S. Policy Makers and Test Developers Purpose The purpose of this study was to identify various U.S. state education departments' criteria for determining the severity of language impairment in children, with particular focus on the use of norm-referenced tests. A secondary objective was to determine if norm-referenced tests of child language were developed for the purpose ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2012
Using Norm-Referenced Tests to Determine Severity of Language Impairment in Children: Disconnect Between U.S. Policy Makers and Test Developers
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Tammie J. Spaulding
    University of Connecticut, Storrs
  • Margaret Swartwout Szulga
    University of Connecticut, Storrs
  • Cecilia Figueroa
    The University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Correspondence to Tammie J. Spaulding: tammie.spaulding@uconn.edu
  • Editor: Marilyn Nippold
    Editor: Marilyn Nippold×
  • Associate Editor: Victoria Joffe
    Associate Editor: Victoria Joffe×
Article Information
Language Disorders / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2012
Using Norm-Referenced Tests to Determine Severity of Language Impairment in Children: Disconnect Between U.S. Policy Makers and Test Developers
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, April 2012, Vol. 43, 176-190. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0103)
History: Received November 17, 2010 , Revised April 17, 2011 , Accepted September 17, 2011
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, April 2012, Vol. 43, 176-190. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0103)
History: Received November 17, 2010; Revised April 17, 2011; Accepted September 17, 2011
Web of Science® Times Cited: 10

Purpose The purpose of this study was to identify various U.S. state education departments' criteria for determining the severity of language impairment in children, with particular focus on the use of norm-referenced tests. A secondary objective was to determine if norm-referenced tests of child language were developed for the purpose of identifying the severity of children’s language impairment.

Method Published procedures for severity determinations were obtained from U.S. state education departments. In addition, manuals for 45 norm-referenced tests of child language were reviewed to determine if each test was designed to identify the degree of a child’s language impairment. Consistency was evaluated among state criteria, test developers' intentions, and test characteristics.

Results At the time of this study, 8 states published guidelines for determining the severity of language impairment, and each specified the use of norm-referenced tests for this purpose. The degree of use and cutoff-point criteria for severity determination varied across states. No cutoff-point criteria aligned with the severity cutoff points described within the test manuals. Furthermore, tests that included severity information lacked empirical data on how the severity categories were derived.

Conclusion Researchers and clinicians should be cautious in determining the severity of children’s language impairment using norm-referenced test performance given the inconsistency in guidelines and lack of empirical data within test manuals to support this use.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This work was supported by a large faculty grant to the first author from the UConn Foundation.
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