Testing IQ And Special Education

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 03, 2007
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Recently, the state Board of Education (BOE) asked for more money - specifically, it asked for another $47.6 million in operating expenses and $199 million in capital improvements. The money goes to reducing third-grade class sizes and adding to the gifted and talented program.

The obvious question from taxpayers concerned about the cost of our public school system was why it is so important to spend that much money to reduce class size in the third grade.

According to reliable research, the third grade is the pivotal age for learning issues to be resolved. The research indicates that cognitive skills are almost fully developed when the child is about 8 or 9 years old, which is the third or fourth grade.

You probably don’t remember it, but it was at that age when you were subjected to your first IQ test.

If you don’t do well on the test, called a Wechsler exam, your future in the public school system would up for grabs, because a committee made up of staunch educational administrators and teachers would conduct a Response to Intervention (RTI) on you. Of all the acronyms in the education system, RTI is probably the most feared. This is that point in your young life when someone will decide what kind of learning disability you have and what course of action should be taken to remedy it. In any case, it’s a label that will follow you through life.

For that reason, one of the most controversial and interesting topics in education is the “IQ Score.” Do you know yours? IQ refers to intelligence quotient which, in basic terms, connotes the level of intelligence one possesses. Measuring a person’s IQ can be difficult, as there are so many different ways to accomplish the task. The various methods employed to determine an IQ score are too complex and boring to warrant explanation here.

The important question has always been whether IQ scores increase over time.

There are studies that say yes and studies that say no. James Flynn, a New Zealand political scientist, studied the phenomenon of rising IQ scores and hypothesized that the scores of different groups of people had consistently increased over time, specifically decades. Numerous studies have been conducted on the “Flynn effect,” and results indicated that there was an average increase of more than three IQ points per decade.

These results were found for almost every type of intelligence test administered to every type of group. Data was collected for the United States, as well as Canada and some European countries. Flynn also concluded that someone who scored among the best a hundred years ago would now be categorized among the weakest.

Does this mean that someone who scored within the average range (IQ 100) 10 years ago might now have a lower IQ score? If this conclusion were accurate, it has significant implications for the education system. To counter the “Flynn effect,” IQ tests are “renormed” every 15 to 20 years by resetting the mean score to 100 to account for the previous gains in IQ scores.

What does this all mean?

Simply put, renorming the IQ test mean scores have unintended consequences for students in special education. If a student received a borderline score on an IQ test, that student might obtain a lower score on a renormed test.

Conversely, students who might be eligible for special education services under new norms would not receive them if their IQ scores were obtained on a test with older norms.

Additionally, more students might now qualify for special education services if they are tested using renormed IQ tests.

One has to consider how this will affect a school system’s special education budget. The bottom line is the BOE’s request is worthy of careful consideration, because teachers working with grades 3 and 4 need to have the time to administer a careful evaluation of each and every student.

Falling through the cracks is not good, but not as bad as disappearing from the radar screen.

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