The recent release of “Using the Core-Selective Evaluation Process (C-SEP) With the Woodcock-Johnson IV: From Theory to Practice (Assessment Service Bulletin Number 11,” from Houghton Mifflin was a welcome sight as it provides further support for the use of the PSW model which I have been writing about for the past two years.
C-SEP mirrors the PSW principles espoused by Flanagan, Ortiz, and others as well as the Cross-Battery Assessment (XBA) procedures described by the same authors. Specifically, C-SEP utilizes the WJ IV family of instruments to gather normative data describing students’ neurocognitive profiles. Thus, both the Wechsler and the WJ IV families of instruments are tools available to diagnose a learning disability. Both approaches utilize similar principles: (1) students would have had to receive appropriate instruction to rule out lack of instruction as a variable; (2) multiple sources of information (i.e. curriculum-based assessment, grades, work samples, test scores) must be sought in justifying a referral for testing and developing a hypothesis that drives the assessment process; (3) linkages between identified processing and achievement deficits must exist; and (4) other factors (i.e. physical or intellectual disabilities; social-emotional disorders; environmental or economic disadvantage, and cultural-linguistic factors) must be ruled out. C-SEP offers its own version of XBA when it is important to expand the assessment of specific findings (i.e. administering another subtest to test out an initial finding is recommended when the WJ IV core administration includes only one subtest in a processing area).
One difference I observed is that the PSW model offers a statistical program to analyze normative data that contrasts findings associated with strengths and those with weaknesses to determine if a statistical difference exists. Moreover, the recent expansion of the PSW software includes hundreds of tests and subtests that may be utilized in performing XBA to give a more comprehensive picture of processing and achievement strengths and weaknesses. PSW also includes measures of executive functions to further elaborate on neurocognitive profiles.
Despite the differences, the road ahead appears to be clear: PSW is being recognized as the primary approach for identifying learning disorders. It is now up to legislators and departments of education in states like New Jersey to acknowledge that PSW reflects the best science we have and give child study teams “permission” to move away from the antiquated and flawed eligibility criteria in the current state code.