4 Reasons Your Child’s Evaluation Results May Differ

By The Understood Team

At a glance

  • Evaluations of the same child can sometimes lead to different results.

  • Factors like how your child was feeling and the tests used can affect evaluation results.

  • The recommendations that come from different evaluators can be different, too.

There are many reasons you may choose to get your child evaluated. And whether you get a school evaluation or a private evaluation, there are many reasons you may want a second one.

If both evaluations are performed properly, it’s likely that the results will be similar. But sometimes the results from different evaluations can vary. Here are some factors that could be at play.

1. How Your Child Was Feeling

How your child feels can affect the results of his evaluation testing.

Say he’s happy, alert and well-rested when he takes a test. Then it’s more likely to give an accurate assessment of his abilities. But if he hasn’t slept well, is distracted or feels upset or even hungry, the measures may not be as accurate.

Before your child’s evaluation, it’s a good idea to explain to him what the evaluation is about. It’s not a punishment or a test he’ll be graded on. It’s just a way to pinpoint the areas where he’s doing fine and areas where he might need extra help. And it’s a tool for figuring out what kind of help will work best.

The key here is that your child will follow your emotional lead. If you feel comfortable, it can help him feel comfortable as well.

For younger children who may not have been tested before, keep the explanation short and simple. For older children, be straightforward and calm to help them feel more relaxed. And give your child an opportunity to ask questions.

It’s also important to make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep and is well-fueled before the evaluation, too.

2. The Specific Tests Used

Evaluators may select different tests to assess a child’s areas of strength and weakness. There are dozens of different tests that can be used to learn about your child’s reading, math, spelling and written expression skills. Each test measures skills in a slightly different way.

Some evaluators may like one kind of test. Others may prefer different ways to measure the same skills. And some tests will be more helpful than others in understanding why your child is struggling in a particular area.

If you request a second evaluation, it’s important to give the evaluator a list of the tests that were used the first time around. Say the second evaluation uses the same version of the same test your child already took. That means your child has already seen the questions. In some cases, that can make his second round of answers invalid.

Sharing the list of tests will also help make sure you don’t miss an important testing area. Be sure to include the results from the first evaluation when you share the list, too.

3. The Time of Year

How far along your child is in the school year can also affect testing. Early in the school year, your child may be rusty on skills he hasn’t had a chance to practice.

As a result, evaluation results may underestimate his skills in certain areas. But he may brush up on or master those skills throughout the school year.

4. How the Recommendations Were Reached

If your child gets a school evaluation, the evaluation team, which includes you, will discuss recommendations once testing is complete.

The recommendations will likely talk about a general approach the team feels would help your child. They may not mention a specific program.

For example, the team may suggest that your child meet one-on-one with a reading specialist three times a week for 30 minutes to work on phonemic awareness skills. But the team may stop short of naming an actual program.

If your child gets a private evaluation, the evaluator (or evaluators) may recommend a course of action. That often includes specific programs.

In other words, the recommendation from one evaluation may not be as specific as another. And in some cases, recommendations that sound different are actually very similar.

For example, recommendations from one evaluation may call for your child to get instruction through a . Another might recommend that your child get one-on-one sessions using the Wilson Reading System. The Wilson Reading System is one of several available multisensory structured language programs.

Factors That Shouldn’t Affect Evaluation Results

There are some factors you may think could affect your child’s evaluation results but that generally don’t make a difference. These include:

  • Different environments. Some tests take place at school. Some may be at doctors’ offices. But most kids will adjust to a new setting within a matter of minutes. An experienced evaluator will know how to put kids at ease and will include any concerns she has in the narrative of her report.
  • Different examiners. Depending on the kind of testing being done, your child may be working with a person he’s seen before at school. Or he may be meeting with strangers. Again, experienced examiners will spend time helping your child feel at ease.
  • Different levels of observation. When testing is done by the school, evaluators can observe your child in different settings and get input from his teachers and others on his records and past performance. A private evaluator may not be able to do a site visit at school. But he will often try to gather similar information from your child’s teachers and his school.

Evaluations are key to finding the best way to help your child. That’s the goal for both public and private evaluations. Find out what to expect from the evaluation process. Learn more about what evaluation testing results mean. You may also want to look into the pros and cons of school and private evaluations.

Key takeaways

  • Explaining the goal of the evaluation to your child can help him feel more comfortable about testing.

  • Experienced evaluators can help make your child at ease no matter the testing environment.

  • It’s important to make sure that a second evaluator knows exactly which tests your child took the first time.

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    About the author

    About the author

    The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.