Eligibility and classification decisions have become an integral part of the American educational system, but the process of making these decisions remains poorly understood. Subjects for this investigation of this decision-making process were 223 educational professionals. Each was given referral and assessment information reflecting average performance for a hypothetical student and asked to make decisions about that student. In their decisions, 51% declared the student eligible for special services; 61% indicated the presence of mental retardation, learning disabilities, and/or emotional disturbance. Several subjects indicated eligibility for services, but did not classify, or indicated ineligibility for services, but classified the student. Learning disabilities was the most popular classification. Student characteristics and the subjects' professional roles and knowledge of assessment/ measurement principles affected decisions made; however, greater training and knowledge did not lead to significantly better decisions. It is apparent that more care must be taken by decision makers in the use and interpretation of assessment information.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The research reported herein was supported by Contract 300-77-0491 between the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped and the University of Minnesota Institute for Research on Learning Disabilities. Special appreciation is extended to Ed Arndt, Martha Bordwell, Patricia Chase, Jean Greener, Joyce Halvcrson, and Mary Turnblom for assistance in data collection and to Martha Thurlow for her editorial comments.