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Why the Woodcock Johnson test is a joke


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dawn2000k February 12, 2008


I am actually still floored by what I found out the other day at my last team meeting. My son is currently in a 504 Plan and I am fighting for an IEP. He is on probably about a 3rd grade reading and math level and he's in 8th grade! Yet, he tests average or below average on his achievement tests.



When I asked to see a copy of the test questions, I was not shown. However, the school psychologist gave me an example of one of the test questions.



"Some fish live in the sea". The child then has to check yes or no. So, not only are the scores inflated (which my advocate advised), but they are specifically designed so that children like my son will pass!



I also found out that if the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement is administered along with the Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities...it would not only lead to more accurate results, but also be able to better assess for certain Learning Disabilities! Yet, my son's school will not administer the Cognitive Test?



I then found out the the test with the "ridiculous" questions is called "Form A" Apparently, it is Form B that actually contains questions that are more on his grade level. No wonder why they kept administering Form A the last 4 times that I referred him through the Special Education Process!



Just wanted to share this new info.



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tlaturbo May 23, 2010


Dear dawn2000k, I can appreciate your dedication to your child's education. But I am struck by your assumption that based on a few test questions you find too simple, that the entire test is inadequate. You seem to rush to judgement here. And I'm wondering why you think you know more about educational assessment than the professionals?

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jeaniecape1 May 28, 2010


All I can say, Dawn, is that I respect your concern as a parent but many of the statements you made are totally untrue and/or ridiculous about the Woodcock-Johnson. Do yourself a favor and trust the professionals, as you would trust a physician rather than trying to diagnose yourself. I have been a school psychologist for 25 years, have two advanced degrees, and know that #1) Form A and Form B simply contain different test questions within the same subject matter, they are not two different "levels" as you say; there are two forms so you can re-test without giving the same questions as the first time; 2) The Woodcock-Johnson Cognitive test is not the best measure of intelligence - I have used it one time in 25 years; the WISC-IV is far and above the WJ in assessing intelligence and helping to determine learning disorders. I don't understand why you were not allowed to see the test protocol or even the test itself, but if you saw it you would see how ridiculous your statements are. It is much more extensive than simply "some fish live in the sea." With all due respect, I think you should learn more about what you are talking about before you post untruths.

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nosense November 1, 2010


Dawn, I couldn't agree with you more. My daughter is in special education and does 6th grade level works tops. But she tests in Math Calculations at an 18th grade level Her math age is 21, yet she doesn't do algebra (except pre-algebra) or geometry yet. She does 6th grade math. Does it make sense for a 21 year old to do 18 grade math?

She writes as well as a fifth grader. She often uses the wrong prepositions, yet she tests at the 11th grade in written expression.

Either the test is very misleading, or it was scored incorrectly.

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momz4kidz November 5, 2010


I requested sub-tests for my sons in specific areas of suspicion, f. ex. writing fluency, written expression, written language, proofing and dictation, etc. I don't know what area your child struggles in, but def. look up sub tests and request them or comparable testing.

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SpecEdCoor December 23, 2010


I am a Special Education Service Coordinator and an inclusion Special Education teacher for a school division in Virginia. The Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement is an instrument I have used for several years. Like all assessments, I feel it has strengths and weaknesses. The standard subtests give a variety of scores that result in how a student performs educationally on that test at a given time. If there are specific areas of concern, there are also "extended subtests" which hone in on various areas such as "spelling of sounds" subtest rather than just the "spelling" subtest. I feel it is a good baseline measure and beneficial to reflect growth (or lack of) when subsequently administered at a later date. It is not correlated to any state's standards of learning, it is simply meant to give an idea of how much your child has learned thus far compared to other students who were given the assessment. (and as a sidebar, test validity dictates that we do not show parents the actual protocols because some people actually teach their child the test.)

I am in a unique position because I work in the classroom with the children AND I give the Educational Assessment when a student is referred for evaluation. I know our elementary curriculum, how each students performs on the WCJ and how reflective that is of their actual classroom performance. With reference to the writing measures, I prefer to use the TOWL (Test of Written Language). Since it is a much more comprehensive instrument, I would only recommend its administration if there is a true difficulty with written expression. The reading comprehension subtests of the WCJ are in a cloze format starting with one sentence and building up to two or three at the elementary level, increasing in length and degree of difficulty. This format is not representative of the weekly reading comprehension requirements in our division. (My point being, you can't exactly compare the WCJ to an A or B in class but in most subtests it will give you a pretty good indicator of performance. There are "fluency" subtests which are timed and the scores of such I interpret with caution as not all of us function our best when our performance is timed. I sometimes choose not to give these portions to my students who tend to rush and make careless errors. It's hard for some children to switch between "slow down and think this thru" to a test where they're told to do as many as they can in 3 minutes.) If I have questions regarding some of my educational scores, I will ask the school psychologist to administer an alternate standardized academic assessment and check for correlation between subtest performance. (assuming we already have parental permission of file to do so.) Bottom line is educational impact. How is the student's academic performance impacted? The ultimate goal is for student success which is measured by growth and facilitated by good working relationships between the family, the school and anyone else whose expertise can benefit the student. Remember that all children are different. Some are going to learn 9 months worth of info in 9 months, for some it will only take 3 months and for some it will take alot more than 9 months, resulting in widening gaps as they progress thru school. When a student does not have the prerequisite skills they must have intervention and most of the time it is NOT in the form of retention or being found eligible for special education services, it is remediation and how the student responds to interventions (RTI). Ask for the school's policy on remediation. Continue to be a knowledgeable advocate for your child, and also remember that the school needs for your child to meet a certain performance level in order to meet their annual yearly progress goals as well as NCLB mandates.

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btnjapkes February 26, 2011


I agree the vailidity of the test is how thorough and how well prepared the tester is.
What I would say is don't rely on the school system to provide anything but basic service for your child. The public school system is programmed to bring in the kids and pump them through. Because of this many slip through the cracks and go years with undiagnosed learning difficulties.
My own daughter was one. Repeated Pre-K, K and 1st the school system wanted her to repeat 2nd also. During this time there was no effort done to discover why she was having such trouble.
She is Epileptic and was diagnosed ADHD early but no course of action was proposed by the school system.
We removed her from public school to homeschool. While she still has difficulties, she is much better off now.
Home-school and 10 months in a cognitive training center have proven to be essential for her.
LearningRx provided one on one cognitive testing and training for LD kids and kids with Autism and Aspergers. They use the WJ cognitive testing before and after.

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Psych78 November 17, 2011


A former supervisor of mine, a very experienced school psychologist, called the results of the Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities IQ minus 10. Most school systems do not use the WJ COG, but do use the WJ III for achievement testing. Most use the WISC-IV to assess IQ. It is far superior. I totally agree with jeaniecape1 - refer to professionals who are trained in such matters.

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pbeare March 23, 2012


The WJ Tests of Achievement are the most reliable and valid assessment instrument on the market. All individualized tests are designed to predict a students performance compared to age and/or grade peers. They test over a range of items some much easier, some much harder than the students optimal or actual performance level.

A professional examiner, psychologist, or teacher NEVER shares the actual items with a parent ..or anyone. It is essential to protect test security. These items are useless if they become public knowledge. I have actually tested kids who the parents had obtained a copy of the instrument (in that case a WISC-R) and taught the kids the answers thinking....thinking something.

The reason for an A and B form of the test is so if a student is retested the items will be ones unfamiliar to him or her.

The Cognitive Test is what we normally call an IQ test, or a predictor of success in school. I like the WJ Part ! subtests, etc., but most districts tend to use the Wechsler tests. They are perhaps quicker to administer and measure some different traits. It is a matter of professional choice.

IQ scores do not change very much in a short period of time thus schools only administer them every 3 years or so at the most. Achievement can be reassessed much more often.

We use the individualized tests such as WJ instead of the nationally mandated group tests because it iso much more accurate and reliable than group tests.

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specneedsmom April 10, 2012


ok im a mom of 3 special need kids and the best thing i ever did was push for my kids to be tested at the childrens developmental clinic they do a much more detailed assement on your child my oldest has speach delays and congnitive delays he mentaly at a level 3yrs yunger then what he is my middle has savear ADHD and the yungest has speach delays as a parent we gotta push and force the schools to take acction i have also had to higher a lawer and fight the schools becouse they refused to do testing now after yrs of fighting and moving we have found the best schools for the kids if you live in Vt i highly recomend the south burlington schools

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kikiwriter May 4, 2013


In my school district, we all have different versions of the WJ111. Some of us have A and some B. I just wish they'd change the questions that refer to
---a phone booth
---radio headset
LOL



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