Current roles and practices of assessment specialists in the new era of RtI: A survey of educational diagnosticians and licensed specialists in school psychology in Texas
The purpose of this study was to explore the current perceptions of roles and practices of assessment specialists in Texas in the new era of RtI. An online survey was distributed by email through special education directors in Texas public schools, and was completed by 340 Educational Diagnosticians (EDs) and 214 Licensed Specialists in School Psychology (LSSPs) with varying levels of experience and education. Survey data was aggregated through a computer software program and analyzed for variance to determine significant differences between EDs and LSSPs on a variety of issues relevant to the new era of RtI. Data were analyzed using multiple statistical tests including Chi square, one-way ANOVAs, MANOVAs, multiple linear regression, and Spearman's correlations. Current roles, perceived working knowledge of RtI, competency levels, and functioning of EDs and LSSPs were generally not found to differ significantly. However, a higher perceived working knowledge, competency and involvement were found to be related to a higher degree level and higher years of experience. Both professionals generally rated themselves as moderately competent across a variety of RtI activities including system design, team collaboration, and serving individual students, but they rated their current involvement in the majority of the activities beyond student evaluation and assessment as minimal. Both professionals estimated that the majority of their time is spent on assessment and report writing activities; however, EDs reported spending significantly more time in meetings, and LSSPs reported spending significantly more time in consultation and direct intervention activities. Some differences among professionals were also found in perceived knowledge of commonly used evaluation instruments, assessment and eligibility determination across various disability categories, consideration of educational need, and training in the areas of cross-battery and neuropsychological evaluation. While overall results are somewhat promising and may indicate a gradually expanding role for Texas assessment specialists, they suggest that current roles and functions continue to be narrowly based in evaluation and identification for special education, and the broad training and wide array of knowledge and skills among such professionals continue to be under-realized.