Assessment of Socio-culturally Diverse Students: Problems in Special Educational Theory and Implications for Practice
The present socio-cultural as well as linguistic diversity of many newcomers to Canada brings important issues in special education for critical consideration. While educators have spoken of the need to consider ethnic and cultural diversity in assessment and placement decisions, there is currently a lack of criteria for distinguishing genuine learning disabilities from the normal language barriers associated with the process of second language acquisition. A critical analysis is presented of some of the core concepts on which current assessment practices are based; these include intelligence and learning disability models and some of the most common tests and test batteries used in connection with socio-culturally diverse as well as “mainstream” students. It is concluded that the assessment tools currently used rest on dubious constructs and have questionable validity. This suggests that the segregation of children labelled LD lacks a proper rationale. Because of the many problematic areas in current special educational assessment practices, new assessment/learning paradigms are needed which accept diversity as a basic assumption and employ dynamic approaches as have been derived from the Vygotskian model.