Culturally Competent Assessment

Culture plays an integral role in all manner of aspects of human life, including education. There is no denying the fact that children with special needs must get proper education much like those without special needs. School administrators must, therefore, realize that students with special needs are not the same since they come from diverse backgrounds. It is, therefore, important to understand this fact if the assessment process is to be effective. It is, therefore, imperative to note that different cultures view disabilities differently and as such, treat children with disabilities differently (Blatchley & Lau, 2010). When carrying out appropriate assessments for students with mild/moderate disabilities, educators must consider the different background of these students. Their understanding of the same will allow educators to have an idea of the type of resources needed to ensure the students are comfortable, the expectations of their parents, improve relationships between families and educators and avoid infringing on the rights of the students. Culture also allows teachers to involve parents in the assessment process in addition to evaluating whether culture plays a role in a student’s disability (Blatchley & Lau, 2010). Additionally, culture considerations in the assessment process rightly prevent educators from using normative scores to draw conclusions regarding the needs of students with disabilities.

It is therefore not advisable for teachers and caregivers to ignore culturally sensitive assessments. In case they do not use assessment tests that are culture sensitive, educators and caregivers open themselves up for legal liabilities. One of the legal implications is that they may be charged for discriminating against students with disability. The fact that an assessment procedure may not appreciate the fact that the backgrounds of students with disabilities significantly vary from one another is ground enough to suspect discrimination on the basis of disability (Blatchley & Lau, 2010). Secondly, not using culturally sensitive assessments may affect the psychology of students affected, thereby lowering their self-esteem significantly. The school’s administration may, therefore, be liable for any psychological damages suffered by the affected student. Schools, educators, caregivers and administrators may be charged with disproportionate representation if they do not use assessment procedures that are culturally sensitive. If found guilty, their actions or inactions thereof may lead to arrests as well as school closures.

English language learners (ELL) are often students who are learning English as either their second or third language. They are therefore not native English speakers, and this means that such students may come from different cultural backgrounds, and they will have different behaviors and social skills different from those of their native English-speaking peers (Blatchley & Lau, 2010). It is, therefore, important that culturally sensitive instruments are used in the assessments, and if this is not done, ELL children will be negatively affected. First and foremost, these children will progress very slowly in learning English and whatever they eventually learn may not be readily applicable to the outside world. The negative effect is that student’s learning time will be elongated by the conflict between the student’s culture and the English language. Secondly, learning institutions will experience a significant number of drop-outs since most ELL children affected as well as their parents will become frustrated by the lack of progress. Thirdly, the ELL children will lag behind in the classroom compared to ELL children who are assessed using culturally sensitive assessment tools. By lagging behind, they are likely to drag other children cumulatively behind as educators always want the entire classroom to move as a unit.



Blatchley, L. A., & Lau, M. Y. (2010). Culturally competent assessment of English language learners for special education services. National Association of School Psychologists Communiqué, 38(7), 27-29.

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