Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Education for Social Justice

Dissertation Committee

Suzanne Stolz, EdD, Chair; Sandra Sgoutas-Emch, PhD, Member


special education, DisCrit, school psychology, IQ testing, psycho-educational assessment, CLD students


School psychologists are tasked with assessing students to qualify them for special education, typically using standardized tests. Standardized testing, like IQ testing, routinely used in the psycho-educational process, serves to justify prejudices, as they often mark people of color as intellectually inferior to White people. A closer look at school psychologists’ assessment practices with culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students is necessary, as these students have historically been placed in special education at a higher percentage, likely due to misperceptions related to their race, ethnicity, or linguistic background. While IQ tests are regarded as tools that identify the needs of students who require educational support, IQ tests can perpetuate faulty ideals about intellect.

Using tenets of DisCrit and phenomenology, I deployed an open-response questionnaire, individual interviews, and analytic memos to understand practicing school psychologists’ (n=10) thoughts, beliefs, and experiences, assessing CLD students for special education. Salient findings demonstrate that the participating school psychologists intend to be culturally aware. Even with good intentions, several issues confound the way they handle referrals of CLD students for special education (e.g., lack of school resources) and leave them with no choice but to assess them for special education. Viewing the findings through the lens of DisCrit, I discuss how psycho-educational assessment practices perpetuate ableist ideas and how special education as a system impacts school psychologists’ service delivery. I offer recommendations for practitioners, school psychology trainers, policymakers, and administrators in relation to the assessment of CLD students for special education.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Learning and Teaching