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Volume 15, Issue 3 (1986)

Influence of Race and Test Data Ambiguity Upon School Psychologists' Decisions

pp. 410—417

ABSTRACT: One hundred eighty-nine Illinois School psychologists participated in a diagnostic simulation designed to investigate the effects of a student’s race (black vs. white)and nature of the assessment data (normal, borderline/ambiguous, and mildly mentally handicapped (MMH)) on psychoeducational expectations and placement decisions. School psychologists expectations and decisions were influenced by psychoeducational test data School psychologists had higher academic and social competence expectations for the student with normal test scores than the borderline or MMH student cases. School psychologists also were more likely to diagnose the MMH case study child as MMH and recommend a special class placement than the borderline or normal cases. However, knowledge of a student’s race did not influence school psychologists’ expectations or decisions. The latter finding was consistent across both the non-ambiguous (normal and MMH) conditions and the ambiguous (borderline) condition, although the latter condition often increases the likelihood that irrelevant factors, such as race, will bias judgments and decisions. Thus, school psychologists sampled were not influenced by a student’s racial status, but were influenced by individual psychoeducational test results; thus reflecting the use of nonbiased, data-based decision-making processes.

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