Over the years I’ve been asked to read quite a few Ed-Psyche reports. Without exception they have been absolutely rubbish. That is both shocking and tragic as it misleads educators and disadvantages pupils. How is it possible for “professionals” to be so consistently wrong?
Here is one example from my files and while it is just one story, it is consistent with all the other Ed-Psyche reports I have read.
Female age 7 – Both her biological parents had died recently, her father when she was about 4 and her mother when she was about 5. She was adopted by a Canadian family – just as well as the most probable alternative was death by neglect where she came from. Not a native English speaker. Put into school with the other native English speakers and thus with a five year disadvantage day one.
The school said she did not need extra help, was young, was adaptable would catch-up. When she didn’t catch up and got further behind they let the situation roll. By age 7 her difficulties in the classroom were severe enough to be inconvenient to the school. At this point, rather than admit that they were blundering cretins for letting the situation get out of hand, they proposed she be sent to an Educational Psychologist for analysis to find out what was wrong with her (the death of both parents, the concomitant heartbreak and not being a native English speaker apparently not being sufficiently obvious).
I suppose sending her to an educational psychologist was more comfortable for her teachers than them sitting down and pondering how the teachers could all be so incredibly stupid and self-deceiving. Given the circumstances I would have proposed all her relevant educators were sent for deep analysis at least long enough to prevent them ever entering a classroom again but then I have seen a lot of harm done to a lot of people and that does colour my judgement.
The daughter was taken to some Educational Psychologists and a battery of tests completed. The family (nice people) were somewhat traumatised by the report. Apparently, the daughter had a very weak short term memory and as a result was destined to struggle with school indefinitely, was not cut out for academic work, would require special tuition, additional study time etc. The parents were smart people, they realised the damage long term consistent struggling would have on their adopted daughter.
But this is where the story takes a bizarre twist. People in modern society are so indoctrinated to believe experts that many will do so to the denial of their own experience. I knew the parents and I knew the daughter and she didn’t look like someone with a short-term memory problem to me. Nevertheless, the mother was attempting to discuss with me, in panicked tones, what if anything could be done given that her daughter had this problem.
I asked the mum, “Forget what the ‘experts’ say for one minute – is that your experience of your daughter, that she has a weak short term memory?” “Well not really”, she said, “when I go shopping, if I need to remember something I always get her to remember things for me.” Her sister was more upbeat – “I think she has a good memory.” Well the “experts” say one thing and the family seems to have observed something else. How to know for sure? I don’t have a degree in psychology. I am unfamiliar with these very fancy tests they run at vast expense. So how can I be useful, quickly, cheaply and definitively?
I invited N to play a game with me – which isn’t really a game at all in this context, it is a test of short term memory. Basically, I name one item, she then has to say my item and add one of her own and we go back and forth till one of us can’t continue correctly. The list increases in length with each player’s contribution. Perhaps you played the game when you were a child?
A typically good score showing above average short term memory would be 12. The daughter, scared of further analysis and labelling and being the bright button that she was, declined to play. Smart kid. Understandable, she’d just been told she was below par mentally – further embarrassment was worth avoiding. But problems are often easily solved with a bit of creativity and cooperation – so I asked her older sister if she would like to play and if she minded if N watched us play. The older sister saw the plan and went along with it.
N’s older sister had impressive short term memory ability being able to repeat 14 items in sequence during the game. N was paying rapt attention to the game. When her sister finally made a mistake N jumped in very excitedly with the correct answer. And having been able to give the correct answer and knowing that 14 is a fabulous score was now willing to continue. She got to 21 before making a mistake. If you tested 100 people selected at random from a good school, I doubt you would find one person who could match her performance in that test of short term memory. That list building exercise may not cost hundreds of pounds to administer and require trained “experts” but it is a solid test of short term memory ability.
I had just debunked, very easily, quickly and cheaply the result of a test that was expensive, time-consuming and traumatic – at least one of the conclusions of which (but actually all the conclusions of which) were false. Obviously, I have a limited experience of reading Ed-Psyche reports so I can’t say they are all equally flawed. What I can say is that every single report I have ever read was equally flawed and that they are not very difficult to debunk.
So why was the Ed-Psyche report wrong? Because they were asked to find out what was wrong – they did. They were not asked to find what was right / good / special about the child – so they did not. They created an emotionally distorted situation, I created a safe one free of that kind of distortion and lo and behold the result was different. I’m not saying you can’t stress that child into underperforming. Clearly you can. Clearly they did. I am saying that the result wasn’t about her mind (misdirection) it was about the situation they created and how she felt about it. Same reason you can walk easily with confidence and poise – unless you are up 30 feet above the ground.
Here is my point – if an educational “expert” analyses your child and does not produce a balanced report of both the weaknesses and the strengths of your child – ignore it. The first Ed-Psyche report I read was approximately 30 years ago, they haven’t got any better in that time.