Date of Award

Summer 7-2-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Patrick Ainsworth, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Keith Larick, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Robin Pierson, Ed.D.


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify and describe the assessment models school psychologists use to identify African American students with SLDs in three of the K-12 school districts in Riverside County. A second purpose of this study was to determine how school psychologists within three districts of Riverside County perceive the assessment model used in their school district affects the identification of SLDs in African American students. A third purpose of this study was to determine the assessment model school psychologists in three districts in Riverside County believe most accurately identifies SLDs in African American students.

Methodology: The current study used a qualitative approach to examine the perceptions and assessment methods of psychologists when assessing African American students. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect data to illustrate the participants subjective experiences. Artifacts and data from interviews were coded using NVIVO software to identify common themes.

Findings: Examination of data indicated a lack of consensus among the participants regarding what methods were used currently to identify African American students with SLD. Respondents indicated that gaps in training, change in thought processes, use of professional judgment, and increased assessment time affect the validity of their eligibility decisions. A majority of respondents reported that processing strengths and weaknesses (PSW) was their preferred method for assessing African American students.

Conclusions: The study’s findings supported a number of conclusions. Psychologists who participated in this study believe that the ban on IQ testing for African American students is discriminatory and creates a barrier in their ability to conduct legally defensible assessments and place students into special education services accurately. Respondents believe that the Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) should provide additional training in the alternative assessment model.

Recommendations: In order to broaden the scope of this study, recommendations for further research were offered. These recommendations include replicating the study to include other geographic areas or areas with a higher percentage of African American students, conducting a qualitative study examining potential bias in the assessment and/or referral process, and conducting a qualitative study with multiple stakeholders.