Clinical Versus School Evaluations

Before I dive into things, the picture of the boxers was more of an attention-getter than anything else.  Much like the title, “School VERSUS Clinical Evaluation.”  It really is not one versus the other.  School evaluations are not in competition to clinical evaluations.  And one is not truly “better” than the other (in theory) as both of them serve different purposes. As licensed psychologist currently working in my own clinical practice and as a school psychologist also currently working in a local school I can speak authoritatively on both types of evaluations. Let Us Begin with the Clinical Evaluation (the reigning champ) A clinical evaluation is simply an evaluation within a clinic.  For instance, when you come to Dr. Andersen’s office in Scottsdale, you are coming to his clinic and hence coming for a clinical evaluation. Now for the Contender - the School Evaluation A school evaluation is…you guessed it…an evaluation that is worse than a clinical evaluation.  Just kidding.  I am just playing to the boxing theme, despite neither of these evaluations are better than the other (in theory).  And I was just kidding with school being worse than clinical.  I just drank a ton of coffee and I am looking to get some comments (for better or worse). All jokes aside, school evaluations are often referred to as a Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) evaluation. Similarities Between Clinical and School Evaluations Both types of evaluations can measure the same areas and inform educational practices.  I have not seen a true authoritative definition of “psychoeducational evaluation” from a higher organization (e.g., American Psychological Association [APA], National Association of School Psychologists [NASP], etc.).  So if you have one, please put it in the comment section below.  That said, a psychoeducational evaluation is essentially an evaluation for the purposes of informing educational practices by studying/examining human behavior (specifically the mind).  A clinical evaluation can also be a psychoeducational evaluation.  A psychologist can certainly evaluate a child’s cognitive/intellectual profile, academic achievement, and social-emotional functioning all for the purposes of informing an educational institution (i.e., their school). Differences Between Clinical and School Evaluations For starters clinical evaluations are typically performed by licensed psychologists.  Licensed psychologists are doctoral-level practitioners that also passed a national exam (i.e., The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology [EPPP] – upon request I will write a blog post on my EPPP experience and again only if someone requests it [insert smiley face] spoiler alert I passed but honestly the experience was quite an experience).  In contrast, school evaluations are conducted by school psychologists.  The entry level degree for a school psychologist is a master’s degree (or as recommended by NASP a specialist degree [i.e., Masters + 60 hours]) and the vast majority of school psychologists are master’s level practitioners.  I actually begin my career with a specialist degree in school psychology (SSP in 2010) and worked as a nationally certified school psychologist (NCSP) until I completed my doctoral degree (PsyD in 2015; completed in two years).  That said, there are doctoral-level non-licensed school psychologists in the school setting as well as licensed psychologists in the school setting (such as yours truly). Another main difference is clinical evaluations are typically conducted by one professional.  For instance, when you come to me for an evaluation, I am the sole provider conducting the evaluation.  In the school setting, the evaluation is a Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET).  That is, it is NEVER conducted by only one professional.  If it is only one person, then they are out of federal and state compliance).  The MET is comprised of…
  • At least one regular education teacher
  • At least one special education teacher
  • A district representative
  • An individual who can interpret the evaluation results
  • The parent
  • Any other individuals at the discretion of the parent or agency (e.g., OT, PT, advocates, other family members, etc.)
  • When appropriate, the student (some guidelines indicate the MET should consider having the student attend after the 7th grade)
So school-based METs are always conducted by a team.  In some cases, legally, it might be the case that the school psychologist was the only professional that conducted further testing; that said, the parent, regular education and special education teachers always have to be present (at a minimum), and it is ALWAYS a TEAM DECISION.  If the parent disagrees with the MET’s conclusion, they can ask for a IEE paid for at public expense.  If various school personnel disagree with one another, the district representative makes the decision (typically the school psychologist) and other team members can write a letter that gets attached to the MET report (while again the parent can request an IEE).  In contrast, clinical evaluations are conducted solely by the licensed psychologist and the results are provided by them.  They are not required to work on a team or with any other specific individuals.   So why did I keep saying “in theory” when stating neither a clinical nor school evaluation is “better” than the other?  That is because in reality there are poorly conducted clinical evaluations.  Likewise, there are also poorly conducted school evaluations.  But if the clinic and schools both produce a quality report, one is not necessarily better than the other.  They both serve their purpose. Are you seeking a clinical evaluation?  If so, give me a call and let us get you scheduled.  Are you seeking a school evaluation or disagree with a school evaluation?  If so, give me a call and we can discuss your options.  You can reach me at 602.699.4543 or