Language Assessments for Students who Speak African American English (AAE)

1.5 hours
SKU: abad_6022 Categories: ,

Dr. Toya Wyatt, California State University, Fullerton

Thurs. January 13th – 5-6:30pm CST

Course Type: Live Webinar

Are you implementing best practices for assessing the speech and language skills of Black students who speak AAE? Join Dr. Wyatt as she discusses the selection of culturally-linguistically appropriate standardized speech-language assessments that accommodate possible dialect differences and minimize the potential for cultural-linguistic bias and clinical misdiagnosis.

Participants will be guided through a sample test review process. We’ll also discuss recommendations for supplementing assessments with parent/family interviews, medical/health history and informal speech-language procedures (such as language sampling) to make an appropriate differential diagnosis. Sample intervention goals and report writing examples will also be used to illustrate culturally and linguistically sensitive and appropriate methods for summarizing testing outcomes and identifying intervention goals for this student population.

Back to Main Conference Page


, ,



DISCLOSURE OF FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIPS: Dr. Toya Wyatt is receiving financial compensation from Bilinguistics, Inc. for this presentation. She is the lead author of the BESA and receives royalties.  DISCLOSURE OF NONFINANCIAL RELATIONSHIPS: Dr. Toya Wyatt does not have any non-financial relationships to disclose.

A number of research studies over the years have provided evidence of differing standardized language testing outcomes for Black students from certain linguistic and socioeconomic backgrounds when compared to other student populations. Specifically, this research has demonstrated that Black children often score below the mean or lower than age-level counterparts from other cultural and language backgrounds on these tests even when they are typically developing.

Scholars have often attributed these differences to underlying test bias influences when
using tests normed either exclusively or primarily on Standard/Mainstream/General
American English (S/M/GAE) backgrounds with Black children who speak African American
English (AAE). Differing testing outcomes have also sometimes been attributed to the
fact that Black children typically make up 15% or less of a test’s normative sample based
on existing US census information. In addition, it is often unclear or unreported the number of Black students involved in the test standardization process who speak AAE.
As a result, developmental expectations for normal test performance outcomes are based
primarily on the performance of children from White, middle-class, S/M/GAE-speaking
backgrounds who most often make up the majority of test standardization samples. These
factors can potentially lead to the disproportionate over-representation or under-representation of some AAE child speakers on speech-language caseloads and inappropriate special education placements.

Over the last couple of decades, some test developers have responded to this issue by attempting to develop more culturally and linguistically fair assessments that involve
the use of testing procedures/items that minimize the potential influence of dialect
differences in testing outcomes for AAE child speakers. Specifically, test developers have used strategies such as alternative scoring to accommodate possible speech and language variations, cultural test bias review panels and the use of test items that assess more universal or non-dialect specific aspects of speech-language performance.

This presentation will provide clinicians with an overview of how standardized
language tests can be reviewed to determine appropriateness of use with students who
speak AAE. The following three tests will be reviewed in-depth as examples: Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, 5th edition (CELF-5), Oral and Written Language Scales, 2nd edition (OWLS-II), and Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation (DELV).

Participants will be guided through a sample test review process. Recommendations for
supplementing assessments with parent/family interviews, medical/health history and
supplemental informal speech-language procedures (such as language sampling) to make
an appropriate differential diagnosis will also be discussed. Sample intervention goals and
report writing examples will also be used to illustrate culturally-linguistically sensitive
and appropriate methods for summarizing testing outcomes and identifying intervention goals for this student population.

Learner Objectives:
1. Identify the linguistic/dialect status of the Black students on their clinical caseload as a means for determining the most appropriate standardized language assessments
2. Review, identify and select standardized language assessments that minimize the potential for test bias for students who speak African American English (AAE)
3. Use results from standardized testing, informal assessment procedures (e.g., language sampling) and other information (e.g., parent interviews, medical/health history) to make an appropriate differential diagnosis and determine appropriate intervention goals taking normal AAE variation/differences into account
4. Write reports that summarize results from standardized language assessments using caution statements where appropriate

Time-Ordered Agenda
10 minutes: Introductions and disclosures
10 minutes: Cultural-linguistic diversity/variation within the Black student populations
05 minutes: Possible test bias influences and impact for AAE speakers
05 minutes: Proposed solutions for reducing bias in the development, administration and use of standardized assessments
15 minutes: A sample review of standardized language assessments for use with AAE child
10 minutes: How to supplement standardized assessments with other assessment
procedures to differentiate difference vs. disorder
10 minutes: How to write reports summarizing results from standardized assessments
05 minutes: Determining appropriate intervention goals for AAE child speakers with
confirmed speech-language disorders taking normal linguistic
variation/difference into account
30 minutes: Moderated question and answer session with Dr. Ellen Kester

Dr. Toya Wyatt is a professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at California State University, Fullerton, where she has been a member of the faculty for more than 30 years. Dr. Wyatt’s primary areas of teaching, scholarship, and clinical experience involve the delivery of services to clients from diverse cultural-language backgrounds with a specialized emphasis on the assessment of children who speak African American English (AAE). Dr. Wyatt has approximately 40 years of clinical experience as a licensed, certified speech-language pathologist.

Dr. Wyatt began her clinical career, after graduating from Northwestern University, with a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology, as a speech-language clinician in a school district south of Chicago. She made the decision to accept her first job as a speech-language clinician in a community where there was an opportunity to work with children
from a range of differing socio-economic as well as cultural backgrounds, in a school district with a sizable population of Black students and students from low-income backgrounds. Dr. Wyatt saw this opportunity as a means for helping to contribute to the equitable delivery of quality services to children who in communities that are traditionally been underserved using the knowledge and skills gained from Northwestern’s clinical training program.

During her time as a clinician in this first school setting, Dr. Wyatt was able to witness first-hand how the use of traditional standardized speech-language tests can result in the clinical mis-diagnosis of children who speak something other than Standard/Mainstream/General American English (S/M/GAE). In 1986, Dr. Wyatt made the decision to pursue a Ph.D. in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst under the guidance of Dr. Harry Seymour who has long been an advocate along with other Black professionals within ASHA for addressing the misdiagnosis and over-representation of Black students on speech-language caseloads. Dr. Wyatt’s work with Dr. Seymour and other faculty mentors at UMASS and neighboring institutions eventually led to the development of the Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation (DELV). The DELV continues to be the first and only test in our field developed specifically with the goal of minimizing the role of dialect difference in the speech and language assessment of children who speak African American English.

After completing her doctoral studies at UMASS, Amherst, Dr. Wyatt accepted a position as a faculty member and clinical supervisor in the Communicative Disorders Program (now the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders) at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) where she has taught and supervised for 30 years. The majority of her teaching has involved undergraduate as well as graduate courses focusing on child language and multicultural issues. In 1993, Dr. Wyatt established a specialized clinical practicum and a graduate seminar at CSUF focusing on multicultural concerns involving client populations from culturally-linguistically diverse bilingual as well as African-American backgrounds with a variety of disorders/communication needs across the life span. The graduate seminar now serves as a basis for students to obtain a specialized multicultural certificate.

Other professional activities over Dr. Wyatt’s academic career includes publications focusing primarily on speech-language development, assessment and intervention with children who are speakers of African American English. Dr. Wyatt has given numerous presentations at state and national professional association meetings as well as workshops, teleseminars, and other presentations to speech-language professionals and educators across a range of different work settings on this same topic. In addition, she has worked as a test bias review consultant for a number of commercially published speech and language tests and served as an associate editor, and/or reviewer for several professional journals such as Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools (LSHSS), Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research (JSLHR), American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (AJSLP, ECHO (a publication of the National Black Association for Speech-Language-Hearing)

At present, Dr. Wyatt continues to be a professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at CSUF. She holds a B.S. and M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology from Northwestern University and Ph.D. in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is a member of ASHA, CSHA, National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing (NBASLH) and Linguistics Society of American (LSA). She also has the distinction of being a fellow of both the California Speech and Hearing Association (CSHA) and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).