The special education diagnostician is employed by school districts to assess the academic progress of at-risk students. Most special education diagnosticians are referred to as school psychologists or educational diagnosticians. The diagnostician assesses the student through the use of psycho-educational testing, analyzes educational history and identifies learning issues. Based upon this information, the diagnostician makes recommendations to enhance the student's learning.
The educational qualifications include a master's degree from an accredited college or university, which requires course work in testing and measurements, the psychology of learning and special education. Generally, the master's degree is in the area of special education or psychology and must include coursework specific to the state’s certification requirements. Most master's degree programs require about 30 to 45 credit hours of coursework. Most states provide a list of educator preparation programs approved for the certification area the educator wishes to pursue.
Most states require that the educational diagnostician complete specific state-approved testing requirements before obtaining licensure. The initial test implemented in most states is the Praxis I test, written and administered by the Educational Testing Service. The Praxis I test, or Pre-Professional Skills Test, is a general knowledge test consisting of three exams: reading, writing and mathematics. The test is a multiple-choice test with an essay question on the writing test. The scores on each subject area ranges from 150 to 190, with a passing score in the 170 range. Currently, 31 states require this test, with the remaining states implementing their own state specific tests.
Once the educational qualifications and certification testing have been successfully completed, the initial certification can be obtained through the state education department. Additionally, a criminal background check is completed before a license is granted. Some states have additional requirements identified in the certification process. Colorado requires fingerprinting as part of the background check. Massachusetts requires an affidavit, which includes the filing of all state tax returns and paying of all Massachusetts taxes, including child support. Some states have reciprocity with other states such as Rhode Island, making it possible to obtain a license in another state without additional requirements.
Some states may require teaching experience before the special education diagnostician can become licensed, and the number of years required is usually three. In Texas, the educator must have at least two years of teaching experience before pursuing certification as a diagnostician, and in Louisiana, only one year is required. The reason for this requirement is that before consulting with teachers, the educational diagnostician must have an understanding of the classroom environment and the realities of teaching.
Susan Henrichon has more than 25 years of experience in education. She has taught special education and possesses administrative experience in the public school setting. She holds a Master of Education in special education from Westfield State University and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in educational administration from the University of Massachusetts.