A link between childhood scores and adult drug use – Standardized Testing

A link between childhood scores and adult drug use – Standardized Testing – Brief Article

Nada Mangialetti

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLERS are more interested in roller-blades than in rolling joints, but their test scores might predict later drug use, according to a controversial new study by Robert Block, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesia at the University of Iowa. Children who became drug users scored lower on their Iowa Test of Basic Skills than did children who remained drug-free as adults. The tests measure verbal expression, reading comprehension, mathematics and concept formation, and were taken years or decades before drug use began.

Block also tested people in drug rehabilitation programs three weeks and three months after they were admitted. A control group of non-drug users took the same tests. At the three-week mark, drug abusers scored significantly lower than nonusers on every test. Block says this finding held even when he took into account their poorer fourth-grade ITBS scores. After three months, drug abusers still lagged behind nonusers. The findings were presented at the recent American Society of Anesthesiologists annual meeting.

Mark Appelbaum, Ph.D., president of the American Psychological Association’s division on Evaluation, Measurement & Statistics, questions the use of the ITBS to measure drug abusers’ cognitive abilities. Appelbaum maintains that such tests were designed to measure information learned in the classroom so that schools can compare themselves with other schools. The ITBS are achievement tests, not tests of how well the brain is functioning. “My preference would be that they use basic measures of neuropsychological functioning,” Appelbaum says.

Block counters that using fourth-grade ITBS scores made it possible to see just how much worse drug abusers fared as adults. Block asserts that due to the ITBS’ emphasis on “general intellectual skills and abilities rather than mastery of specific, detailed content,” it closely resembles an aptitude test.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group