11:03 AM

UST Hosts Ed Diag Conference

Dr. Jean Tera TorresDr. Tera Jean Torres, assistant professor in the School of Education and Human Services, spearheaded the first conference for educational diagnosticians that was organized and led by members of the field. The conference was held at the University of St. Thomas on Jan. 24 to 25 and had more than 200 attendees, including participants from Okla., La. and N.M.

What is an Educational Diagnostician?

Educational diagnosticians, or “ed-diags,” diagnose students with learning disabilities in school systems. Often coming from a background in special education, ed-diags begin with classroom teaching before attending graduate school. While earning their Master’s degree, they learn how to:

  • Conduct assessments
  • Test students for a learning disability diagnosis
  • Make a learning disability diagnosis

The Texas Education Agency divides the state into 20 regions, each with an Educational Service Center, or ESC, that provides services available in the respective region. Houston and its surrounding areas, for example, comprise Region 4. The ESC acts as an intermediary between its respective school districts and the TEA, and these local entities often provide professional development opportunities for educational diags.

Torres, however, noticed a pattern that often frustrates her colleagues: these conferences were never put on by actual ed-diags.

“What we have found as diags, is that those entities do the same trainings all the time,” Torres said. “They rotate through the same presenters and we as diags feel left out and we feel marginalized. “We feel like we are not trained by our own people because the people who are doing those trainings are not diags. They’re from other fields that are coming in to train us.”

To remedy the situation, Torres decided to organize a conference herself. She was met with overwhelming support from fellow ed-diags and colleagues.

“This is the first time that there was a conference put together for diagnosticians, by diagnosticians where we got to speak openly about what we need to do to advocate for ourselves and our profession,” Kamal Malik ’11, a member of the first cohort of the educational diagnostician program at UST, said. “The energy of the conference told me that there was a need for more of these conferences.”

Topics of Each Conference Session:

  • The Core Selective Evaluation Process, or C-SEP, a recently developed method used to diagnose learning disabilities. (Presented by Tammy Stephens, adjunct professor.)
  • Academic shaming and the unique perspective ed-diags bring to its discussion. (Presented by current Ed.D student Beth Barrette.)
  • Cultural bias in the evaluation process. (Presented by Dr. Kanisha Porter, assistant professor in the School of Education and Human Services.)
  • Dyslexia and how it is handled in the Texas education system, which was recently put under a statewide corrective action plan. (Presented by Malik.)
  • Human trafficking, which targets students with learning disabilities. (Presented by Christa Mayfield of UnBound.)
  • Reflective practices and the importance of self-care for ed-diags. (Presented by Torres.)

Barrette, who will defend her dissertation in March, runs a tutoring company and specializes in working with students who have learning disabilities. As a result, she works closely with ed-diags. The conference gave her the opportunity to discuss a problem that she and ed-diags often encounter.

“Dr. Torres’s goal was to create a unique, open, tell-it-like-it-is venue platform for ed-diags who are in an unusual role, and sometimes they don’t get the credit they’re due,” Barrette said. “From start to finish, she had a really great idea and she carried it out. It was flawless.”