Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The impact of the use of SOMPA Estimated Learning Potential (ELP) scores as a substitute for traditional IQ scores was examined as it affected students evaluated for special education in a large metropolitan school system. SOMPA is the System of Multicultural Pluralistic Assessment, an evaluation package developed by Jane Mercer (1979) to address concerns about bias in assessment of minority students and particularly to remove "unfair" labels of mental retardation. ELP scores represent IQ scores adjusted for the effects of sociocultural background and compared only to ethnic peer norms, with the general effect being to raise estimates of intellectual potential for minority students. ELP scores were mandated for use in Louisiana from 1978 to 1981. The present study examined their impact on the East Baton Rouge Parish special education system by addressing three major questions: (a) Did the use of ELP scores lower minority percentages in retardation categories, (b) Did ELP scores predict achievement and adjustment as well as IQ scores, and (c) Did students placed consistent with ELP scores perform as well as those placed consistent with IQ scores? Data was collected across six special education categories requiring consideration of IQ scores (including mental retardation). Dependent measures included achievement scores in reading and arithmetic and achievement/adjustment ratings by teachers. Results from a total of 2120 observations were consistent with predictions that minority percentage would not change but that students with "mildly retarded" IQ scores would be relabeled and shifted to other categories. ELP scores were found to be similar to IQ in predicting rank order of achievement scores but to significantly overestimate group performance. Students placed in categories consistent with ELP scores performed less well on achievement and adjustment measures than those placed consistent with IQ or with both scores. It was concluded that ELP scores served primarily to change category labels rather than declassify students, that ELP scores were inferior to IQ in predicting achievement, and that students placed consistent with ELP scores showed no evidence of realizing the "extra" potential in their new categories.