Those of us who have administered PLS-5 ever since its release in 2011, know that the test is fraught with significant psychometric problems. Previous reviews of its poor sensitivity, specificity, validity, and reliability, have been extensively discussed HERE and HERE as well as in numerous SLP groups on Facebook.
One of the most significant issues with this test is that its normative sample included a “clinical sample of 169 children aged 2-7;11 diagnosed with a receptive or expressive language disorder”.
The problem with such inclusion is that According to Pena, Spalding, & Plante, (2006) when the purpose of a test is to identify children with language impairment, the inclusion of children with language impairment in the normative sample can reduce the accuracy of identification.
Indeed, upon its implementation, many clinicians began to note that this test significantly under-identified children with language impairments and overinflated their scores. As such, based on its presentation, due to strict district guidelines and qualification criteria, many children who would have qualified for services with the administration of the PLS-4, no longer qualified for services when administered the PLS-5.
For years, SLPs wrote to Pearson airing out their grievances regarding this test with responses ranging from irate to downright humorous as one can see from the below response form (helpfully provided by an anonymous responder).
And now it appears that Pearson is willing to listen. A few days ago, many of us who have purchased this test received the following email: It contains the link to a survey powered by Survey Monkey, asking clinicians their feedback regarding PLS-5 administration and how it can be improved. So if you are one of those clinicians, please go ahead and provide your honest feedback regarding this test, after all, our littlest clients deserve so much better than to be under-identified by this assessment and denied services as a result of its administration.
- Peña, E.D., Spaulding, T.J., & Plante, E. (2006). The Composition of Normative Groups and Diagnostic Decision Making: Shooting Ourselves in the Foot.
- Spaulding, Plante & Farinella (2006) Eligibility Criteria for Language Impairment: Is the Low End of Normal Always Appropriate?
- Spaulding, Szulga, & Figueria (2012) Using Norm-Referenced Tests to Determine Severity of Language Impairment in Children: Disconnect Between U.S. Policy Makers and Test Developers
- Zimmerman, I. L., Steiner, V, G., & Pond, E. (2011). Preschool Language Scales- Fifth Edition (PLS-5). San Antonio, TX: Pearson.
2 thoughts on “The Reign of the Problematic PLS-5 and the Rise of the Hyperintelligent Potato”
[…] using to better understand the sensitivity and specificity of these instruments with respect to the appropriate identification of language disorders. Finally, SLPs are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with the […]
I learned to administer this test in grad school, but thankfully have never had to use it while working in my district (mainly because I do not work with preschool-aged children). Great post!