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Ability–Achievement Discrepancy

The ability–achievement discrepancy is defined as a statistically significant difference between a child’s score on a measure of achievement in one or another academic domain such as reading or math and the child’s score on a measure of intellectual ability, typically in the form of IQ. For a considerable period of time, the IQ-achievement discrepancy was the central criterion used by educators, school psychologists, and educational researchers to define specific learning disabilities in otherwise normal children. This entry discusses the history of the ability–achievement discrepancy, the origin of its use, and problems with its use to identify individuals with specific reading disability.

The use of the ability–achievement discrepancy criterion has a long history that dates back to Samuel Kirk and Barbara Bateman’s suggestion that learning ...

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