W3 – Linking Identification, Assessment, and Intervention in Response to Instruction (RTI) Frameworks: Studies from the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities

Symposium Chair:  Jack M. Fletcher, Ph.D., ABPP (ABCN), Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor, Chair, Department of Psychology, University of Houston

This symposium addresses the relations of identification, assessment, and intervention in children with or at risk for reading disabilities. Following an overview of these relations by the organizer, specific studies from the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities, a NICHD-funded national research center for learning disabilities operated by the University of Houston, University of Texas-Austin, and University of Texas health Science Center at Houston, will be presented. These studies were selected to provide examples of the type of research conducted by the TCLD, which also disseminates its work through its website (www.texasldcenter.org), and specifically target issues for which the research base is limited. The first presentation (Garrett Roberts) presents the results of an intervention study focused on reading comprehension in children in the upper elementary grades who have not responded to previous intervention efforts. With this study as background, the second presentation (Jeremy Miciak) will focus on the role of cognitive process assessment in identification of reading disabilities and specifically address whether such assessments facilitate identification after tier 2 reading interventions. The third presentation (Paul Cirino) deals with the role of executive functions in assessment, identification, and intervention with reading disabilities. The fourth paper (Greg Roberts) addresses the perplexing issue of identifying reading disabilities in children who are English language learners. From each of these presentations, specific recommendations will be made for the impact of the findings on identification, assessment, and intervention in RTI frameworks for reading.

Identification, Assessment, and Intervention in a RTI framework: Treat and Test, Not Test and Treat
Jack M. Fletcher, Ph.D., ABPP (ABCN), Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor, Chair, Department of Psychology, University of Houston

Methods for identification and assessment in a RTI framework are intrinsically linked to intervention. As such, identification and assessment for disability status emanate from a RTI framework that prioritizes intervention. When a student is considered for disability status, the first piece of information that should be considered is the nature and fidelity of the instructional approach and the student’s response to quality instruction. Additional assessment needed for identification should be minimized because the goal is to determine the basis for the instructional discrepancy given that most students can be taught to read adequately with strong core instruction and quality intervention. Assessment should be geared towards specific questions about language status (including English proficiency), other disorders (e.g., ADHD), and other questions that identify the student as relatively intractable and in need of disability status and civil rights protections.

A Two-Year Randomized Control Trial for Upper Elementary Students with Significant Reading Difficulties
Garrett Roberts, MS, BCBA, The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, College of Education, The University of Texas at Austin

This study examined the effectiveness of a two-year, researcher-provided intervention with 4th and 5th graders with significant reading difficulties. The intervention emphasized multi-syllable word reading, fluent reading of high frequency words and phrases, vocabulary, and comprehension. To identify the participants in year one of the study, 1,695 fourth grade students were screened using the Gates MacGinitie Reading Test, and those whose standard score was 85 or lower were included in the study (N=485).  Participants were randomly assigned (1:1:1) to receive either two years of researcher-provided treatment (n=162), one year of researcher-provided treatment (n=162), or treatment provided by school personnel (n=161). Following the first year of the study, findings revealed that students in the researcher implemented treatment made statistically significant gains in spelling compared with students in the comparison condition, with all groups making significant gains in reading outcomes with standard score growth from pretest to posttest of 1.7 and 7 standard score points on reading comprehension measures, 14 standard score points on spelling, and from 3-7 standard score points on word reading. Regardless of condition, students made accelerated gains across reading measures.

The Reliability and Validity of RD Identification Methods Based on Cognitive Processing Strengths and Weaknesses
Jeremy Miciak, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor, Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics (TIMES), Department of Psychology, University of Houston

Recent years have witnessed renewed interest in the role of cognitive processing for the prediction, identification, and treatment of reading disabilities (RD). This presentation focuses on the reliability, validity, and utility of RD identification methods based on the identification of a specific pattern of cognitive processing strengths and weaknesses (PSW methods). We describe proposed methods to operationalize PSW methods, calling attention to key conceptual differences. We then describe a series of studies investigating the application of PSW methods, highlighting challenges for widespread adoption, including (a) poor reliability due to measurement error, (b) a lack of agreement between proposed methods, and (c) limited relations between identification decisions and intervention outcomes. We conclude with a discussion of research on the relation of cognitive processing and intervention outcomes, emphasizing gaps in current research.

The Role of Executive Functions in the Assessment, Identification, and Intervention for Students with Significant Reading Difficulties
Paul T. Cirino, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics (TIMES), Department of Psychology, The University of Houston

Executive functions (EF) are domain general control processes important for managing goal-directed behavior. Reading, particularly comprehension, is one such goal-directed behavior. EF has clearly been shown to be related to reading, but EFs are defined in different ways, and from multiple perspectives. This presentation gives an overview of the EF and related constructs such as self-regulation, and presents a framework for thinking about them and their relation to reading. We critically evaluate the role of EF for predicting reading, identifying reading difficulties, and in reading intervention. Different types of reading skill are considered, and in the context of key language domains known to be important for reading.

Prevalence and Predictors of RD Across EL and Non-EL Groups: Longitudinal Comparisons from K Through 8th Grade in a National Probability Sample
Gregory J. Roberts, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Associate Director of the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, Director of the Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts, College of Education, The University of Texas at Austin

English learners (EL) are the fastest growing subgroup in US public schools. About 10% of k-12 students in 2013 were EL. In Texas, ELs represented about 17% of the k-12 school population in 2103. There are conflicting reports on whether ELs are disproportionately represented in special education – reports of both over- and underrepresentation of ELs in special education.  This study uses a national probability-based sample to estimate the prevalence of students with identified LD among ELs and non-ELs.  We identify student, family, and school-level predictors that are associated with identification for ELs and non-ELs and whether these predictors differ across the two language groups. Because the sample is probability-based, the results generalize to the group of all students who began kindergarten in 1998, providing a comprehensive overview of the prevalence of LD among ELs and the factors that associated with being identified as LD for ELs.