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Promoting Best Practice in the Identification of SLD. Wayne Barry, Ed.D. Virginia Department of Education Eric Mesmer, Ph.D. Radford University October 23,2009 VPA Convention, Richmond, Virginia. Brief Introduction. Eric Wayne Influences on “best practice”

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promoting best practice in the identification of sld

Promoting Best Practice in the Identification of SLD

Wayne Barry, Ed.D. Virginia Department of Education

Eric Mesmer, Ph.D. Radford University

October 23,2009

VPA Convention, Richmond, Virginia

brief introduction
Brief Introduction
  • Eric
  • Wayne
  • Influences on “best practice”
  • Regulations and ethical understandings to consider
influences on our practice
Influences on our “practice”
  • Training/certification/professional affiliations
  • The community we work/live in
  • State and Federal Regulations
  • Local school division philosophy/practice (local interpretation of state/federal regs)
federal regulations idea
Federal Regulations (IDEA):
  • Definition of Specific Learning Disability

300.8(c)(10)

  • Acceptable methods of identification

300.307

  • Determining Existence of a Disability

300.309

definition of specific learning disability 300 8 c 10
Definition of Specific Learning Disability 300.8(c)(10)

Specific learning disability means:

(i) a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual abilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

(ii) Specific learning disability does not include problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Sec. 300.8(c)(10)

1977 usoe formal definition adopted by pl 94 142
1977 USOE (formal) definition:(Adopted by PL 94-142)

“The term ‘specific learning disability’ means a disorder in one or more of the psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations.

The term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia.

The term does not include children who have learning disabilities which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, or mental retardation, or emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.”

(USOE, 1977, p.65083)

nachc ld definition
(NACHC) LD definition
  • Essentially, adopted the National Advisory Committee on Handicapped Children’s (NACHC) late 1960’s definition:

“Children with special (specific) learning disabilities exhibit a disorder in

one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understand-

ing or in using spoken and written language. These may be manifested

in disorders of listening, thinking, talking, reading, writing, spelling, or

arithmetic. They include conditions which have been referred to as

perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia,

developmental aphasia, etc. They do not include learning problems that

are due primarily to visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, to mental retard-

ation, emotional disturbance, or to environmental disadvantage.”

(USOE, 1968, p.34)

commentary on definition of sld
Commentary on definition of SLD:

One commenter wanted to include child’s failure to respond to intervention in definition

One commenter wanted to use “disability” instead of “disorder”

One wanted to use “disability in one or more of the basic psychological processes” as the definition

Few commenters thought “developmental aphasia” and “minimal brain dysfunction” were antiquated terms and should be omitted

Few commenters thought “imperfect ability” would lead to minor problems being considered specific learning disabilities

Some commenters wanted to include disorders that are associated with learning disabilities e.g., Aspergers Syndrome or FAS

Few commenters suggested clarifying the word “cultural”

evaluations and reevaluations
Evaluations and Reevaluations

“Each public agency must conduct a full and individual initial evaluation, in accordance with 300.305 and 300.306, before the initial provision of special education and related services to a child with a disability under this part.”

34 CFR 300.301

additional procedures for identifying children with specific learning disabilities 300 307
Additional Procedures for Identifying Children with Specific Learning Disabilities (300.307)

A Statemust adopt, consistent with 300.309, criteria for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability as defined in 300.8(c)(10). In addition, the criteria adopted by the State –

(1) Must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining whether a hcild has a specific learning disability, as defined in 300.8(c)(10)

(2) Must permit the use of a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention; and

(3) May permit the use of other alternative research-based procedures for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, as defined in 300.8(c)(10)

determining existence of sld 300 309
Determining Existence of SLD (300.309)

(a) The group (300.306)…may determine that a child has a SLD if:

(1) The child does not achieve adequately for age or to meet State-approved grade-level standards … when provided with learning experience and instruction appropriate for age or approved grade-level standards:

(i) Oral expression

(ii) Listening comprehension

(iii) Written expression

(iv) Basic reading skill

(v) Reading fluency skills

(vi) Reading comprehension

(vii) Mathematical calculation

(viii) Mathematical problem solving

determining existence of sld cont
Determining Existence of SLD (cont.)

(2) (i) The child does not make sufficient progress to meet age or State-approved grade-level standards … when using a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention;

or

(ii) The child exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, State-approved grade-level standards, or intellectual development, that is determined by the group to be relevant to the identification of a specific learning disability, using appropriate assessments, consistent with 300.304 and 300.305;

and

(3) The group determines that its findings under paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) of this section are not primarily the result of – (i) A visual, hearing, or motor disability; (ii) Mental retardation; (iii) Emotional disturbance; (iv) Cultural factors; (v) Environmental or economic disadvantage; or (vi) Limited English proficiency.

virginia regulations
Virginia Regulations
  • Definition of Specific Learning Disability

(8VAC20-81-10 Definitions)

  • Acceptable methods of identification

(8VAC20-81-80 Eligibility)

  • Determining Existence of a Disability

(8VAC20-81-80 Eligibility)

definition of sld 8vac20 81 10 definitions
Definition of SLD (8VAC20-81-10 Definitions)

“Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; of intellectual disabilities; of emotional disabilities; of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. (Sec. 22.1-213 Code of Virginia…)

definition of sld cont
Definition of SLD (cont…)

“Dyslexia is distinguished from other learning disabilities due to its weakness occurring at the phonological level. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

virginia definition of evaluation
Virginia definition of “evaluation:”

“Evaluation” means procedures used in accordance with this chapter to determine whether a child has a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services that the child needs.”

8VAC20 81-10 Definitions

34 CFR 300.15 Evaluation

“Evaluation means procedures used in accordance with 300.304 through 300.311 to determine whether a child has a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services that the child needs.”

acceptable methods of identification
Acceptable methods of identification:

I. The Virginia Department of Education permits each local educational agency to use a process for determining whether a child has a disability based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention and permits each local educational agency to use other alternative research-based intervention and procedures. (8VAC20-81-80 Eligibility)

acceptable methods cont
Acceptable methods (cont…)

T 3. The Virginia Department of Education does not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability.

(8VAC20-81-80-Eligibility)

eligibility determination as sld
Eligibility determination as SLD:

2. The group may determine that a child has a

specific learning disability if:

a. The definition of “specific learning disability” is met in accordance with 8VAC20-81-10

and

b. The criteria for determining the existence

of a specific learning disability are met

(8VAC20-81-80T)

eligibility determination as sld cont
Eligibility determination as SLD (cont...)
  • The criteria for determining the existence of a specific learning disability are met if:

a. The child does not achieve adequately for the child’s age or to meet Virginia-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the following areas when provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the child’s age or Virginia-approved grade-level standards: Oral expression; Listening comprehension; Written expression; Basic reading skills; Reading fluency skills; Reading comprehension; Mathematical calculations; or Mathematical problem solving.

b. The child does not make sufficient progress to meet age or Virginia-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the areas identified in subdivision 2a of this subsection when using a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention; or the child exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, Virginia-approved grade-level standards, or intellectual development, that is determined by the group to be relevant to the identification of specific learning disability, using appropriate assessments, consistent with 8VAC20-81-70

eligibility determination as sld cont21
Eligibility determination as SLD (cont...)

c. The group determines that its findings under

subdivision 2 a and b of this subsection are

not primarily the result of:

(1) A visual, hearing, or motor impairment;

(2) Intellectual disability;

(3) Emotional disability;

(4) Environmental, cultural, or economic

disadvantage; or

(5) Limited English proficiency

nasp guidance on sld identification 2007
NASP Guidance on SLD identification:(2007)
  • History of the term/condition
  • Issues of concern
  • School psychologist’s prominent role in identification process
  • The nature of learning disabilities
  • Identification of SLD within multi-tiered model
  • Role of school psychologists
  • Research and References
issues of concern
Issues of concern:
  • High prevalence rates of LD
  • Variability in rates and procedures (across states and school divisions)
  • Insufficient emphasis on prevention, early identification, and early intervention
  • Questionnable validity/relevance of id procedures
  • Inexactness in differentiating between “true” LD and lack of instruction/ineffective intervention
  • Failure to effectively differentiate between LD and cultural differences children possess
nasp holds the following beliefs
NASP holds the following beliefs:
  • Ability-achievement discrepancy is at odds with scientific research and best practice
  • Identification and early intervention for SLD is best achieved within tiered service delivery
  • When instruction and intervention fail, comprehensive assessment by qualified professionals is an essential step
  • School psychologists possess unique skills in the above intervention/identification process
nasp position on sld
NASP position on SLD:
  • SLDs are endogenous in nature, characterized by neurologically based deficits in cognitive processes;
  • Deficits are specific in that they impact skill development in cognitive areas;
  • SLDs are heterogeneous…no single defining characteristic across all disabilities;
  • SLDs may coexist with other disabling conditions but are not due to these conditions
nasp on sld cont
NASP on SLD (cont.)
  • Great majority of identified SLDs are in reading areas;
  • Manifestation of SLD is contingent upon types of instructional support and accommodations available…and the demands of the learning situation;
  • Early intervention can reduce the impact of many learning disabilities;
  • SLDs vary in degree of severity.
evaluation essentials regulations
Evaluation Essentials (regulations):
  • Review of existing data;
  • Observation by teachers and related service providers;
  • Assessments and other evaluation materials are:

a.)Selected/administered in non-discriminatory manner;

b.) Provided/administered in child’s native language and in manner to

yield most accurate information;

c.) Used for the purposed for which assessments are valid/reliable;

d.) Administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel in

accordance with the instructions provided by producers/authors.

evaluation essentials cont
Evaluation Essentials (cont…)
  • Materials/procedures used to assess a child with limited English proficiency are selected and administered to ensure that they measure the extent to which the child has a disability and needs special education, rather than measuring the child’s English language skills;
  • A variety of assessment tools and strategies are used to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information;
evaluation essentials cont29
Evaluation Essentials (cont.)
  • Assessment tools and strategies used should provide relevant information that directly assists in determining the educational needs of the child;
  • If assessment is conducted in non-standard manner, a description of the extent to which it varied from the standard shall be included in the evaluation report;
  • Assessment tools/measures include those tailored to assess specific areas of educational need, and not only those designed to provide a single general intelligence quotient;
evaluation essentials cont30
Evaluation Essentials (cont…)
  • Assessments selected and administered to children with communication, sensory, or motor impairments should reflect the child’s aptitude or achievement level, rather than a child’s impaired communication, sensory, or motor skills;
  • Technically sound instruments are used;
  • No single measure or assessment is used as the sole criterion for determining whether a child is a child with a disability and for determining an appropriate educational program for a child;
evaluation essentials cont31
Evaluation Essentials (cont…)
  • Each child is assessed by a qualified professional

8VAC20-81-70(C)

Code of Virginia 22.1-214

34 CFR 300.304

34 CFR 300.310 (Observation)

approaches to ld identification
Approaches to LD Identification
  • The Three Approaches
    • Discrepancy Formulas
    • RtI
    • “Alternative Research-Based Procedures”
slide33

Evolution of the Assessment Approach

Early 1980s

USDOE – RTI 2004

approach 1 discrepancy
Approach 1 – “Discrepancy”
  • What is it?
    • Statistically and presumably clinically significant “gap” between performance on standardized ability and standardized achievement test.
  • How does it work?
    • Discrepancy documents underachievement
    • Discrepancy is presumably due to an underlying processing disorder
approach 2 rti
Approach 2 - RtI
  • What is it?
    • Measure rate and level of response to empirically valid instruction and interventions.
  • How does it work?
    • Those who have received inadequate instruction should show strong positive response = rule out SLD.
    • “Resisters” have significant trouble learning. Lack of progress maybe due to underlying learning disability.
approach 3 alternative approaches
Approach 3 – “Alternative Approaches”
  • What is it?
    • Test psychological processing strengths and weaknesses.
  • How does it work?
    • Cognitive processing hypotheses are tested:
      • 1) Hypotheses are documented in research as being the source of learning problems and
      • 2) Assessment results reveal the presence of both the processing weakness and the related academic weaknesses.
how does each approach measure up
How does each approach measure up?
  • Criterion 1 – Consistent with LD definition/conceptualization?
  • Criterion 2 – Consistent with acceptable “evaluation methods”?
  • Criterion 3 – Consistent with Virginia SLD Criteria?
approach 1 discrepancy38
Approach 1 - Discrepancy
  • Criterion 1 – Consistent with LD definition/conceptualization?
    • No – there is no mention of a discrepancy.
    • May help to rule out “intellectual disability”
    • Other definitions have suggested:
      • Average or above intelligence
      • Unexplained underachievement
approach 1 discrepancy39
Approach 1 - Discrepancy
  • Criterion 2 – Consistent with acceptable methods of evaluation?
    • Yes –
      • Standardized cognitive and academic assessments will provide some information regarding educational need.
      • Instruments are technically sound.
      • Multiple measures are used in this process.
    • No
      • Emphasis is often placed on a single score (IQ) or a discrepancy score.
      • Evaluations often reflect construct underrepresentation.
approach 1 discrepancy40
Approach 1 - Discrepancy
  • Criterion 3 – Consistent with Virginia SLD criteria?
    • No
      • discrepancy is not required.
      • Fails to assess grade-level standards
      • Fails to assess progress/growth
    • Yes
      • Does identify strengths and weaknesses relative to intellectual development
the discrepancy method falls short of meeting all 3 criteria
The discrepancy method falls short of meeting all 3 criteria…
  • …so, why has this approach lasted
    • Well-entrenched practice
    • Easy to explain/understand
    • Efficient Approach
    • Focus is on “within individual” deficits
    • Difficulties operationalizing other approaches
    • Lack of skill, will, and/or system support
approach 2 response to intervention
Approach 2 – Response to Intervention
  • Criterion 1 – Consistent with LD conceptualization/definition?
    • No
      • No attempt is made to document the presence of a psychological processing disorder.
    • Yes
      • Helps to rule out inadequate instruction.
approach 2 response to intervention43
Approach 2 – Response to Intervention
  • Criterion 2 – Consistent with acceptable methods of evaluation?
    • Yes
      • Lack of response or slow response to evidenced based instruction and intervention documents need.
      • Reliability and validity of many progress monitoring assessments have been documented.
    • No
      • Reliability and validity of many progress monitoring assessments is still emerging.
approach 2 response to intervention44
Approach 2 – Response to Intervention
  • Criterion 3 – Consistent with Virginia SLD criteria?
    • Yes
      • Documents lack of adequate achievement relative to age or grade level standards
      • Documents lack of sufficient progress toward standards
addresses 2 of the 3 criteria other strengths
Addresses 2 of the 3 criteria + other strengths
  • Links Assessment to Intervention
  • Provides Immediate Support
  • Tests the effectiveness of supports
but there are some issues
…but there are some issues.
  • Districts have struggled to determine how school psychologists can be included.
  • Numerous untested questions
    • What is the best way to measure growth?
    • What is the best way to evaluate/interpret growth rates?
    • How long should interventions be in place?
    • What should be done when “slope” and “level” improve, but not enough?
approach 3 alternative approaches47
Approach 3 – “Alternative Approaches”
  • Criterion 1 – Consistent with LD conceptualization/definition?
    • Yes
      • An attempt is made to document a psychological processing disorder.
      • An attempt is made to link the disorder to the manifest academic weaknesses.
approach 3 alternative approaches48
Approach 3 – “Alternative Approaches”
  • Criterion 2 – Consistent with acceptable methods of evaluation?
    • Yes
      • Strong psychometric properties.
      • Increasing emphasis on multi-method approaches (e.g. cross-battery).
      • May be able to document educational need.
approach 3 alternative approaches49
Approach 3 – “Alternative Approaches”
  • Criterion 3 – Consistent with Virginia SLD criteria?
    • No
      • Fails to document student skills relative to grade level standards
    • Yes
      • Documents a pattern of strengths and weaknesses that might be linked to specific learning difficulties.
addresses 2 of the 3 criteria and other strengths
Addresses 2 of the 3 criteria and other strengths
  • Consistent with current role of school psychologists.
  • Strong diagnostic validity.
weaknesses with using an alternative approach
Weaknesses with using an Alternative Approach
  • Lacks treatment validity.
  • Tests to be used will not be known in advance (permission can not be obtained in advance).
  • If hypotheses are not confirmed = Will we go on “fishing trips?”
conclusions
Conclusions
  • The discrepancy approach is not required and not a justifiable method.
  • RtI documents need but not disability.
  • Alternative Approaches can document disability but will not inform treatment.
  • Likely to see increased emphasis on “mixed approaches”.
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