School Psychology Forum

Identifying SLD in the context of RTI/MTSS
Volume 12, Issue 1 (Spring 2018)

Editor: Oliver Edwards


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  • Contemporary Perspectives on the Identification of Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD): Introduction to the Special Issue

    By Sally L. Grapin

    pp. 2–5

    ABSTRACT: Since their emergence in public schools, specific learning disability (SLD)identification practices have been controversial in both research and practice. The purpose of this special issue is to present contemporary research on various models ofSLD identification as well as issues associated with their implementation. Each of the articles in this issue offers recommendations for improving SLD identification practices and, more broadly, academic service delivery in K–12 schools. This introduction reviews three SLD identification methods (i.e., aptitude–achievement discrepancy, patterns of cognitive processing strengths and weaknesses, and response-to-intervention approaches). It also briefly details the contents of the special issue, which are intended to contribute to larger dialogues on improving academic supports for school-age youth.

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  • Response to Intervention for Specific Learning Disabilities Identification: The Impact of Graduate Preparation and Experience on Identification Consistency

    By Kathrin E. Maki

    pp. 6-16

    ABSTRACT: Response to intervention (RTI) is increasingly being implemented in schools as a means to identify students with specific learning disabilities (SLD). Despite its wide use, there is limited research regarding school psychologists’ graduate preparation in and familiarity with RTI for SLD identification. This study examined how school psychologists’ graduate preparation in RTI, use of RTI in practice, and preference for RTI in SLD identification impacted SLD identification consistency using RTI. Participants included 110 school psychologists who were recruited from state school psychology associations. Participants viewed RTI SLD identification criteria and student evaluation data and then made an SLD identification decision. Results showed that participants’ graduate preparation in RTI, use of RTI in regular district practice, and preference for RTI for SLD identification did not increase the likelihood of consistent SLD identification using RTI. Implications for practice and training in RTI for SLD identification are discussed.

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  • Adoption Costs Associated With Processing Strengths and Weaknesses Methods for Learning Disabilities Identification

    By Jacob Williams & Jeremy Miciak

    pp. 17-29

    ABSTRACT: There is controversy regarding the relative merits of cognitive assessment for the identification of learning disabilities. Proponents of cognitive assessment have suggested that multitiered systems of support (MTSS) should be supplemented with routine, systematic assessment of cognitive processes following a determination of inadequate response to evidence-based interventions in order to document a pattern of processing strengths and weaknesses (PSW methods) as an inclusionary criterion for learning disabilities. However, the financial costs incurred by this addition to MTSS are not well known. In the present study, we present a systematic case study to estimate the costs associated with adopting routine assessment of cognitive processing for students referred for special education evaluation. We estimate that implementation within a district would cost between $1,960 and $2,400 per student, assuming no existing infrastructure. These expenses are discussed in relation to evidence for the educational value of such assessments and inherent trade-offs between assessment and intervention.

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  • Examining MTSS Implementation Across Systems for SLD Identification: A Case Study

    By Courtenay A. Barrett & Daniel S. Newman

    pp. 30-43

    ABSTRACT: Although research supports the effectiveness of the multitiered system of supports (MTSS) on academic and behavioral outcomes, districts aim to engage in databased decision making and examine the effectiveness of their own MTSS implementation. This case study describes how one regional education service agency (RESA) in the Midwest implemented MTSS and the effect of implementation on rates of specific learning disability (SLD) identification and the achievement of students receiving special education services under the category of SLD on the state assessment. Case data suggest MTSS effectiveness varies between schools and districts within a system, subpopulations of students, and type of outcome examined. Recommendations for future MTSS work among practitioners include: (a) professional development/coaching for educators that implement Tier 1 and Tier 3 instruction and intervention, (b) collaboration and coordination between systems and departments, and (c) data reviews that include the integrity of MTSS implementation, personnel changes, and the purpose of each type of data collected.

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  • Why Do School Psychologists Cling to Ineffective Practices? Let’s Do What Works

    By Amanda M. VanDerHeyden

    pp. 44-52

    ABSTRACT: This article considers the cost of poor decision making in school psychology, especially with regard to determining eligibility for special education under the category of specific learning disability. One common costly decision made by school psychologists is failing to use evidence-based assessment and intervention procedures that are likely to be of benefit to the student. VanDerHeyden comments on the direction of the field and discusses possible reasons that school psychologists continue to use practices that have not demonstrated a benefit for students. She then suggests specific ways in which school psychologists might overcome barriers to using effective assessment and intervention practices in schools.

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