School Psychology Review

General Issue
Volume 47, Issue 4 (2018)

Editor: Amy L. Reschly


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  • Improving Decision-Making: Procedural Recommendations for Evidence-Based Assessment: Introduction to the Special Issue

    Nathaniel P. von der Embse & Stephen P. Kilgus

    pp. 329-332

    Abstract. Assessing for applied decision-making is an essential role of a school psychologist. Advances in complex statistical analyses (e.g., item response theory, structural equation modeling) have allowed for more robust psychometric evaluation and assessment tools than ever before. School psychologists now have access to a wide range of evidence-based assessments across academic, behavioral, and cognitive domains. In contrast, relatively less research has examined the procedures through which assessment data are collected and analyzed. Such limitations restrict the utility of assessment data, as well as the validity of decisions made in consideration of said data. The primary goal of this special issue is to feature research that critically examines factors that facilitate or inhibit accurate and efficient decision-making in schools, including that which elucidates best practice for improving the input and output of assessment data. Articles provide empirical support and procedural guidance to improve decision-making in schools. Commentaries reflect on the current state of evidence and offer suggestions for future research and practice.

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  • Curriculum-Based Measurement of Reading Decision Rules: Strategies to Improve the Accuracy of Treatment Recommendations

    Ethan R. Van Norman, Peter M. Nelson & David C. Parker

    pp. 333-344

    Abstract. School psychologists regularly use decision rules to interpret student response to intervention in reading. Recent research suggests that the accuracy of those decision rules depends on the duration of progress monitoring, the number of observations available, and the amount of measurement error present. In this study, we extended existing research to evaluate the influence of a student’s initial level of performance, goal line type, and decision rule type on the accuracy of interpretations of progress monitoring data. Normative goal lines performed best for students scoring far below benchmark at the beginning of the year, while goal lines based upon a spring benchmark score were appropriate for students performing just below expectations at the beginning of the year. The data point rule performed poorly across all progress monitoring conditions, while comparing the median of the 3 most recent observations to a goal line performed similarly to the trend line rule.

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  • The Nomogram: A Decision-Making Tool for Practitioners Using Multitiered Systems of Support

    Laura L. Pendergast, Eric A. Youngstrom, Linda Ruan-Iu & Danielle Beysolow

    pp. 345-359

    Abstract. Although schools administer many assessments, there is a lack of consensus regarding the best way to combine different pieces of information to facilitate evidence-based decision-making, particularly within multitiered systems of support. Although largely unheard of in education, the nomogram is an evidence-based assessment tool that is widely used in other fields and allows users to incorporate data about multiple sources of risk to estimate the probability of an outcome. This article (a) provides a primer and conceptual overview of the nomogram, (b) provides a tutorial and the materials needed to use the nomogram for evidence-based assessment, (c) describes analyses to compare the decision-making accuracy of the nomogram with that of other methods using a large sample of data (N = 1,461) from an urban school district, and (d) illustrates use of the nomogram with a hypothetical case.

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  • Examining the Stability, Accuracy, and Predictive Validity of Behavioral–Emotional Screening Scores Across Time to Inform Repeated Screening Procedures

    Bridget V. Dever, Erin Dowdy & Christine DiStefano

    pp. 360-371

    Abstract. Preschool has been recognized as an optimal time to provide behavioral and emotional supports to children; however, there is a need to examine the stability, accuracy, and predictive validity of universal emotional and behavioral screening scores in early childhood to inform procedures for repeated screenings across time. The present study included a sample of 1,014 students assessed with the Behavioral and Emotional Screening System Teacher Preschool screening form and comprehensive, omnibus teacher rating scales in preschool through first grade. Results indicated that scores from the Behavioral and Emotional Screening System Teacher screener were relatively stable within the school year and showed evidence of predictive validity of clinical problems in early childhood. To help identify who may benefit from a repeated screening later in the academic year, receiver operating characteristic curve analyses were conducted. A cut score of 51 emerged as a useful cut point to minimize expended resources and maximize sensitivity and specificity in finding new cases of risk. Implications for practitioners are discussed, including those related to the efficiency, timing, and frequency of screening in early childhood.

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  • Training Teachers to Facilitate Early Identification of Mental and Behavioral Health Risks

    Nathaniel P. von der Embse, Stephen P. Kilgus, Katie Eklund, Ethan Ake & Shana Levi-Neilsen

    pp. 372-384

    Abstract. Universal screening has been proposed as a method for effectively and efficiently identifying students at risk for mental health concerns. As with traditional rating scales, screeners have historically been used in the absence of any user training. Recent research suggests, however, that systematic training can be used to enhance the psychometric defensibility of teacher rating data. Thus, the present investigation evaluated the effectiveness of a pilot teacher training intervention on improving identification of students with behavioral or emotional concerns. A total of 91 teachers (57 training, 34 control) participated in the study. Participants in the training group received information on the utility of universal screening and were provided with information regarding mental and behavioral risk in schools. Videos depicting examples of problem behaviors and student concerns were also provided, and trainees were given the opportunity to practice rating videos with performance feedback. Following training, teachers completed the Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener (SAEBRS) for their 1,158 students in four urban elementary schools. Teachers also completed measures of perceived assessment usability and willingness and efficacy to engage in universal screening. Finally, schools provided extant data regarding each student’s academic and behavioral functioning (e.g., benchmark assessments, suspensions, and disciplinary referrals). Structural equation modeling and moderation analyses indicated a stronger relationship between SAEBRS fall risk and end-of-year behavioral outcomes in the trained group, and this relationship was moderated by assessment acceptability. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.

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  • Improving Decision Making in School Psychology: Making a Difference in the Lives of Students, Not Just a Prediction About Their Lives

    Amanda M. VanDerHeyden & Matthew K. Burns

    pp. 385-395

    Abstract. Assessment is fundamental to school psychology, but its purpose has shifted from making predictions about children to improving outcomes for children. This commentary on the special issue focuses on screening and progress-monitoring decisions that can be used to solve student problems. We outline several psychometric and practical issues that affect decision making (e.g., screening accuracy, the relationship between pretest and posttest probabilities, and reliable measurement of slope). We also recommend that school psychologists (a) let go of assessment practices that do not result in positive outcomes for students, (b) select assessments that directly inform intervention, (c) use a more nuanced approach to monitoring student progress that could include subskill mastery measurement, (d) stop using 3-point decision rules for high-stakes decisions, and (e) evaluate student growth in the presence of high-quality intervention delivery.

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  • Establishing Evidence-Based Behavioral Screening Practices in U.S. Schools

    Robert J. Volpe & Amy M. Briesch

    pp. 396-402

    Abstract. The purpose of this commentary is to discuss articles in the special issue focused on improving procedures for universal screening for social–emotional and behavioral problems. Based on work by Hunsley and Mash (2007), we examine factors to consider for those seeking to establish evidence-based behavioral screening practices in school settings. Discussed are the selection of appropriate constructs for a given assessment task, the selection of instruments and methods to inform the decision-making process, the accuracy and utility of the decision-making process, the cost of the assessment process, and the impact the assessment has on the outcomes of students. Finally, we discuss factors to consider for the maximization of screening usage.

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