Academic journal article Exceptional Children

The RISK Screening Test: Using Kindergarten Teachers' Ratings to Predict Future Placement in Resource Classrooms

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

The RISK Screening Test: Using Kindergarten Teachers' Ratings to Predict Future Placement in Resource Classrooms

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Teacher ratings from four consecutive cohorts of kindergarten students were used to establish a prediction function by which children who ultimately received special education services in the form of resource-class placement were discriminated from children who remained solely in regular education classrooms. All five factors measured by the RISK scale were significantly related to future school performance, but items that assessed child ability, current performance, and teacher investment were most predictive of eventual special-class placement. Overall accuracy for the screening measure was 94. 13%, with 1, 194 out of 1,269 children accurately selected to their appropriate educational placement.

* The early identification of children who are likely to require special educational assistance has long been a priority of applied researchers (Butler, Marsh, Sheppard, & Sheppard, 1985; deHirsch, Jansky, & Langford, 1966; Feshbach, Adelman, & Fuller, 1974; Mercer, Algozzine, & Trifiletti, 1988). The impetus for early identification is based on the assumption that both developmental and educational intervention are likely to be more effective if they occur before the child's deficiencies become massive and are compounded by the numbing effects of extended school failure (Satz & Fletcher, 1979). Vacc, Vacc, and Fogelman (1987) reported that Project Child found that half of their children who were later identified as having disabilities could have received more effective remediation had their difficulties been diagnosed earlier in development. Muehl and Forell (1973) indicated that, regardless of the type and amount of subsequent intervention, earlier diagnosis was associated with better school performance after 5 years.

The adequacy of current screening and readiness measures for young children is much in question. Joiner (1977) reviewed 151 tests and procedures used by school districts in New York and found only 16 that could be considered marginally appropriate. More recently, the Michigan Department of Education (1984) judged that only 10 of the 111 tests and procedures being used within the state for screening and readiness were suitable for those purposes. Even widely used screening tests, such as the Gesell, have been criticized severely for their lack of psychometric integrity (Meisels, 1985, 1987). Satz and Fletcher (1988) have suggested that the procedures used to establish the validity of the Denver and the DIAL-R, two other common screening measures, are inadequate and inappropriate and misrepresent the utility of the instrument.

Our efforts to establish useful early identification procedures have been hampered by both theoretical and methodological difficulties. At a theoretical level, we remain undecided concerning which aspects of the child's functioning are most predictive of subsequent failure. Should we use a readiness model that relies primarily on the assessment of reading correlates such as perceptual-motor and linguistic skill s (Mann, 1984)? Or should we include other key variables such as task orientation, motivation, and social skills that interact to influence school success and failure (Adelman & Feshbach, 1971)? Moreover, is it more profitable to use identification procedures based on standardized psychometric tests (Vacc, Vacc, & Fogelman, 1987), or should we rely on teachers' ratings of students' characteristics (Fletcher & Satz, 1984)?

A major methodological problem in devising early identification measures is how best to assess predictive validity. Typically, researchers collect a variety of measures during kindergarten which are subsequently used to predict 1st- or 2nd-grade reading achievement based on the results of standardized tests. Results are summarized through either correlational or classificational approaches (Butler, Marsh, Sheppard, & Sheppard, 1985). The correlational approach yields multiple correlations between predictor and criterion variables, which indicate the amount of variance in reading scores that can be explained by the screening measures. …

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