Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Cognitive Correlates of Inadequate Response to Reading Intervention

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Cognitive Correlates of Inadequate Response to Reading Intervention

Article excerpt

A recent consensus report suggested that students with learning disabilities (LD) should be identified on the basis of inadequate treatment response, low achievement, and traditional exclusionary criteria (Bradley, Danielson, & Hallahan, 2002). The most controversial component of this report was the indication that an assessment of response to instruction is a necessary (but not sufficient) component of identification. From a classification perspective, the validity of this provision should be tested as a hypothesis by comparing adequate and inadequate responders on attributes not used to define the groups, such as cognitive processing. If adequate and inadequate responders can be differentiated from students typically developing on these nondefinitional variables, the classification hypothesis accrues validity (Morris & Fletcher, 1988).

The consensus report excluded assessments of cognitive processing skills known to underlie different kinds of LD as a component of identification. We differentiate cognitive assessments of skills that support mental operations (e.g., language, memory, problem solving) and do not involve reading for task completion from assessments of different components of reading, such as decoding, fluency, and comprehension. The latter are also cognitive measures, but are determined in part by cognitive processes that vary with the component of reading that is assessed (Vellutino, Fletcher, Snowling, & Scanlon, 2004).

Assessing cognitive skills is controversial in school psychology because of questions about the value added by these tests for identifying or treating LD (Gresham, 2009); however, these assessments are commonly employed, and strengths and weaknesses in cognitive processes are clearly related to the achievement domains that represent LD (Reynolds & Shaywitz, 2009). Although assessment of cognitive processes is not required for identification of LD in the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA; U.S. Department of Education, 2004), Hale et al. (2008) proposed that inadequate responders to Tier 2 intervention should receive a cognitive assessment to explain why the students did not respond to intervention, to guide treatment planning, and as an alternative to LD eligibility models explicitly identified in IDEA (ability-achievement discrepancy and methods based on response to intervention).

This issue has significant implications for everyday practice in school psychology because it suggests a major role for cognitive assessment for intervention (and for identification). However, a recent review (Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork, 2009) did not identify evidence that interventions based on group by treatment interactions (e.g., learning styles, aptitude by treatment interactions) were differentially related to outcomes. Consistent with views from other school psychologists, whether cognitive skills represent child attributes that interact with treatment outcomes and are essential components of intervention planning is not well established (Gresham, 2009; Reschly & Tilly, 1999). Moreover, little research establishes whether inadequate responders differ from adequate responders and typical achievers outside of the defining characteristics of inadequate instructional response and poor development of academic skills. Taking an approach somewhat different from the analysis of group by treatment interactions, we approached the question of cognitive assessment from a classification perspective, addressing whether there are unique cognitive attributes of inadequate responders.

Cognitive and Behavioral Attributes of Inadequate Responders

One meta-analysis has addressed whether cognitive skills represent attributes of variously defined subgroups of inadequate responders (Nelson, Benner, & Gonzalez, 2003). This meta-analysis initially utilized a literature review by Al Otaiba and Fuchs (2002), which summarized 23 studies of preschool through Grade 3 students who received reading interventions. …

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