Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Evaluating School Impairment with Adolescents Using the Classroom Performance Survey

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Evaluating School Impairment with Adolescents Using the Classroom Performance Survey

Article excerpt

School impairment may occur for many reasons, including low cognitive ability, stressful events, poor instruction, and mental health disorders. Regardless of the cause, school impairment is likely to have substantial long-term negative effects on students. For example, low academic functioning is predictive of poor outcomes, including high school dropout, substance use, delinquency, and poor emotional wellness (see Hawkins, 1997, for a review). Given the long-term negative and positive effects of functioning in school, it is not surprising that school functioning is a common focus of assessment. Specifically, measuring school functioning and impairment is important to determine eligibility for services, inform psychiatric diagnoses, and identify response to interventions (American Psychological Association, 2000; Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, 2004).

School functioning includes both academic skills and academic enablers (DiPerna & Elliott, 2000) and contextual variables (Pianta & Walsh, 1996). Impairment in school is a common reason of referral for assessment or additional services, including special education. Of the 370 school psychologists who responded to a recent survey, a majority reported academic problems as the most common reason for referral (Bramlett, Murphy, Johnson, Wallingsford, & Hall, 2002). Similarly, best practices for diagnosing psychiatric disorders includes assessing school impairment, as impaired functioning is a diagnostic criterion for many disorders. Finally, measures of school functioning play an important role in the measurement of responses to interventions (Chafouleas, Volpe, Gresham, & Cook, 2010).

Although there are measures of school impairment (e.g., Diperna & Elliott, 2000), most have not been designed for the unique environment and demands of a high school. Successful functioning at the secondary level is far more complex than in the younger grades, partly because of the multiple settings across a student's day (Kent et al., 2011). Teachers' expectations at the high school level vary considerably between classes and, as a result, a student's level of functioning is likely to be inconsistent across classes. Thus, unlike elementary schools, there is often not one person in a secondary school who can serve as a source for comprehensive information about a student's functioning and impairment (Evans, Allen, Moore, & Strauss, 2005). Therefore, the challenges associated with measuring school functioning in secondary school are twofold. First, because of the complexity of secondary school academic demands (e.g., long-term projects, expectation for independent tracking of tasks) and social behavior (e.g., variability in behavioral expectations between classes, management of relations between large number of peers and multiple teachers), successful school functioning may involve more variables than during elementary school. Second, because students have many teachers who see students in a variety of contexts, it may not be possible to identify one informant to complete a measure.

In spite of the challenges associated with assessing school impairment and functioning in secondary school, there is a need for an efficient and psychometrically sound measure to inform school personnel. Further, the value of assessment is greatly enhanced if it can directly inform intervention development. The purpose of the current study was (a) to examine the validity of the Classroom Performance Survey as a measure of school functioning with high school students and (b) to collect normative data on the measure for this age group.

Defining School Impairment: A Theoretical Model

Although school impairment includes a broad set of domains, it is often best operationalized by grades, discipline problems, and scores on standardized tests. In fact, grades are used to gain admission to postsecondary education, often considered by potential employers, and used to determine which students receive honors (e. …

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