Science has moved forward at a rapid pace so that we now possess the data to reliably define dyslexia, to know its prevalence, its cognitive basis, its symptoms and remarkably, where it lives in the brain and evidence-based interventions which can turn a sad, struggling child into not only a good reader, but one who sees themselves as a student with self-esteem and a fulfilling future.
-Shaywitz, S.E. Testimony Before the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, 2014
What are the procedures for the identification and evaluation of students with dyslexia?
The identification and intervention process for dyslexia is multifaceted and involves administrators, teachers and specialists. *The information below is a broad overview.
Every kindergarten and first grade student is screened for dyslexia. The results of these screenings are provided to parents. Results indicate if a potential for dyslexia may exist so that teachers may begin small-group instruction related to areas of weakness and closely monitor reading development. The purpose of early screening is to catch students before they fail, to close gaps early in a student's academic school career.
Benchmarks are administered to every student at the beginning, middle and end of their academic school year. You may see or hear these times relayed as BOY, MOY and EOY.
Your child's teacher(s), administrators, and reading specialist meet bi-weekly to discuss students and their academic growth. At Tally Elementary, we consistently monitor student responses to interventions in and outside the classroom which determines our next steps. We document student difficulties, provide ongoing evaluation, and monitor reading progress for any student at risk for dyslexia or other reading difficulties.
If reading interventions are not demonstrating growth with a student, an administrator or diagnostician will contact a parent for possible further investigative assessments. The determination to refer a student for additional assessments is made on a case-by-case basis and must be driven by data-based decisions. A referral request for additional assessment will be asked of the parent/guardian. This paperwork must be signed and dated by the parent/guardian before assessment can begin.
Assessment results will be shared with the parent/guardian. A meeting will be held to discuss the collected data and any needed next-steps.
Who attends the meeting for dyslexia or a related reading disorder after a referral is made and assessment results are collected?
The results will be shared with the parent/guardian prior to a meeting.
A committee of individuals who have knowledge of the student will meet together to discuss assessment results and possible implications of this data. Together, a decision will be made about instructional practices and possible service options. These individuals include your child's teacher(s), administrator, dyslexia specialist and/or reading interventionist. Parents are asked to attend because you have the greatest knowledge of your child. A diagnostician familiar with testing and interpreting evaluation results may also be present. This collective team of individuals makes a decision for future services.
If the data does not indicate dyslexia, a related disorder, or other disability, the team may decide to provide additional classroom support.
If the team collectively agrees a student has dyslexia or a related disorder, the team will determine the type of instruction that will best meet the student's needs. Additional instruction may include a specially designed program for dyslexia.
How are reading difficulties determined?
Four kinds of assessments are used when evaluating student growth.
(1) Outcome Assessments: Outcome, or summative, assessments are described as "high-stakes, end-of-year accountability" tests. In Texas, approved reading assessments monitor students in the early grades (K-2). Beginning in 3rd grade, students take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) assessment, based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) which are our state curriculum standards. All students are assessed within a calendar time frame, provided by trained individuals, and usually have a time limit. Scores are reported as standard scores, percentiles, and normative data so we know where the student ranks in relation to data for the same age group/grade level.
Why? It allows districts/states to reflect on curriculum design, implementation of programs, and provided efforts over the course of an academic school year.
(2) Screening Measures: There are reliable, valid screeners that are used for the specific purpose of identifying students who may be at risk for reading difficulties. KISD has adopted one of the most well-validated and widely used screening instruments, following decades of research - DIBELS 8th Edition (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) assesses the acquisition of literacy skills. The assessments are short fluency measures that regularly detect risk and monitor the development of early literacy and early reading skills, beginning in kindergarten through 5th grade. DIBELS has proven effective as a dyslexia screener, including the necessary subtests for needed foundational reading skills.
Why? The sole purpose of a screening measure is to identify students who may be at-risk before they fail or before they establish a pattern of failure. Screening allows us to narrow the probabilities so better instructional decisions can be made and explicit teaching can be intensified for those who need it most. Screening allows us to survey more in-depth strengths and weaknesses, like language comprehension.
(3) Progress-Monitoring Tools: DIBELS (defined above) provides progress monitoring for students who may be at risk for reading difficulties. The frequency of these administered tools is dependent on each student's progress. It's important to note that we collect data beyond DIBELS because we understand that all measures are imprecise to some extent. Multiple sources of information help inform placement, groupings, and instructional methods/programs.
Why? It's important to measure a student's response to prescribed instruction to determine if we're closing the gap, bringing a student closer to targets/goals. If there's insufficient response to instruction, the data provides an opportunity to change our method of approach and/or request additional assessments. Progress monitoring allows data to measure growth vs. subjective impressions or opinions of progress.
(4) Diagnostic Surveys: Surveys or assessments are administered selectively to students at risk, requiring more time than the assessments listed above. Diagnostics reveal detailed information about a student's mastery of a specific area of academic skill.
Why? Diagnostic assessments used by KISD are recommended measures that have been vetted for reliability, validity, and efficiency. The results are used to inform academic instruction and related aspects of treatment (like a pull-out dyslexia program).