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I've Screened My Students - Now What?

May 18, 2021

With the recent release of the Massachusetts Dyslexia guidelines, we have crafted a series of blog posts that highlight the critical information featured in the document.

Our previous post reviewed key considerations involved in screening students for the risk of dyslexia. Yet, it is important to keep in mind that the process of screening is only meaningful when it is a part of a larger framework that includes data interpretation, robust classroom instruction and intervention supports, and a process for progress monitoring.  

Often called an Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), this framework provides a structured approach or road map for supporting the needs of all students across their educational experience. From classroom instruction to specialized intervention, a solid MTSS model offers essential support to educators as they address their students needs and maximize academic achievement.

The Components in a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)

An MTSS model is complex, with lots of moving parts and people. This particular blog post will example two elements of the framework: 1) Interpretation of Screening Data and 2) Core Instruction + Targeted Intervention.
 

Interpretation of Screening Data
The importance of screening, the skills to assess and the characteristics of your screening tool were reviewed in this blog post. Once a screening has been completed, grade-level teams meet to discuss student performance.

Formally called, data meetings, these pre-scheduled gatherings serve four purposes:

1. Identify WHO is AT RISK?

2. HOW SIGNIFICANT is the RISK?
 
3. Which areas REQUIRE INSTRUCTION?

4. How can STUDENTS be GROUPED to MAXIMIZE INSTRUCTION?


WHO IS AT RISK? 
Depending on your assessment tool, determining WHO is at-risk may involve reviewing students' composite scores or analyzing their performance on individual screening tasks. Screening tools traditionally use "cut points" to determine the level of each child's risk. These levels often range from no-risk to significant risk.

HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THE RISK?
The amount of risk a student presents provides critical information about the type of intervention that is most appropriate. Most screening tools will categorize students' performance into at least 3 categories of risk: 1) no/low risk, 2) some risk, and 3) significant risk. For example, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS 8th Edition) color codes risk levels with green representing low risk, yellow representing some risk and red representing significant risk. Those students who present with some risk traditionally receive Tier 2 instruction, which offers a preview or review of classroom instruction with expanded opportunities for practice.

Special attention should be paid to the students who perform significantly below their peers, particularly those who score at or below the 5th percentile. Grade level teams may need to calculate the raw score that constitutes the 5th percentile (for example, if the benchmark score is 100, then a score of 5 or below represents at or below the 5th percentile). There is evidence to support the provision of Tier 3 instruction and/or a referral for a comprehensive evaluation (including assessments that can identify dyslexia) among those students who perform at or below the 5th percentile on screening measures (Al Otaiba, Wagner & Miller, 2014). Tier 3 interventions are traditionally characterized as "specialized instruction" because the materials, language, and scope and sequence have been specially created and do not necessarily extend from the classroom content.

WHICH AREAS REQUIRE ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTION?
Once your team has identified at-risk students, the next step involves determining the areas in which they require additional instruction. By screening multiple areas of early literacy development, your data will provide information about the three broad domains of reading-related skill development. These include accuracy, automaticity/fluency, and language comprehension. Based on at-risk performance on screening measures, educators can identify each students' instructional focus.

Three Broad Instructional Focus Areas for Reading InterventionWhen determining an instructional focus areas for supplemental intervention, keep in mind that all students should receive core instruction plus a second intervention that can either be a Tier 2, or Tier 3 intervention. Often referred to as "core plus more" the model offers at least twice the amount of instructional support to at-risk students as compared to their low or no-risk peers. Instructional focus areas can be further refined as educators consider the severity of students’ risk and their performance on additional diagnostic assessments or inventories such as phonemic awareness, phonics, and sight word inventories.

HOW CAN STUDENTS BE GROUPED TO MAXIMIZE INSTRUCTION?
Interventions in foundational skill-building are often more effective when delivered to students who have similar strengths and weaknesses or instructional focus area. The Massachusetts Guidelines offer the following guidance in nature of student grouping:
 

Tier 2 instruction - Tier 2 is traditionally an extension of the core curriculum, and oftens students a preview/review or extended practice with the concepts from classroom instruction. Research has indicated that instruction effective when students with the same instructional focus area are placed into groups of no more than five students for targeted supports in Tier 2 instruction (Jones, Burns & Pirri, 2010).
 

Tier 3 instruction - Data is less consistent on the optimal group size for intensive supports in Tier 3 instruction, but in general, most groups do not exceed three. Some students who require intensive support present with a complex learning profile that benefits from individualized instruction.

CRITICAL ELEMENTS TO BE INCLUDED IN INTERVENTIONS
There is much debate over the form and content of successful reading interventions, however, research over the last 20 years has identified the essential elements that lead to the greatest achievement. These elements will be discussed in the next blog post....

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