Integration of traditional assessment and response to intervention in psychoeducational evaluations of culturally and linguistically diverse students

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The popularity of response-to-intervention (RTI) frameworks of service delivery has increased in recent years. Scholars have speculated that RTI may be particularly relevant to the special education assessment process for

The popularity of response-to-intervention (RTI) frameworks of service delivery has increased in recent years. Scholars have speculated that RTI may be particularly relevant to the special education assessment process for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students, due to its suspected utility in ruling out linguistic proficiency as the primary factor in learning difficulties. The present study explored how RTI and traditional assessment methods were integrated into the psychoeducational evaluation process for students suspected of having specific learning disabilities (SLD). The content of psychoeducational evaluation reports completed on students who were found eligible for special education services under the SLD category from 2009-2013 was analyzed. Two main research questions were addressed: how RTI influenced the psychoeducational evaluation process, and how this process differed for CLD and non-CLD students. Findings indicated variability in the incorporation of RTI in evaluation reports, with an increase across time in the tendency to reference the prereferral intervention process. However, actual RTI data was present in a minority of reports, with the inclusion of such data more common for reading than other academic areas, as well as more likely for elementary students than secondary students. Contrary to expectations, RTI did not play a larger role in evaluation reports for CLD students than reports for non-CLD students. Evaluations of CLD students also did not demonstrate greater variability in the use of traditional assessments, and were more likely to rely on nonverbal cognitive measures than evaluations of non-CLD students. Methods by which practitioners addressed linguistic proficiency were variable, with parent input, educational history, and individually-administered proficiency test data commonly used. Assessment practices identified in this study are interpreted in the context of best practice recommendations.