How do you identify children who are nonresponsive to academic instruction?

Question: How do you identify children who are nonresponsive to academic instruction?

Doug Fuchs: The conventional method of identifying unresponsive children is to, early in the school year, and I’m speaking here of relatively young children who are in kindergarten, primary grades, the typical way to identify unresponsive children is to give an entire class what we call a universal screen or screening measure that hopefully has some sound, psychometric characteristics. So that children can be, so that the measure is reliable and valid. And the universal screen, by definition, is given to everyone in the class and there is a cut-score or a specific score below which, children who score below or perform below the cut-point are seen as “unresponsive.” These children then go to a tier 2 for more intensive instruction. Many schools use this process for identification and what my colleagues Lynn Fuchs, Don Compton and I did several years ago was to conduct a study that asked, among other things, is there maybe, a better way of doing this? And the reason for the question was that we strongly suspected that the use of the universal screen by itself was identifying kids who were indeed unresponsive, but also identifying children who seemed like they were unresponsive but would prove later not to be unresponsive. In other words, we feared that the use of the universal screen would identify many “false positives.” The practical importance of limiting the number of false positives is, by doing so, schools can run, or implement, much more efficient, cost-effective RTI programs because, obviously, every child who was identified as “unresponsive” must be tutored and tutoring costs time and money. So, to be more accurate in the identification saves schools time and money. So what we did was we paired the use of a universal screen with 6 weeks of progress monitoring. And so the way it worked was teachers would administer, early in the school year, a universal screen, children who fell below the cut-point on that measure were then followed and monitored, tested, once a week for 6 weeks. What we found was that the children who were identified as unresponsive, on the basis of 6 weeks of progress monitoring, were one half the number that were initially identified by the universal screen and we followed these children through the semester and indeed half of the kids who were identified initially at the beginning of the year as unresponsive were responsive on their own. They just matured, their maturation accelerated, they started weak and unsure, but by January they were doing as well as anybody else. So, we concluded on the basis of that research, that the pairing of progress monitoring, 6 weeks of progress monitoring with a universal screen can reduce by half the number of kids, and the cost, and the time associated with responsiveness to intervention.