Kyle: Don't Forget About Academics
Kyle was in second grade when he entered our study. When we met with his classroom teacher to discuss his lack of reading progress, the discussion was dominated by a focus on his problem maintaining attention and the excellent involvement of his parents with the school and classroom. Kyle’s father volunteered in the classroom one day per week and both parents were aware of Kyle’s impulsivity, difficulties completing assignments and working independently. They declined any involvement with special education assessment or suggestions to evaluate for attention deficit disorder but did work closely with his pediatrician.
Although attention was clearly an issue, it was equally apparent that Kyle was not making progress in reading. Our weekly CBM measures in the fall showed that he was reading about 20 words correctly in one minute. The average number of words read by second graders at that time of year is about 65. The graph below depicts Kyle’s performance on the CBM measure across the year. As indicated, he was reading only 20 words per minute in November and December. Equally problematic was that he was showing no growth. His performance was somewhat better in January but he was still behind his peers.
The teacher may have realized the extent of his reading problems but our sense was that her emphasis was how to keep Kyle focused (a reasonable goal). Reading instruction seemed a secondary concern. In the second half of the year, Kyle’s reading performance showed good improvement following the teacher’s implementation of a reading intervention developed collaboratively. The dotted line on the graph indicates when the teacher began the intervention, the “G” represents the goal we set for him, and the “T” represents the trend line that summarizes his rate of growth. The interpretation is that Kyle exceeded his goal. Because we did not establish experimental control, we cannot say his improvement was due to the teacher’s additional instruction.
There are two important points relevant to progress monitoring and RTI. First, it is conceivable that Kyle’s alarmingly poor reading may not have received proper due given the preoccupation with his attention problems. Thus, frequent monitoring and interpretation of performance seems essential to keep track of children’s academic progress. Second, performance comparisons to both individual progress and group progress is necessary in an RTI framework. Kyle exceeded his goal at the end of second grade but when compared to his second grade peers, he still lagged behind on the number of words he could read and his rate of growth. In planning for the next year, instructional arrangements and practices should be considered that might help Kyle close the gap with his peers.