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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Identifying children at risk : the predictive validity of kindergarten screening measures Jacobsen, S. Suzanne


The early identification of children who are "at risk" of experiencing learning problems is of interest to educators and policymakers. Conflicting evidence exists regarding the efficacy of screening measures for identifying children "at risk". The rationale for screening programs is that early identification of problems allows for treatment which may eliminate more severe problems from developing. If a student is identified as "at risk", school personnel may intervene with remedial programs. Subsequently, if the student succeeds, the earlier prediction is no longer valid. The identification of "at risk" would appear inaccurate because the intervention was successful in improving skills. Researchers often measure the prediction of "at risk" with a correlation coefficient. To the extent that the intervention is successful, the correlation of the identification of "at risk" with later measures of achievement is lowered. One of the problems with research on early prediction has been failure to control for the effects of the interventions which were implemented as a consequence of screening. An evaluation of "at risk" prediction is important because results of screening procedures are used to make decisions about retentions and the allocation of special services. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between kindergarten screening measures and grade three achievement for two entire cohorts enrolled in 30 schools in one school district. The analysis employs a two-level hierarchical linear regression model to estimate the average within-school relationship between kindergarten screening measures and grade three achievement in basic skills, and determine whether this relationship varies significantly across schools. The model allows for the estimation of the relationship with control for individual pupil characteristics such as age, gender and physical problems. The study examines the extent to which the relationship between kindergarten screening and grade three achievement is mediated by children receiving learning assistance or attending extended (4-year) primary schooling. The study also examines differences among schools in the kindergarten screen/achievement relationships and the achievement of "at risk" pupils by including school characteristics in the analysis. The results of this study indicate positive relationships between kindergarten screening measures and achievement outcomes, even after controlling for age, gender and physical conditions. The kindergarten screen/achievement relationship did not vary among schools. The study failed to demonstrate that controlling for interventions would improve the kindergarten screen/achievement relationship; in fact the effects were in the opposite direction. Levels of adjusted achievement of pupils who obtained scores at the cut-off point for risk status varied significantly among schools. The "at risk" pupils performed better on all four achievement measures in schools with high school mean-ability than similar pupils in schools with low school mean-ability. These results show that progress in the study of the predictive validity of screening measures can be made through the use of hierarchical regression techniques. Researchers need to give consideration to the effects of educational interventions and the contextual effects of schools.

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