Using Early Literacy Skills Screening and Behavior Risk Status as Predictors of Later Literacy Screening Scores and Year Long Growth in Kindergarten



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Background: Universal screening is a practical method to identify students that are at-risk for academic difficulties (Glover & Albers, 2007). The key is determining which factors are most influential to academic success. Not only are variables such as reading and early literacy skills related to future academic performance, but behavioral problems and ELL status have also been identified as predictors (Anderson, Kutash, & Duchnowski, 2001; Kwon, Kim, & Sheridan, 2012; McCardle, Mele-McCarthy, Cutting, Leos, & D’Emilio, 2005). Therefore, both academic and behavioral screening measures are likely an important method for identifying students at-risk. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate various factors that influence early literacy skill growth in kindergarten. Method: Kindergarten students were assessed using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills Next (DIBELS Next) and teachers completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Research questions focused on whether behavior risk status is a significant predictor of growth in early literacy skills over the course of the year. In addition, ELL status as a risk factor that might moderate the growth of early literacy skills from beginning-to end-of-the-year was examined. Results: Results indicated that neither behavior risk nor ELL status were predictive of growth in early literacy skills over the course of the year. However, behavior risk was predictive of initial scores of early literacy skills at the beginning of the year. Four categories of students were formed, based on their academic and behavioral risk, and significant differences were found in end-of-year early literacy skills between these four groups. Conclusion: Although behavior risk was found to influence beginning-of-the-year skills, it did not impact early literacy skill growth. This indicates the beginning of the year of kindergarten as an appropriate time point for assessing academic and behavioral risk. Results also showed differences in end of the year early literacy skills based on what type of risk a student demonstrates at the beginning of the year. This again implies a need to begin screening procedures at the beginning of students’ kindergarten year and may indicate the need for varying interventions depending on the different risk-status of students.



Screening, Early Literacy