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Intro: This study investigated the effectiveness of a dynamic assessment task in accurately identifying kindergarteners, especially those from CLD backgrounds, that would continue to need reading intervention and support up to 6 years into the future.

Background: Dynamic assessment (DA) has been gaining evidence and recognition as a more accurate means of assessing speech and language skills compared to standardized tests, especially for children with culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds. However, research into DA of reading skills has been lagging, despite being an area where schools and governments spend huge amounts to identify students that may have a reading disorder as early as possible in hopes of preventing delays in reading acquisition. Current assessment of reading practices is typically static, measuring a student’s ability in that moment.  This can be a problem since students enter school with vastly different exposure and experiences with reading, especially in areas with high populations of CLD students. As a result, static reading assessments often have poor classification accuracy in predicting students that truly need intervention. Response to Intervention (RTI) is frequently used to determine which students have a reading or other learning disorder versus gaps in content knowledge but this process takes weeks or months as well as requiring a lot of resources. 

Hypothesis: The authors of the current study investigated whether a short DA task of decoding ability in early kindergarten could predict which students would continue to need intervention through upper elementary grades. The authors also wondered whether DA would work in combination or by itself to increase classification accuracy of students with reading difficulties. 

Methodology and Participants: Participants included 600 students, the main subgroups being monolingual English speaking Caucasian as well as Hispanic Spanish speaking students, some of whom were receiving English language learner (ELL) instruction. All students were kindergarteners at the beginning of the study and in 5th grade by the end. All students were administered subtests of the DIBELS and then randomly assigned to one of two DA protocols, averaging 3 minutes to administer. This consisted of a pretest, teach and post test phase. Students were shown nonsense consonant-vowel-consonant words, scored and then taught either an onset rhyme or sound-by-sound decoding strategy and then tested and scored again. Points were given for accurate reading of sounds and words, as well as student ability to learn from the teaching session. All students were then administered the Oral Reading Fluency subtest of the DIBELS at the end of 2nd through 5th grades, to determine later decoding ability. 

Conclusion: The dynamic assessment measure was a valid predictor up to 6 years into the future of decoding ability. Combined with the static measures, it increased predictive classification accuracy across ethnicities and grades, especially for the Hispanic students. Although more research is required to further increase specificity and sensitivity, the DA task adds valuable improvement in identifying students that need intensive reading intervention. 

Relevance to the field: As language specialists, SLPs are more and more providing literacy support or consulting with reading specialists and classroom teachers. With resources stretched thin, identifying students that will need intensive intervention will help to mitigate the effects of reading disorders while preventing typically developing students, especially typically developing CLD students, from being over identified as needing special education services. With this DA task taking only 3 minutes to administer, it could be used as a screening for large numbers of students, especially in schools with high CLD populations where static reading assessments are especially ineffective. 


Petersen, D. B. , Chanthongthip, H. , Ukrainetz, T. A. , Spencer, T. D. , & Steeve, R. W.  (2017).Dynamic assessment of narratives: Efficient, accurate identification of language impairment in bilingual students.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 60(4), 983–998.