How school leaders can triangulate MAP data for students who might have dyslexia

Imagine this: It’s the start of another school year and, as the new principal at an elementary school, you are keeping up on the new dyslexia law in your Midwestern state. Legislation is sweeping the nation for early identification of students who might have dyslexia, so you know you’re not the only school leader working to understand laws affecting your school.

Dyslexia screening is now mandated for all students in kindergarten through third grade within the first 90 days of the school year. After some investigation, you realize the MAP® Reading Fluency™ dyslexia screener fits the criteria and—good news!—your school is already using MAP Reading Fluency to assess foundational skills and oral reading fluency for your primary grade students.

For this first year of dyslexia screening, it should not take too long to screen all your K–3 students because MAP Reading Fluency lets your teachers assess a whole class at once in just one class period. In the past, early literacy testing has taken weeks on end as teachers and substitutes test students one at a time. You’re grateful for this opportunity to make decisions surrounding student support right away. And starting the year by making a good impression on your teachers is always a win!

Understanding dyslexia

Along with learning more about legislation changes, getting to know your teachers, and exploring the ins and outs of community involvement, you are also trying to catch up on your knowledge of dyslexia.

Not all students who are striving readers have dyslexia.

There are many myths surrounding dyslexia. You have learned that dyslexia is not related to visual processing, like seeing letters and words backward, and that research supports a root cause lies with the processing of individual sounds within words (also known as phonemic awareness) and relating and sequencing those sounds to letters in words. As a former fifth-grade teacher, you are not all that familiar with how students learn to read or how to support the early literacy foundational skills of students identified as possibly having dyslexia. But you do know increasing the intensity of support is critical.

Some more good news is that you know your kindergarten and first-grade teachers are very knowledgeable about early literacy instruction. You can lean on them for additional information (in between preparing for the first fire drill of the year and mastering your knowledge of the school improvement plan).

After attending your staff’s professional learning sessions for MAP Reading Fluency, you know which report displays the percentage of students whose performance suggests possible risk factors for dyslexia or other reading difficulties. You decide to take advantage of an unusually quiet lunch hour to look at your school’s scores.

MAP Reading Fluency and the purple dyslexia screener predictive flags

The MAP Reading Fluency Term Summary report provides an easy-to-read visual of the proportion of students flagged by the dyslexia screener by grade. There is also a purple flag in the Individual Student report and a list in the Screener Outcomes report of all students in a grade or class who have been identified as being at possible risk of dyslexia.

MAP Reading Fluency uses a psychometrically backed predictive model that considers multiple measures to determine which students should be flagged in the dyslexia screener. Student results are flagged if their performance suggests they will be at the 10th percentile or lower on a general reading measure (as tested by MAP® Growth™, for example) in the spring. You are surprised by how many kindergarten students were flagged as compared to students in grades 1–3: it looks like about 20% of kindergartners, 11% of first-graders, 12% of second-graders, and 8% of third-graders received the purple flag.

It should not take too long to screen all your K–3 students because MAP Reading Fluency lets your teachers assess a whole class at once in just one class period.

As you look further down the Term Summary report, you notice that almost 40% of your kindergarteners are not meeting grade-level expectations for foundational skills. This is surprising to you, but you also know your school has a high rate of transience. Intensified instruction is often interrupted when students move to a different school, and it is hard to gain traction when students enroll mid-year. You have heard from kindergarten teachers that more incoming kindergartners than ever have not attended preschool and don’t have the typical reading readiness skills.

You move to the Screener Outcomes report to view user norms (i.e., percentiles) in each of the three foundational skills domains: phonological awareness, phonics/word recognition, and language comprehension. By quickly ordering assessment results for each of these domains, you notice that the flagged students often fall in a lower percentile in at least one of the domains. You decide that after discussing these results with each grade-level team, you will use this information to help make some programmatic decisions for student support. Due to the limited financial and human resources available to you, you anticipate needing to triangulate some data to guide your decision-making.

Adding in MAP Growth data

You want to understand the MAP Reading Fluency data alongside your students’ MAP Growth results. You decide to begin by looking at the Student Growth Summary report.

You start with the kindergarten data because of the proportion of students flagged by MAP Reading Fluency for being at possible risk of dyslexia. Because these little ones have not taken MAP Growth before, you will not have any growth data to analyze, but you will be able to look at their achievement percentiles.

You see that the median achievement percentile for kindergarten is 35. This is a surprise! You had not expected these students to be that far below the national norm of 50. Next, you see that your first-graders have a median achievement percentile of 45 and a growth percentile of 30. This is also very concerning. You know that they are not growing at that national norm of the 50th percentile either, and you worry that if they continue at this rate of growth, achievement will decrease. Now you know you need to do some further investigation when you talk to the grade-level teams.

Teacher input and formative assessment data will be vital to gain a fuller understanding of student needs.

You will encourage your teachers to look at their MAP Growth Class Profile report to determine if students in the lower quintiles (so, in the 40th percentile and below) overlap with any of the students who were flagged by the MAP Reading Fluency dyslexia screener.

Using both data sources to determine next steps

One thing that stuck with you after a professional learning session over the summer was that not all students who are striving readers have dyslexia. You keep this in mind as you think more about the overlap between the two assessments. Knowing you will not be able to increase the intensity of student support at the Tier 2 level for all the students who did receive the purple flag, you are beginning to form a strategy to prioritize the resources you have while still supporting all students in some way.

Another factor you consider is that the dyslexia screener supplies rapid automized naming (RAN) results. Although this data is not part of the algorithm for flagging, you can still export it and consider the students who took longer to complete the measure than others. By ordering the data from high to low, starting with the students who take longer to name objects, you can triangulate this data along with MAP Growth achievement data to better understand your students and prioritize the resources available to you.

Of course, teacher input and formative assessment data will be vital to gain a fuller understanding of student needs.

Reviewing dyslexia screening results is off to a good start

The first year as principal at a school is never easy. Right now, your priority is working with your primary grade team to review the MAP Reading Fluency dyslexia screener results and layer that information with MAP Growth data. That will help you feel confident that your school is following the newly enacted law and doing right by all your kids.

You are looking forward to working with your team of teachers, especially because you know how strong they are as early literacy experts. You let out a sigh of relief, knowing you have the data you need to make strong decisions that will support all your students in becoming strong readers.

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