By Lisa Quirk, NYS Speech Language Therapist
During the 2016-17, our NY district secured grant funding to support early intervention in one of our elementary buildings. Under this grant, a speech/language therapist position was added to support kindergarten students' language development.
We chose to use the Kindergarten Language Benchmark Assessment, by Naomi Konikoff, MS CCC-SLP and Jennifer Preschern, MA CCC-SLP, as a universal screening and progress monitoring tool. The KLBA supports the Response to Intervention model. The KLBA monitors the development of early language skills in the areas of: auditory comprehension, following directions, receptive/expressive categories and narrative language. According to current research, each skill assessed highly correlates to future reading success and academic performance. The assessment is designed for monolingual and bilingual kindergarten students 5-6 years of age. According to the manual, the assessment takes approximately 3-4 minutes to administer. The therapist compiles the raw scores and ranks the grade level scores in the fall, winter and spring of each year. Response to Intervention services are planned and implemented based on the scoring patterns and the therapists' clinical judgement. In our building, students who scored within the bottom 20% of the class qualified for tier 2 language services.
This grant position is very unique in that the speech language therapist doesn't currently have a traditional speech/language caseload. The therapist was hired to push into 5 kindergarten classrooms every other day to provide tier 1 language support during learning centers (small group) and provide additional tier 2 support for those students who scored within the bottom 20% of the class as identified by the KLBA. Students receiving tier 2 support services were progress monitored every other week to determine whether they were responding to the language intervention. Students who made progress in tier 2 continued to receive support and those who were not making satisfactory growth were provided with tier 3 support, which looked like traditional speech/language pull-out services. Tier 3 services were normally accompanied by a speech/language evaluation and/or a referral to special education depending on the student’s situation.
With the guidance of Jennifer Preschern, MA CCC-SLP, co-author of the KLBA, we decided to provide tier 1 language support based on the four critical language skills assessed by the KLBA. Students who fell into the bottom 20% of the class received extra language support in small groups every other day.
Our data showed that students who received additional specialized language instruction grew at a faster rate than those who did not. Specialized language instruction is helping to close the language gap.
The feedback from teachers has been positive. They feel as though no one is “falling through the cracks.” From the therapist's perspective there have been many positive outcomes:
Improved communication between classroom teacher and speech language therapist.
The therapist has gained a better understanding of the spectrum of learners in kindergarten
The therapist has an improved connection to the NYS Common Core Curriculum
The KLBA has identified language weaknesses that may have otherwise gone undetected. There are a few cases in which students academic performance appears on or above level, but the KLBA has pinpointed critical weaknesses that will interfere with reading development down the road.
Many students have strengthened crucial foundational language skills by the end of their kindergarten year
The therapist can reinforce speech/language skills throughout the day in the natural setting
Overall, this year was a wonderful success! The KLBA has been an excellent tool to assist us in identifying and monitoring language development in kindergarten. We are anxious to delve into year two!
Lisa Quirk has been speech/language therapist in a public school system in upstate New York since 1999. She holds a masters degree in literacy and has a deep interest in the language/literacy connection. Lisa can be reached at email@example.com
Did you know?
The KLBA is sold out of Eastern Illinois University. EIU has been greatly effected by the budget crisis in the state of Illinois. Luckily, every dollar of KLBA sales goes back into research and development for the Speech/Language department, including further development of these tools. Thank you for your support.
Interested in using the KLBA at your school? Jennifer Preschern, MA CCC-SLP from Speech Language Literacy Lab is happy to answer questions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org