Factors influencing change in school psychologists' diagnosis of specific learning disability

Mary Elizabeth Scholtz, Fordham University


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 included significant changes to its requirements for Specific Learning Disability (SLD) classification. School psychologists are facing a decision as to whether to abandon the traditional ability-achievement discrepancy model in favor of alternative methods for SLD diagnosis. Numerous problems with the discrepancy model have been identified, but many practitioners continue to use it. The field of school psychology can be characterized as being in a state of change. For the current study, school psychologists (N = 514) completed an online survey to explore five primary independent variables (i.e., school psychologist self-efficacy, quantity of professional development, principal leadership, level of experience, and involvement in Response to Intervention (RtI)) as factors influencing change in their SLD diagnostic methods. Using discriminant analysis, results indicated that fewer years of experience and higher involvement in RtI were associated with being in more advanced phases of the change process with respect to SLD identification and movement away from the discrepancy model. In another model tested, higher RtI involvement was associated with abandonment of the discrepancy model. When the models were retested using quality of professional development instead of quantity, higher reported quality of professional development was also significantly associated with change and movement away from use of the discrepancy model. Neither self-efficacy nor principal leadership contributed significantly to any of the models tested.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Scholtz, Mary Elizabeth, "Factors influencing change in school psychologists' diagnosis of specific learning disability" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3548211.