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Wichita Schools “DIAL-3” for Successful Preschool Screening

Data give teachers valuable guidance toward maximum learning

DIAL-3, the third edition of the popular Developmental Indicators for the Assessment of Learning, is a global screener for evaluating large groups of preschool students quickly and efficiently. The Wichita, Kansas Schools used the DIAL-3 district-wide during the 1999-2000 school year to pre-test 4000 kindergarten children in the fall and then for post-testing in the spring. The results were so positive that program administrators expanded DIAL-3 screening to include pre-K students for the current school year.

“History was made.”

That is how Ms. Emile McGill, Director of Early Childhood Development for Wichita Schools described her district’s first year of DIAL-3 screening. Her testing team partner, H. Guy Glidden, Wichita’s recently retired Director of Pupil Evaluation and Testing, echoed her sentiments. Mr. Glidden said the success of the DIAL-3 program provided a wonderful closing note to his 23 years with the Wichita schools.

The DIAL-3 is an individually administered developmental screening test to identify young children in need of further diagnostic assessment. DIAL-3 items assess developmental skills (motor, concept, and language) which are the foundation for academic learning. These skills relate directly to successful classroom functioning or to behaviors that are clearly associated with the domain that is being measured. All Kansas schools are required to screen children entering school for the first time to identify those who may require additional assistance. The reliability and validity of the DIAL-3 met this requirement for the Wichita Public Schools.

Mr. Glidden said the district had used several developmental indicators in the past. “We decided to make the change [to DIAL-3] because it allowed us to pre- and post-test a large student population (4,000 Kindergartners) in a relatively short period of time,” he said.

Both Ms. McGill and Mr. Glidden were aware of the original DIAL screener for some time. Ms. McGill learned about the new DIAL-3 while visiting the AGS booth during an education conference. She later received her DIAL-3 training at a National Parents as Teachers conference in St. Louis.

Julie Arenson, National Consultant (left) & Emile Mcgill, Wichita School Distric, Director of Early Childhood

Ms. McGill said, “Our goals in testing children are to find out where they are developmentally. Teachers can then direct their instructions to accommodate the many varied levels of students entering the educational environment, to achieve maximum growth whether in regular or special education classrooms.”

“We wanted to find out which kids had the skills and which kids had the problems in preparing for first grade,” Mr. Glidden added. “And we wanted to make sure our first grade teachers received this information to see if our Kindergarten curriculum was effective in reducing developmental delays. The DIAL-3 put us on the right road.”

Initial results from the first year exceeded expectations. The testing team did a matchout of the student population and set acceptable DIAL-3 Language and Concepts scores of 17 each (out of 27 possible points) for the fall screening. Pre-test scores below 17 are the USD 259 “developmentally delayed” indicator. This level identifies the bottom 16% of the population at age five years, six months-the average age of USD 259 students who were pre-tested.

“We used the fall data to see where we were making progress with these kids,” Mr. Glidden said. “And which activities (interventions) our teachers needed to focus on in the classroom.”

Then in the spring, the team set the Language post-test score below 20 and Concepts score below 21 as the USD 259 delay indicators for the bottom 16% of students aged six years, two months. As the chart shows, growth and improvement were dramatic. Special attention should be given to those students who are in the developmentally delayed category for the pre- and post-test. “We looked for a consistent pattern in the reduction of delay for the kids,” Mr. Glidden said.

Ms. McGill said indicators of potential delays in the Speech and Language area were brought to the attention of their speech pathologist for further work with those students. Other intervention exercises included “classroom strategies, child study team referrals, and parent activities related to assisting student growth at home,” Ms. McGill said.

Customized software a big plus

Wichita was the first district to use scannable forms, Mr. Glidden said. This was possible due to a customized software package specially prepared by AGS.

“Because we were entering data for 4,000 kids, we felt the need to customize the reports for Wichita parents and their children,” Mr. Glidden said. “In the spring, we moved the data into an Excel data base, allowing us to keep the tables intact and manipulate them as necessary. We then merged this Excel program into a Microsoft® Word format to produce a customized report to parents.” View sample Profile

Support crucial

Guy Glidden, Wichita School District, Director of Assessment (left) and George Harris, AGS, Regional Vice President

Ms. McGill and Mr. Glidden agreed that all the help they received from AGS was crucial to the success of the DIAL-3 program. Ms. McGill began working with AGS consultant, Julie Arenson over three years ago.

“Julie got our Quality Improvement Team (headed by Mr. Glidden) together with the people we needed at AGS,” she said. She said, too, that Ms. Arenson has been a big asset in the expansion of DIAL-3 screening to include pre-K children for the current school year.

AGS also arranged for DIAL-3 co-author, Dorothea Goldenberg to go to Wichita for staff training, “the most powerful kind of training we could have,” Ms. McGill said. “Dot and Julie are fantastic.”

Mr. Glidden was pleased with the excellent coordination between Emile and Julie to bring 275 teachers and staff up to speed on the DIAL-3.

“If you don’t have that kind of support, you’re really in trouble,” he said. “We encountered very little naysaying; the teachers felt that what we were assessing was important, which made for a very smooth transition to DIAL.”

As a result of Wichita’s success, Mr. Glidden said he anticipated an increased use of the DIAL-3 among suburban and outlying county schools. He called the DIAL-3 a “very straightforward assessment that clearly simplified our jobs and helped us deliver the goods.”

Also very happy with the DIAL-3 outcome, Ms. McGill added, “We know if we can intervene earlier in a student’s educational path, these results will be sustained.”

Would you like to “make history” with your preschool screening program? You can learn more about the DIAL-3 by visiting the product web page.

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