Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Elizabeth Jones (Director), Carl Myers, Sylvia Dietrich

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Specialist in Education


Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) have historically been difficult to define and measure which has led to uncertainty and controversy. The current study explored the practices of identifying specific learning disabilities in Kentucky by surveying school psychologist practitioners in the state. Information was obtained about current practices with regard to RTI implementation and methods and data used for SLD identification as well as the roles that school psychologists take in the response to intervention (RTI) process. The sample consisted of 97 current or recently (within the past year) practicing school psychologists from 45 districts across the state. It was predicted that the use of RTI data for SLD identification would be associated with the length of time a district had been implementing RTI. The data did not support such a relationship. The majority of the districts represented by respondents were noted to be beyond an initial implementation of RTI practices. Responses to questions regarding the implementation of core features of RTI were grouped into High Implementation (HI; n = 45) and Low Implementation (LI; n = 41) groups. An independent samples t-test found a significant difference between the HI and LI groups for the quality of implementation. The HI group evidenced higher quality ratings than the LI. The use of RTI data as the most frequent method for SLD determination was noted for 30.9% of respondents as opposed to 0% prior to 2007. However, severe discrepancy was the most preferred method (59.3%) used for determining placement followed by RTI (28.4%) and a pattern of strengths and weaknesses (4.9%). Districts were also not likely to utilize non-preferred types of data if a student transferred into their district with that non-preferred data. Finally, the roles of school psychologists in the RTI process were explored. Great variability was found across practitioners with regard to the roles they actively have in the RTI process; however, practitioners in the HI group generally were more involved in the RTI process than those in the LI group. The findings are discussed with regard to the current national SLD identification practices and the limitations of the current findings.


Child Psychology | Cognitive Psychology | Psychology | School Psychology