We recently sat down with Steven G. Feifer, DEd, author of the Feifer Assessment of Reading™ (FAR™) and Feifer Assessment of Mathematics™ (FAM™) for an interview to discuss how to use cognitive neuroscience to better understand why students struggle in school. This is the second part of a two-part interview. Did you miss Part 1? Catch up here. How do the FAR and FAM go beyond just using an aptitude/achievement discrepancy perspective? SF: The FAR and FAM represent a more ecologically valid way to understand the core psychological processes involved with both reading and mathematics. Many psychologists are used to measuring executive functioning, working memory, visual perception, and processing speed using stand-alone instruments, and then must clinically bridge these results into the worlds of reading and math. In other words, how does poor performance on executive functioning tasks impact the ability to read on grade level? These can be very difficult questions to answer. The FAR and the FAM seek to measure these psychological constructs while the student is actually engaged in the academic skill itself, allowing the examiner to directly determine the impact of each neurocognitive process on the academic skill itself. Typical achievement tests are important to determine where a student is functioning with respect to a nationally normed sample, but the FAR and FAM were designed to explain why. This is the key to really bringing back the “I” into an “IEP,” so practitioners can more readily inform intervention decision making. Do the instruments give you a reading/math level? SF: Both the FAR and FAM give you an overall composite score, but the true value of these instruments lies within the factor scores. We chose grade-based norms due to the variability of ages in each grade and thought it was only fair to compare a student’s performance with students in the same grade-level curriculum. In other words, it did not seem fair to compare a 10-year-old in the 3rd grade with a 10 year-old in the 5th grade with two more years of formal instruction. Academic skills should be based upon the current grade level of the child, especially when we have an educational system where 43 of 50 states follow a common core curriculum. If practitioners are uncomfortable with grade-based norms, there is a conversion by age proxy table included. Do you need a neuropsychology background to administer and/or interpret any of these instruments? SF: I think you need a reading or math background to administer and interpret these instruments, which is why these are B-level qualification instruments.  This means most teachers can readily administer the FAR and the FAM. It is not necessary to understand the neuroscience behind each learning disorder subtype, but it is necessary to understand the learning dynamics involved with each skill. For instance, most educators readily understand the role of phonics, fluency, orthography, and comprehension in reading. The FAR can catalogue the relative strengths and weaknesses within each of these processing areas to best inform intervention decision making. To learn more about the FAR or the FAM, visit their product pages.
We recently sat down with Steven G. Feifer, DEd, author of the Feifer Assessment of Reading™ (FAR™) and Feifer Assessment of Mathematics™ (FAM™) for an interview to discuss how to use cognitive neuroscience to better understand why students struggle in school. This is the first part of a two-part interview. Come back next week for the conclusion.   What influence did neuroscience and research in this area have on your work in test development? Steven Feifer: I have spent most of my career as a school psychologist trying to coalesce the fields of neuropsychology and education. I suppose it stemmed from my utter frustration in trying to explain learning simply through the lens of an IQ test score. After all, when was the last time somebody wrote a meaningful goal and objective on an IEP because a psychologist said a child’s Full Scale IQ was 94? Why was an instrument like the FAR needed? SF: The FAR was created for a number of reasons. First, I am especially grateful to PAR for recognizing the need for an educational assessment tool based upon a neuropsychological theory: the gradiental model of brain functioning. Second, I think the FAR represents a new wave of assessment instruments that does not simply document where a student is achieving, but explains why. This allows practitioners to better inform intervention decision making. Third, with the reauthorization of IDEA in 2004, school psychologists and educational diagnosticians no longer have to use a discrepancy model to identify a learning disability. However, most examiners are a bit leery about switching to a processing strengths and weaknesses model because of the sheer complexity and loose structure of this approach. The FAR identifies the direct processes involved with reading and makes the process easy without having to rely on a cross battery approach. Lastly, many states have now required schools to screen for dyslexia in grades K-2. The FAR Screening Form is ideal to function in this regard. How did using a brain-based perspective guide you when developing the subtests and subtypes for the FAR and the FAM? SF: I have conducted more than 600 professional workshops worldwide to both educators and psychologists. Most educators readily understand that there are different kinds of reading disorders, and therefore different kinds of interventions are necessary. By discussing reading, math, or written language from a brain-based educational perspective, I try to point out specific pathways in the brain that support phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, comprehension, and other attributes inherent in the reading process. I also illustrate what a dyslexic brain looks like before an intervention and then after an intervention. Cognitive neuroscience greatly validates the work of our educators and reading specialists. In addition, cognitive neuroscience also provides the foundation for various subtypes of reading disorders based upon the integrity of targeted neurodevelopmental pathways. Come back next week for the second part of this interview!  
Cecil R. Reynolds, co-author of the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS) and recently revised RIAS-2, is one of the leaders in the field of gifted assessment. The following is part one of a two-part interview conducted with Dr. Reynolds concerning the use of assessments in gifted and talented programs.

Q: Theoretically speaking, what do you believe would be the most effective way to identify a gifted student?

Cecil Reynolds: I am often asked what tests or other processes should be used to identify children for participation in a gifted and talented program in the schools. My answer is almost always something along the lines of “What are the goals of the program itself?” and “What are the characteristics of the children you wish to identify?” The most important thing we can do is match the children to the program so they have the highest likelihood of success. So, for example, if the program is intended to promote academic achievement among the most academically able students in the school, I would recommend a very different selection process and different tests than if the program was intended to take the most intellectually talented students in the school and provide them with a challenging, engaging curriculum that would enrich their school experience, motivate them to achieve, and allow them to fall in love with something and pursue it with passion. While the students in these programs would overlap, the two groups would not be identical and certainly the academic outcomes would not be the same. But, the point is that we must know what characteristics we need to assess to identify and to place students in programs where they will be successful, and that requires us to first know what it is our program is intended to do.

Q: What are some of the challenges that psychologists and diagnosticians face when attempting to identify a gifted student accurately?

CR: Regardless of the program and its goals for students, the tremendous diversity in the American schools is our greatest challenge. We have an obligation to be fair, and just, and to promote the best in all children, and that is our intention. However, no schools in any country serve the range of backgrounds and abilities such as are served in our schools. The demands upon school staff to be culturally competent in so many areas, and to devise methods of teaching and accurate measures of intelligence, academic outcomes, behavioral outcomes, and school success generally, and to understand and to motivate such a wide array of eager young minds, are just incredible and require a commitment from the school board on down to the teacher aides. Maintaining this commitment and acquiring these competencies are undoubtedly staunch challenges to us all. These challenges can be magnified in the domain of gifted education because how “giftedness” is defined and valued may vary tremendously from one cultural group to another. The biggest concerns I hear from practitioners and diagnosticians center around the lack of proportionate representation of some ethnic minority groups in GT programs and how it can change assessment practices to overcome these issues. The RIAS and RIAS-2 are well suited to assist in identifying more minority students for GT programs since the minority-white differences on mean scores on the RIAS and now RIAS-2 are smaller by about half the differences seen on most traditional intelligence batteries.

Q: A lot has been written about the idea that just because a student has been identified as academically gifted, it does not mean he or she will be successful. Identifying them is simply step one. What things do you find tend to hinder their progress in our schools?

CR: Often it is the mismatch between the program and the student. It is hard to overemphasize the importance of the match between the program goals and methods of achieving them and the students in the program and their characteristics. We simply have to get the right students into the right programs. We also have to attend to students’ motivation to achieve academically as well as focus on study skills, time management, organization skills, listening skills, and other non-intellective factors that go into academic learning. IQ generally only accounts for less than 50% of the variance on academic achievement, and that is one of the many reasons we also developed the School Motivation and Learning Strategies Inventory (SMALSI). Just because a student is bright does not mean he or she knows how to study and learn, has good test-taking skills, or is motivated to engage in school learning—we should assess these variables as well and intervene accordingly. Come back next week for the second part of this interview!
Are you headed to New Orleans for NASP? Be sure to stop by booth #306. PAR will be there to demonstrate PARiConnect, show you how to access our free online Training Portal, and give you a hands-on look at our latest products.  The following PAR authors will be at the booth to answer your questions: The following PAR authors will be presenting at the conference. Make sure to check out these can't-miss sessions:
  • Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales™ (RIAS™-2): Development, Psychometrics, Applications, and Interpretation (MS061), Cecil R. Reynolds, PhD, Wednesday, February 10, 12:30 p.m. to 2:20 p.m.
  • The Neuropsychology of Mathematics: Diagnosis and Intervention (MS057), Steven G. Feifer, DEd, Thursday, February 11, 8 a.m. to 9:50 a.m.
  • Unstuck and on Target: An Elementary School Executive Function Curriculum (MS155), Lauren Kenworthy, PhD, Friday, February 12, 8 a.m. to 9:50 a.m
  • DBR Connect™: Using Technology to Facilitate Assessment and Intervention (MS140), Lindsey M. O’Brennan, PhD, and T. Chris Riley-Tillman, PhD, Friday, February 12, 4 p.m. to 5:50 p.m.
  • Concussion Management Skill Development for School-Based Professionals (DS006), Gerard A. Gioia, PhD, Friday, February 12, 1 p.m. to 2:20 p.m.
  • Introducing the BRIEF®2: Enhancing Evidence-Based Executive Function Assessment (WS038), Peter K. Isquith, PhD, and Gerard A. Gioia, PhD, Saturday, February 13, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Plus, all orders placed at the PAR booth during NASP will receive 15% off as well as free shipping and handling! Follow PAR on Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the conference!
ChAMP coverBased on the latest advancements in memory research, the Child and Adolescent Memory Profile (ChAMP) is a fast, easy-to-administer measure that covers both verbal and visual memory domains for young examinees ages 5 to 21 years. Recently we had a chance to catch up with Elisabeth M. S. Sherman, PhD, and Brian L. Brooks, PhD, pediatric neuropsychology experts and authors of the ChAMP. PAR: What compelled you to want to develop a memory test? Sherman and Brooks: At the heart of it, we’re primarily clinicians who work with kids, some of whom have severe cognitive problems. Most can’t sit through lengthy tests. We could not find a memory test for kids that was easy to give, accurate, and also quick. We really developed the ChAMP because there wasn’t anything else like it out there. We hope other users like using the ChAMP, too. PAR: How have you used memory testing in your clinical work? Sherman and Brooks: Memory is such an important part of success in school and life. As clinicians, we evolved from giving memory tests selectively, to giving them to most children we assess. Children may have different reasons for having memory problems (i.e., developmental or acquired), but capturing their memory strengths and weaknesses allows us to better understand how to help them. Interestingly, in working with very severely affected children with neurological conditions, we realized that some kids have intact memory despite devastating cognitive conditions. The ability to detect an isolated strength in memory really gives educators and parents something tangible to use in helping those children. PAR: How has the experience of developing a memory test been different from your other projects? Sherman and Brooks: Developing the ChAMP was an amazing opportunity to get into the nitty-gritty of test design, planning, and execution. A lot of our other work so far has focused on reviewing, evaluating, or critiquing tests (e.g., Elisabeth is a co-author of the Compendium of Neuropsychological Tests from Oxford University Press). In the development of the ChAMP, we realized quickly that it is much easier to critique tests than to create good tests. Creating the ChAMP was a humbling but exciting process for us. It was a great opportunity to put theory into practice, with all the challenges and benefits that brings. We are excited about the ChAMP, and hope other clinicians will be, too. To learn more about the ChAMP, please visit www.parinc.com or call 1.800.331.8378.
This week’s blog was contributed by PAR Author Adele Eskeles Gottfried, PhD. Dr. Gottfried is the author of the Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (CAIMI). The study she describes in this blog is part of a broader investigation in which she examines the importance of home environment and parental stimulation on the development of children’s academic intrinsic motivation. In a longitudinal study spanning 28 years, new research just published in Parenting: Science and Practice examined the long-term effect of children’s home literacy environment during infancy and early childhood on their subsequent reading intrinsic motivation and reading achievement from childhood through adolescence and their educational attainment during adulthood. This type of motivation, which is the enjoyment or pleasure inherent in the activity of reading, is found to relate to various aspects of children’s literacy behaviors. Literacy environment was assessed from infancy through preschool using the amount of time mothers read to their children and the number of books and reading materials in the home. Analyzing the data using a statistical model, the study examined literacy environment as it related to children’s reading intrinsic motivation (measured with the Reading scale of the CAIMI) and reading achievement across childhood through adolescence and their educational attainment during adulthood. Results demonstrated that it was the amount of time mothers spent reading to their children—not the number of books and reading materials in the home—that significantly related to reading intrinsic motivation, reading achievement, and educational attainment. Specifically, when mothers spent more time reading to their children across infancy through early childhood, their children’s reading intrinsic motivation and reading achievement were significantly higher across childhood through adolescence. In turn, higher reading intrinsic motivation and reading achievement were significantly related to educational attainment during adulthood. These findings were found regardless of mothers’ educational level. The implications for practice are clear: Reading to children during infancy and early childhood has significant and positive long-term benefits, and this information must be disseminated. Mothers, fathers, and other caregivers need encouragement and support to read to infants and young children, and they need to know what a difference it will make to children’s intrinsic motivation to read and learn.
invisibleBruce A. Bracken, PhD is a respected psychologist and the author of numerous psychological tests, but did you know he is also a fiction writer? His second novel, Invisible, was published earlier this year. Dr. Bracken’s novel explores the world of those who go through life largely unnoticed—those who feel invisible. Sometimes their invisibility is intentional, for example, among introverts who avoid attention and shun the limelight. More often, however, it is a not a choice, but rather an unwelcome reality for an underclass that includes panhandlers, the homeless, and the disfigured. Invisible was recently named Book of the Month by the College of William & Mary, where Dr. Bracken is Professor of School Psychology and Counselor Education. Click here to see him discuss the idea behind his book. Dr. Bracken is also the author of the Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test™ (UNIT™), the Clinical Assessment of Behavior™ (CAB™), the Clinical Assessment of Depression™ (CAD™), the Clinical Assessment of Interpersonal Relationships™ (CAIR™), and the Clinical Assessment of Attention Deficit–Adult™ (CAT-A™) and Clinical Assessment of Attention Deficit–Child™ (CAT-C™).

Adele Eskeles Gottfried, PhD, author of the Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (CAIMI), will be presenting a paper at the 2014 APA Annual Conference in Washington, DC this week. Entitled, “From Parental Stimulation of Children’s Curiosity to Science Motivation and Achievement,” Gottfried’s longitudinal research shows that when parents encourage their young children’s curiosity, those children have higher academic intrinsic motivation in science subjects and higher science achievement across childhood through adolescence. Overall, the importance of academic intrinsic motivation for children’s subsequent academic competence is demonstrated. This study is part of Gottfried’s ongoing research on longitudinal aspects of parental stimulation’s role in children’s academic intrinsic motivation, and it highlights the importance of the CAIMI in being able to delineate these findings.

Gottfried’s presentation will be part of the “Role of Others in Promoting Students’ Motivation, Learning, and Well-Being” session on Sunday, August 10, at 1:00 p.m. in Convention Center Room 115. Please confirm dates and times in your convention program when you get to APA—and be sure to stop by the PAR booth (#438) as well!

Get ready, Washington, DC! PAR staff have arrived in our nation’s capital for the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Annual Convention. If you are attending NASP, be sure to stop by the PAR booth to learn about some of our new products, including the Working Styles Assessment™ (WSA™) and the Self-Directed Search®, 5th Edition. Cecil R. Reynolds, PhD, author of the Reynolds Adaptable Intelligence Test™ (RAIT™) and the Test of General Reasoning Ability™ (TOGRA™) will be presenting tomorrow, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. His session, titled “Two New Adaptable Reliable Intelligence Measures for Busy Practitioners,” will cover the development, application, and research involved in creating these two new assessments.
[vimeo http://vimeo.com/82204714] Among PAR’s newest and most innovative products, the Vocabulary Assessment Scales (VAS) present highly realistic, full-color digital photographs to measure the breadth of an individual’s vocabulary and oral language development. This complementary pair of assessments measure both expressive (VAS-E) and receptive (VAS-R) vocabulary.  Norm-referenced and designed for simple administration and scoring, the VAS-E and VAS-R can be used individually or in combination throughout an individual’s life span. Click the video link above to view a short interview with VAS author Rebecca Gerhardstein-Nader, PhD, and learn more about the features and benefits of this exciting new product!