Pierce, Corey

Committee Member

Gershwin, Tracy

Committee Member

Robinson, Jason

Committee Member

Kraver, Jeri


College of Education and Behavioral Sciences; School of Special Education


University of Northern Colorado

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Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

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165 pages

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Born digital


Loftin, Kara Alison. Strengths-Based Assessment of Students with Emotional Disturbance: Rater Variance Using Generalizability Theory. Published Doctor of Philosophy dissertation, University of Northern Colorado, 2020. Under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004, free appropriate public education (FAPE) was guaranteed to all students ages 3 through 21 regardless of ability. For students with emotional disturbance (ED), one of the 13 disability categories served under IDEA, when appropriate special education programming and services were in place early, educators could deescalate the potential for more serious and ingrained behaviors that impacted the course of the student’s life beyond childhood. Ensuring FAPE for students with disabilities requires accurate and appropriate identification and progress monitoring data. Data, valid and reliable or not, directly impact a student’s special education and related services. Data for these purposes are collected in a variety of ways; one of which is through the administration of behavior rating scales that assess social, emotional, and behavioral domains of students. Typically, assessments take a deficit-based approach; educators need to know where the problem lies. However, a strengths-based assessment approach eases associated stigma, leverages a student’s competencies, and might improve parent and school partnerships and communication. This non-experimental study examined rater variance utilizing a strengths-based assessment tool for progress monitoring through G theory, a statistical method to evaluate the dependability of data. A total of 25 middle and high school aged students were rated by three types of raters (parent, teacher, and iv student self-report) using the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale (Epstein & Pierce, in press). Results from the study indicated that when evaluating information from all three rater types together, the student rater significantly impacted the overall understanding of the needs of the students and therefore could impact service implementation and goal development for the student. Results also showed disagreement among rater types based on gender alone. Finally, certain student characteristics were at least partly responsible for some of the raters’ inconsistencies in scoring. Results have implications for the development of assessment protocols for raters.

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