Ohleyer, A. A. (2016). Elementary tech: Assistive technology, specific learning disability, and state standardized testing (Publication No. 10076360) [Doctoral dissertation, Capella University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.


Ohleyer, A. A. (2016). Elementary tech: Assistive technology, specific learning disability, and state standardized testing (Publication No. 10076360) [Doctoral dissertation, Capella University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.


Capella University (MN)


Elementary; Extended time; Learning disabilities; Middle school; Multiple ages; Oral delivery of directions only; Technological aid; U.S. context; Writing



Assessment score effects were analyzed for assistive technology—defined as response accommodations built into the communication interface between students and the writing assessment, including keyboards, laptops, speech to text software, and word prediction features, but without grammar checking tools. The researcher specified that data were excluded for tests on which translated oral script, word-to-word dictionary, and nonstandard accommodations were used. The impact of using assistive technology was separately compared to testing without accommodations as well as to testing with directions (only) read aloud, with extended time, and with oral script (apparently all instructions and items read aloud in person by test administrators). The researcher also examined the impact of assistive technology on growth scores across grades, and the use of assistive technology by students with learning disabilities longitudinally across their attendance in grades 4, 5, and 6.


Students with learning disabilities using assistive technology in grade 4, grade 5, or grade 6 during writing assessments in 2010–2012 in Colorado comprised the longitudinal dataset. These participants, totaling 155 unique individuals, included 23 grade 4 students, 41 grade 5 students, and 91 grade 6 students. Other demographic details about the population (7,225 students with learning disabilities taking the writing assessment in this state) and the sample were reported, including gender, race, and the free or reduced lunch status as proxy for socioeconomic status. None of the participants were English learners; the researcher provided detail about the data exclusion process.

Dependent Variable

The dependent variables were two sets of performance data from the state writing assessment in Colorado. A complex sampling process was used for the two-part data analysis. Part One used an extant dataset of 315 scaled scores (representing 315 unique individuals) from the state writing assessment in Colorado across grades 4, 5, and 6 (i.e., random sampling without replacement). Scaled scores were based on writing performance on a continuous variable across the three grade levels of writing, and categorized into four levels of proficiency: unsatisfactory, partially proficient, proficient, and advanced. Part Two drew writing assessment scores from 155 students with learning disabilities who used assistive technology for at least one test in the 2010, 2011, or 2012 state writing assessment. [Note: only two students used assistive technology across all three grades.] Various longitudinal comparisons were made, between when students used, or did not use, assistive technology or other accommodations. These growth percentile scores, calculated by the state, were used in Part Two's analyses: Median Growth Percentile and Adequate Growth Percentile—where growth was calculated using prior achievement (versus change over time).


Four research questions were presented in this dissertation. The first three research questions examined accommodation type and scaled scores across fourth, fifth, and sixth grade levels. The fourth research question examined differences in growth scores by use of assistive technology. Accommodation type, specifically assistive technology and read-aloud directions (by administrator), significantly affected scaled scores but grade level did not. Consecutive use of assistive technology across two years predicted higher growth scores on the state assessment, compared to growth scores of students who did not use assistive technology for two consecutive years. Assistive technology and growth scores were positively correlated with one another. In the process of analyzing data, the researcher noted accommodations use patterns. The researcher observed that students in grade 3 tended not to use assistive technology for state writing assessments, due in part to their limited experience with using assistive technology for writing in the classroom (and so the researcher excluded that student population from the study). Of the 7,225 students with learning disabilities, 59% used oral script, 12% used extended time, 8% used directions (only) read aloud, 2% used assistive technology, and less than 2% used scribe. The researcher reported details about the demographic patterns for users of accommodations, noting that students with learning disabilities using assistive technology tended to be more likely male, White, and not from the low-SES group of students, in relation to the sample as a whole. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.