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A survey study examined the perceptions of 484 kindergarten teachers in one midwestern state regarding language and literacy development, roles and responsibilities of speech-language pathologists (SLP), and teacher-delivered interventions in the classroom. Quantitative and qualitative findings from a 36-item survey revealed that the majority of respondents had professional preparation, appreciated the importance of language development, recognized some indications of atypical language development in young children, and supported language development in their classrooms. Furthermore, participants had positive impressions of SLPs' expertise. Although educators and SLPs face challenges in collaborating to serve children with language-based literacy problems, findings suggested teachers were positive about their shared roles. Participants welcomed opportunities to collaborate with SLPs in areas of language and literacy.
Learning to read is widely considered to be the most important task for primary school students and is often given the highest priority in their schools (Braunger & Lewis, 1997; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Stone, Silliman, Ehren, & Apel, 2004). Learning to read proficiently in the primary grades is crucial for reading to learn in later grades (Blachman, 1994; Church, Feasler, & Bender, 1998; Fielding, 1999; Gallagher, 1999; Snow et al., 1998; Snow, Scarborough, & Burns, 1999; Yopp & Yopp, 2000). The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 set forth criteria for preschool programs that will "enhance children's early reading skills" (United States Department of Education, 2002, p. 28). It also provides incentives and requires sanctions for school districts with "the highest numbers or percentages of K-3 students reading below grade level" (p. 24). Though literacy skills are founded on and develop in conjunction with oral language skills and concepts (Clay, 1991; Fillmore & Snow, 2000; Kaderavek & Sulzby, 2002; Sanders, 2001; Scarborough, 1998), it is not clear whether early childhood educators are prepared or able to address language development in young children. The current study examined kindergarten teachers' perceptions of language and literacy development.
Alhough reading is a language-based skill and shares many of the same processes as spoken language (Carts & Kamhi, 2005), we refer to both spoken language and written language and literacy. Language is recognized as an essential tool for learning (Dixon-Krauss, 1996), and irregularities in language development are strongly correlated with difficulties in learning to read and write (Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999; Goldsworthy, 2002; Strickland, 2000) and poor academic performance (Butler, 1999). Proficient development in the literacy skills associated with reading and writing depends, to a great extent, on proficient development of the language skills associated with speaking and listening (Bochner, Price, & Jones, 1997; Britton, 1992; Fillmore & Snow, 2000; Kaderavek & Sulzby, 2002; Raban, 2001; Sanders, 2001; Scarborough, 1998; Stone et al., 2004). Not all young children, however, have sufficient phonological, morphological, or syntactic skills in the oral domain of speaking and listening to support the literacy demands of early elementary school (Clay, 1991; Paul-Brown, 1999; Sanders, 2001; Shriberg, Tomblin, & McSweeney, 1999). An estimated 5% to 12% of preschool children have language skills that are not developing typically (Friel-Patti, 1999; Law & Conti-Ramsden, 2000; Paul-Brown, 1999; Sanders, 2001; Shriberg et al., 1999).
Perceptions of Language and Literacy Development
It has been alleged that teachers of young children have limited knowledge of language development and, therefore, may not appreciate the significance of that development for literacy and other academic learning (Fillmore & Snow, 2000; Kavale & Reese, 1991; Moats, 1994; Moats & Lyon, 1996; Nolen, McCutchen, & Berninger, 1990). Until recently, professional guidelines for early childhood educators directed limited attention to the importance of language development through the preschool and primary grade years (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; Bredekamp & Rosengrant, 1992, 1995; Hyson, 2002; Moyer, 2001). Such a limited perspective could result in failure to recognize indications of delays and disorders in the oral language of children. Young children whose language is not developing typically might not receive appropriate support or intervention, might experience difficulty learning to read and write, and might struggle to meet academic expectations as they progress through the school years.
Roles and Responsibilities of Speech--Language Pathologists
As early as 2001, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) published the roles and responsibilities of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) with respect to reading and writing in children and adolescents (ASHA, 2001). ASHA acknowledged that SLPs should contribute important information and play a direct role in the development of literacy for children with communication disorders. The important roles that SLPs have in facilitating reading development have been well documented (DeKemel, 2003; Kamhi & Carts, 1999a; Staskowski & Zagaiski, 2003; Yess, 2002). For example, SLPs who address the needs of preschool and school-age children can provide crucial intervention strategies focusing on phonological awareness (Gillon, 2002). Moreover, they can play an important role in improving reading fluency (Kamhi, 2003). SLPs who understand language can contribute by helping teachers design reading programs for students with persistent language-learning difficulties (Berninger & Richards, 2002; DeKemel, 2003). Apel (2002) discussed how an SLP's background in language would be well suited to providing assessment and intervention services for children with literacy problems. According to Kamhi (2003), the role of SLPs in reading is not restrictive and can include contributions in planning, providing direct services, or serving as a collaborative consultant. Teachers need to understand the important roles of SLPs to plan collaboratively for children with
language-based literacy needs.
When persistent reading problems occur, early childhood educators need to collaborate with SLPs and consider the best instructional approaches to supplement the regular reading program. Teachers need to recognize that approaches focusing on phonological decoding can vary and consider that, for some low-achieving readers, explicit word recognition and explicit reading comprehension training represent viable instructional options (Berninger et al., 2003). It is crucial that early childhood educators realize the importance of oral language skills for literacy development and understand how to nurture young children's language development.
The purposes of this study were to provide an in-depth examination of how kindergarten teachers in one midwestern state perceive typical language and literacy development in young children, the roles and responsibilities of SLPs, and teacher-delivered interventions that support kindergarten students' language development. Two open-ended questions on kindergarten teachers' views about their experiences teaching language and literacy to young children and on the scope of the survey were included to provide qualitative information. Quantitative and qualitative findings from this research will provide information on why collaboration with kindergarten teachers is important for SLPs who address the needs of children with language and literacy problems.
A 36-item survey was developed for this study (see Appendix) after researchers reviewed the academic literature and searched databases of published survey instruments. Items for each section were drafted and presented to five experts in survey research and instrument design and four professionals in language development. The suggestions from these individuals guided revisions in developing the items and the selection and elimination of particular items for inclusion in the questionnaire. This recursive process extended over 6 weeks until consensus was attained on 40 items. Although there is no universal standard for the number of experts to be consulted during the determination of content validity, the participation of nine specialists protected against the likelihood that their agreement was due solely to chance (Lynn, 1986/1999; Sapsford, 1999). A combination of response formats was included to encourage and facilitate participation and to elicit comments from respondents (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1984/1999; Morse, 1991/1999; Sapsford, 1999). Several items included multiple parts and could have more than one response from a single participant.
In the first section, six items provided information about the participants' background. The second section included five items addressing professional training and job-related experiences working with SLPs. Background, professional preparation in language and literacy, and participants' experiences with SLPs had check-all-that-apply and fill-in formats. The third section contained 23 Likert-type statements accompanied by a 5-point scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree with the midpoint of the scale corresponding to neither agree nor disagree. Likert-type items addressed participants' perceptions of language and literacy development, the roles and responsibilities of SLPs, and teacher-delivered classroom interventions to support young children's language development. Items were written to reflect or contradict typical development within the first 5 years of life as presented in professional resources for SLPs and early childhood educators. Likert-type items regarding roles and responsibilities of SLPs and classroom-based interventions to support children's language development were based on recommendations for best practice by clinicians (ASHA, 2001; Bunce, 1993; Fillmore & Snow, 2000; Paul-Brown, 1999; Sandall, McLean, Milagros Santos, & Smith, 2000; Weismer, 2002). The fourth section included two open-ended questions about participants' experiences teaching language and literacy to children and about the scope of the survey.
A pilot study was conducted with eight early childhood educators to discuss the design and organization of the survey, the content, and the amount of time involved in completing the instrument. Information from these participants was used to develop the final version of the survey.
Participants and Procedures
Surveys were mailed to all 1036 kindergarten teachers in public and private or parochial schools in a midwestern state in April 2002. A cover letter invited participants to complete the survey and return it using a preaddressed, stamped envelope included in the packet. A follow-up mailing was completed in May to encourage nonrespondents to participate in the study. The final number of participants included 484 subjects resulting in a 46.68% rate of return.
Some participants did not respond to every item, resulting in varied sample sizes across the questions. Data were computed on the total number of questionnaires returned (N = 484), and "no responses" were considered in the calculations. Responses to background information and professional preparation items were descriptively analyzed.
On the Likert-type items, overall means provided an indication of agreement or disagreement with the survey statements. Means ranging from 1.00 to 2.49 were interpreted as agreement with a survey statement; means ranging from 2.50 to 3.50 were interpreted as a neutral response, and means ranging from 3.51 to 5.00 were interpreted as disagreement with a survey statement (with 1 = strongly agree and 5 = strongly disagree). A summary of data from the two open-ended questions was analyzed by a modified qualitative procedure reported by Moustakas (1994). First, the primary researcher read through the text of all responses to each open-ended question to gain an initial understanding of the comments expressed. Notes were made about the comments to summarize the main ideas. Responses to each of the questions were analyzed by listing all of the descriptive statements and ideas included in the participants' comments. From this information, all redundant and similar responses were grouped together and categorized to develop a list of nonrepetitive statements. These nonrepetitive statements were referred to as significant statements or invariant constituents and were used to develop the core themes. The themes from the combined two questions reflected the recurring ideas found in the list of significant statements compiled by the primary researcher. Reliability was established by two of the researchers who independently analyzed the descriptive and significant statements. Consensus was established between the two researchers.
Although the significant statements appear in Table 3 only once, each paraphrases comments by many respondents. Frequency data on the descriptive statements and ideas according to the percentage of teacher respondents who wrote about each theme are presented. Furthermore, the percentage of descriptive statements and ideas included in each theme was calculated to determine the frequency with which they occurred among the total comments.
Respondents included 484 kindergarten teachers. Data pertaining to their demographic characteristics and professional background are presented in Table 1. Varied sample sizes are due to unmarked items on some surveys and to the check-all-that-apply format of certain items. Findings indicated that 97.10% (n = 470) were women and 1.86% (n = 9) were men, with 5 participants not responding. The majority of participants (63.43%, n = 307) identified themselves as White; less than one percent (0.83%, n = 4) reported Hispanic, Black, and other ethnic backgrounds. The remainder did not respond. Most of the respondents (82.02%, n = 397) indicated that they currently were teaching in small towns, cities, suburbs, or urban settings; few were teaching in rural settings (10.74%, n = 52). The vast majority of respondents had been employed in education for more than 5 years, with a range from more than 5 years to less than 30 years; approximately 15% had been employed in education less than 5 years.
Two thirds of the respondents (65.29%, n = 316) indicated that their highest degree attained was a bachelor's degree. One third (34.50%, n = 167) had completed a master's degree. One fifth of the respondents (n = 112) had completed their highest degree …