Objective: To examine the cross-grade stability of clinically elevated teacher ratings of inattentive symptoms in 3 samples of elementary schoolchildren.
Participants and Methods: Samples 1 and 2 included 27 first graders and 24 fourth graders, respectively, identified based on clinically elevated teacher ratings of inattentive symptoms. The third sample included 28 children in grades 1 to 4 from the Multimodal Treatment Study of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder Study) with a confirmed attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosis. Teacher ratings of inattentive symptoms were completed an average of 12 to 14 months apart so that cross-grade stability of elevated ratings could be computed for each sample.
Results: In all 3 samples, clinically elevated ratings persisted for less than 50% of children and between 25% and 50% had ratings that declined to within the normative range. The decline in attention difficulties was not related to hyperactivity, oppositional behavior, or anxiety at baseline, nor was it explained by children beginning medication treatment.
Conclusions: Many elementary-aged children rated by their teachers as highly inattentive are not considered to demonstrate these problems the following year, even children with a confirmed attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosis. The instability in clinically elevated teacher ratings found across 3 independent samples highlights the importance of annual reevaluations to avoid treating children for problems that may no longer be present.