Archive for the 'Elementary' Category

Are read alouds cheating?

Over on his Science and Education blog, Dan Willinghom, a friend of LD Blog, posted an intriguing examination of this question: “Is Listening to an audio book ‘Cheating?’” Consistent with Professor Willingham’s perspective, he takes a cognitive psychology look at this question. It’s worth reading.

He says he’s heard this question often, and I wonder whether there’s been a hint of objection to the idea of having students listen to audio books. Now maybe it is just about whether one is slighting her- or himself by listening to books on tape.

But, I wonder whether at least some of the objection to listening to audio books being a form of cheating reflects concern about children who receive special treatment in school testing situations. I can imagine a conversation in which a parent might say, “I heard that the Smith’s boy gets to have a teacher read the test to him. And it’s not just the story, but the teacher also reads the answers, too!”

Parents of students with disabilities will recognize this situation as a “read-aloud accommodation.” (People who conduct a lot of research on accommodations such as Rogers, Lazarus, and Thurlow, 2016, refer to read-alouds as “oral delivery,” by the way.) Whether they are called “read alouds” or “oral presentations,” these accommodations are pretty common. They were provided to approximately 33% of secondary students with disabilities who took standardized tests in the early 2000s, according to a report by the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (2004).

Does having someone read test content and items convey an unfair advantage? Ahh, herein lies a rub. Two meta-analyses (Buzick & Stone, 2014; Li, 2014) both reached similar conclusions. Studies that compared the effects of oral presentation for individuals with disabilities and those without disabilities found that “read alouds” helped the students with disabilities and those without disabilities, but they helped those with disabilities significantly more. The benefits were more substantial in reading or language arts areas than in arithmetic or mathematics areas.

So, is it cheating for those students who do not have fluent decoding skills? Apparently, it allows them to show what they know and can do when the handicap is removed.

For my money, the evidence is also a strong argument for doing a very good job of teaching decoding skills very well right from the beginning, thereby eliminating or reducing that handicap.


Buzick, H., & Stone, E. (2014). A meta‐analysis of research on the read aloud accommodation. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 33(3), 17-30.

Li, H. (2014). The effects of read‐aloud accommodations for students with and without disabilities: A meta‐analysis. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 33(3), 3-16.

National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (2004, April). Standardized testing among secondary school students with disabilities. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.

Rogers, C. M., Lazarus, S. S., & Thurlow, M. L. (2016). A summary of the research on the effects of test accommodations: 2013-2014 (NCEO Report 402). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.

Function-based interventions for LD?

Most readers are likely familiar with the idea that one can, by carefully assessing the antecedents and consequences of a problem behavior, essentially determine what is causing that problem behavior to occur. Given that at least some—many?—students with Learning Disabilities (LD) have some problem-some behaviors, wouldn’t it be cool if there was an evidence base about using functional analysis techniques to document development of procedures for addressing the problem behaviors of students with LD?

In “A Systematic Review of Function-Based Interventions for Students with Learning Disabilities,” Professor John McKenna and his colleagues examined the research literature in search of that very evidence base. They were able to locate only a few studies that met the most rigorous standards, but those studies allowed them to conclude that this idea is a promising one. Here’s the source and the abstract with a hot DOI. I think the publisher (Wiley) may be allowing public access to the entire article, so try clicking on the PDF to download it. (I can’t tell, ’cause I’m working from my office, which has free access anyway; drop a comment to let me know.)

McKenna, J. W., Flower, A., Kim, M. K., Ciullo, S., & Haring, C. (2015). A systematic review of function-based interventions for students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 30, 15-28. DOI:10.1111/ldrp.12049

Students with learning disabilities (LD) experience pervasive academic deficits requiring extensive academic intervention; however, they may also engage in problem behaviors that adversely affect teaching and learning, thus lessening the potential impact of specialized instruction and supports. The learning deficits of students with LD are prevalent in the extant research, but behavioral needs appear to receive less attention. The authors report the results of a systematic review investigating the evidence-base for function-based interventions for students with LD using the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) criteria for evaluating single-case studies. Fourteen studies with 17 participants met inclusion criteria, with the majority occurring in elementary settings. Although interventions tended to be effective, few included maintenance and generalization measures. Because of the small number of studies (n = 4) that met WWC design and effectiveness standards, the authors conclude that function-based interventions, although promising, cannot currently be considered an evidence-based practice for students with LD. Implications for practice, areas for future research, and study limitations are reported.

Block those bullies

Language Warning!
Do not click play if the words n- – – – or
f- – – – offend you.

As the beginning of school approaches, many schools will be considering what to do about bullying, a problem the plagues many students with Learning Disabilities (LD). But, what do we know about the connections between special ed and bullying? Can bullying mess up a student’s IEP? Here’s a little background and some suggested resources.

As one might suspect, one of the difficulties for students with LD is that they are perceived as victims of bullies. Nabuzoka and Smith’s (1993) analysis of sociometric data from ~180 pre-adolescent students, about 20% of whom had LD, showed that those with LD were more likely to be victims of bullying than their non-disabled peers, despite not being judged more aggressive. Estell et al. (2009) reported that teachers considered fifth-grade students with high-incidence disabilities likely to be victims of bullies. However, both teachers and the students’ peers rated them to as likely to be bullies. Those students with disabilities who behaved aggressively were the ones who were more likely to be nominated as bullies.
Continue reading ‘Block those bullies’

Testing fraud of a different sort

In a puzzling case of a student who appears to have had problems throughout the primary grades and did not get help until fourth grade, Liz Ditz asks the question, How Often Does This Happen? Teacher accused of testing fraud to avoid special education referral for her student. Not until the parents had pushed for years were the child’s problems recognized. Was this a well-meaning, but misguided teacher? Has anti-LD sentiment become so strong that folks cheat to keep kids from having the label?

Paul Morris’s materials

Wishing folks a happy MLK Day!

For those teachers who frequent these pages and don’t know about Paul Morris, the author of 101 Language Activities, please allow me to encourage you to scoot on over to Free Language Stuff and explore his site. Yes, you read the adjectives correctly. The first adjective does mean “at no cost.” Mr. Morris makes available for free lots and lots of materials that teachers can use for teaching language skills.
Continue reading ‘Paul Morris’s materials’