Tag Archive for 'instruction'

Moats on CCSS and LD

In the spring of 2012, Louisa Moats published an article in New Times for DLD, the newsletter of the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) of the Council for Exceptional Children, that presented concerns about the consequences of US states’ adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on the teaching and learning of students with Learning Disabilities. Moats, who is well-known for her work on early literacy and professional development, noted that the CCSS consists of goals that must be turned into curricula and lesson plans by others, and it is those instructional procedures that will be critical for students with or at risk of developing Learning Disabilities. Given how common students with Learning Disabilities, language problems, and other learning risks are, Moats said that instructional practices cannot leave mastery of fundamental skills up to incidental learning or embedded instruction.

With the recent promotion of the CCSS’ emphasis on informational text, complex text, reading aloud, and inquiry-based learning, the kind of instruction most necessary and beneficial for students with LD is getting very little emphasis in workshops, publications, and policy discussions. The teacher-directed, systematic, sequential, explicit approaches that work best for students with LD and learning challenges (Archer & Hughes, 2011) are receiving much less attention than they deserve, and the result will be lower student achievement, not higher.

Moats made additional points, including a strong appeal for advocating to prepare educators to teach literacy skills effectively. Interested readers can obtain a copy of the full copy of “Reconciling the CCSS with Realities of Learning Disabilities” from the DLD Web site, TeachingLD.org.

[Disclosure: I’m associated with DLD as a member, a former officer, and its executive director.]

Subtyping LD

Have you been hearing a lot about subtypes of LD lately? Perhaps it’s just that I’ve been especially alert to it, but it seems I’ve heard a lot of mentions about subtypes of Learning Disabilities in the last few weeks. I want to write a longer, more thorough discussion of the topic, but I’ve found myself repeating a few foundational comments, so I thought I ought to post them here and let others have a go at them.

First, the idea of subtypes of LD is essentially a given. It has to do with the heterogeneity of LD. Because LD is essentially an umbrella category for a diverse array of learning disabilities (note the plural), there are bound to be subgroups. Some students will have problems primarily with reading, some primarily with arithmetic and mathematics, some with writing, others with combinations of these. That makes for lots of subgroups right there. That is, one could start with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia!
Continue reading ‘Subtyping LD’

Reading comprehension help for ADHD high schoolers

In “Improving the Reading Recall of High School Students With ADHD,” Joseph W. Johnson, Robert Reid, and Linda H. Mason report the results of an intensive study in which they examined the effects of teaching high-school students a comprehension strategy as a part of a self-regulated strategy development model. They found that systematically preparing the students to use what they dubbed the “Think Before Reading” (TWA) strategy helped the students with recall of passages’ main ideas and details connected to them.

Students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often have difficulty with reading comprehension. This multiple baseline across participants design with multiple probes study examined the effectiveness of a multicomponent reading comprehension strategy (TWA: Think Before Reading, Think While Reading, Think After Reading) taught following the self-regulated strategy development model on social studies expository text recall of three high school students with ADHD. Results showed improvement in the number of main ideas and percentage of supporting details recalled. Gains were maintained and some improvement occurred at 2- and 4-week follow-ups. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.

Continue reading ‘Reading comprehension help for ADHD high schoolers’

Core standards and LD?

At a meeting I’m attending, folks are discussing the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Common Core State Standards Initiative. Here’s the basics:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.

>>snip< < These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards: * Are aligned with college and work expectations; * Are clear, understandable and consistent; * Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills; * Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards; * Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and * Are evidence-based.

What do readers think about the idea of common standards, especially with regard to students with Learning Disabilities? Good idea overall? Good idea for our kids? Good idea with reservations? What reservations? Send this puppy to the kennel? Why?

DLD fall conference is just around the corner

Check out the fine slate of workshop sessions available to registered guests at the annual “Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice” meeting of the Division for Learning Disabilities, which is to be held in Baltimore (MD, US) 29 and 30 October. Of course, I am biased, but I consider this one of the outstanding professional development opportunities of the year in learning disabilities, including the more specific disabilities such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and so forth (as well as related disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Continue reading ‘DLD fall conference is just around the corner’

Does RtI reduce numbers of children in special education?

In an article slated to appear in Remedial and Special Education, Jeanne Wanzek and Sharon Vaughn reported that widely popular three-tiered approach to addressing did not significantly reduce the number and percentage of students identified for special education across seven elementary schools. Their study, which is limited to the response to instruction or intervention in the primary and early elementary grades and focused primarily on academic intervention, revealed no significant reduction in identification of children as having Learning Disabilities, even though this group would be the most likely to benefit from such prevention efforts. Similarly, there were no differences in the proportion of students identified for special education according to ethnic background.
Continue reading ‘Does RtI reduce numbers of children in special education?’

Too common a concern?

At the Greenwich (CT, US) Time site, Colin Gustafson described a meeting where parents of students with disabilities expressed concern about the special education services their children received from the local schools. Under the headline “Parents voice rage over special education in meeting with Freund, Board of Ed chairman,” Mr. Gustafson reported some of the concerns parents raised and some of the responses from school administrators.

Parents’ frustration with the district’s handling of their children’s special education needs boiled over several times during a meeting with the school board chairman and superintendent Wednesday morning.

Many attendees said the families who strongly advocate for their children — even wage legal battles on their behalf — are too often labeled as “problem parents” and have their concerns dismissed by district administrators.

I wonder how many of these sorts of meetings occur but are not reported in the press. Perhaps some of the parents who read this blog can comment on how common these concerns are.

Read Mr. Gustafson’s report, “Parents voice rage over special education in meeting with Freund, Board of Ed chairman.”

Remediation changes brain structures

Writing in the journal Neuron, Timothy Keller and Marcel Just reported that they have found changes in children’s neural anatomy that appear to be a consequence of improved reading performance. Whereas previous studies, many of which I’ve mentioned in these posts, have shown changes in the blood flow in children’s brains as a consequence of reading instruction, the findings from Keller and Marcel showed that there are changes in the physical tissue in the brain following remedial reading instruction.

Continue reading ‘Remediation changes brain structures’

Miguel might show us what’s wrong

Under the headline, “Age-Old Problem, Perpetually Absent Solution: Fitting Special Education to Students’ Needs” in the Washington Post, Jay Mathews writes about the case of Miguel Landeros:

Miguel Landeros is a lanky, well-spoken 12-year-old about to begin seventh grade in Stafford County. He is severely learning disabled, with reading, writing and math skill levels at least two years below his peers, and needs special teaching, according to a licensed clinical psychologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and other specialists.

Last February, Stafford officials refused to accept that evaluation and left him in regular classes. He performed poorly, failing all core subjects. Recently, they promised to give him more specialized services, but not the ones the experts who examined him say he needs.

I admit that education writers in general, and I in particular, write very little about learning disabilities and the many failures of federally mandated public school programs to help students who have them. I often say the cases are so complicated I have difficulty translating them into everyday language, and even then readers struggle to understand.

Mr. Mathews’ admission of a lack of understanding about special education (in general) and Learning Disabilities (in particular) is unsurprising to me. Not only is there a lot to know (and, sadly, too often educators do not even know what there is to know), but lots of people who view educational issues through the lenses of finance, policy, and social justice simply don’t get (a) the evidence available about effective educational practices and (b) the personal side of education.

Had Miguel had early access to effective instructional practices, which have usually been more readily available in special education, during his early years of schooling, he probably would have at less substantial problems as he moves into middle school. Special education has been education’s reservoir for research about effective teaching methods over the past 20-30 years.

Dan Hallahan and I cited a series of innovations that emanated from LD (e.g., systematic monitoring of progress, explicit instruction in strategies for solving academic tasks) and are now widely adopted in education. In Michael Gerber’s memorable phrase, Learning Disabilities served as blue-green algae for education, forcing us to abandon antiquated notions of classification and instruction and move toward more flexible perspectives, just as blue-green algae precipitated a change from Linnaean taxonomy to classification based on evolution.

The case of Miguel illustrates how educators reject reasonable and evidence-based methods in favor of ideologically driven policies. In place of employing powerful instructional practices and adapting instruction to individuals, schools too often explain away students’ difficulties. They make what amount to excuses!

I have not seen the thick sheaf of papers that Miguel’s mother sent to Mr. Mathews, so I don’t know if that folder contains any of the following excuses for not serving Miguel. I suspect, however, that Kelli Castellino (Miguel’s mother) has heard some of them, and likely others:

  • “He’s just a boy; they mature differently”;
  • “He’ll get it when he decides to put his mind to it”;
  • “We don’t want him to have the stigma of special education”;
  • “He just needs a little extra time to finish things”;
  • “We can’t give every child a Cadillac education.”

(Parents and teachers, please feel free to add other examples to this list. Just drop ’em in the comments.)

In addition to the excuses, we educators often let ideology and half-truths trump the individual needs of children, which puts us at odds with parents. The innovation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was considering students with disabilities as individuals. Based on the unique educational needs of those students determined to be eligible, educators and parents are supposed to develop individualized education programs.

I suspect that Ms. Castellino also heard that (a) the least restrictive environment is a critical concern, (b) inclusion is the approach recommended by experts, (c) accommodations are all most students really need, (d) special education identification processes are subjective and arbitrary, (e) half of the students with LD don’t really have true disabilities, and more.

Many special educators, especially those in administrative positions, seem to have bought the idea that including everyone in general education is the goal. They point to the lesser outcomes for students with disabilities (e.g., higher failure rates on competency tests and greater chances of under- and unemployment after school, just to name a couple) and argue that those results are caused by special education’s separatistic and ineffective ways. For some unknown reason, they forget that there must have been something unique about the students that contributed to them being identified in the first place.

They also ignore the fact that some of the early, ardent advocates of inclusion have recanted. Take, for example, Mary Warnock’s change of position, as noted in this entry over on Teach Effectively:

Mary Warnock, the individual most responsible for promoting inclusionary policies and practices in Britain, has said that the effort to include students with disabilities in mainstream schools has “Has gone too far. It was a sort of bright idea of the 1970s but by now it has become a kind of mantra and it really isn’t working.”

For some students, inclusive schooling is just fine, but when it becomes the de facto standard, then it butts heads directly with IDEA’s foundational idea: individualization. When inclusion is invoked in cases such as Miguel’s, ideology trumps reason.

Mr. Matthews wondered whether a charter school for students with LD would be a solution. I suspect that one based on evidence about effective instructional procedures and practices (and there is plenty of research documenting them) would be beneficial for those students. But, those same methods could be put into practice in the public schools. A major impediment to doing so, in my estimation, is our current emphasis on how special education is something to be avoided, that it’s broken, wrong, misguided, and undesirable.

Another reason that the charter might work is that it might be freed from the shackles of ideologically-driven education. But I can already hear the howls about how awful such a school would be. The ideologues would complain that it was separatist, inconsistent with the real world, too expensive, and so forth.

Link to Mr. Matthews’ article.

Gerber, M. (2000). An appreciation of learning disabilities: The value of blue-green algae. Exceptionality, 8, 29-42.

Lloyd, J. W., & Hallahan, D. P. (2005). Going forward: How the field of learning disabilities has and will contribute to education. Learning Disability Quarterly, 28, 133-136.

JLD on professional development


JLD cover

The Journal of Learning Disabilities for September-October 2009 features a special series of articles about the teaching of reading teaching. Issue editors R. Malatesha Joshi and Anne E. Cunningham put together a set of articles by stellar authorities in the area of reading to examine “Perceptions and Reality: What We Know About the Quality of Literacy Instruction.”

Moats, L. (2009). Still wanted: Teachers with knowledge of language. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 387-391.

Joshi, R. M., Binks, E., Hougen, M., Dahlgren M. E., Ocker-Dean, E., & Smith, D. L. (2009). Why elementary teachers might be inadequately prepared to teach reading. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 392-402.[Link]

Podhajski, B., Mather, N., Nathan, J., & Sammons, J. (2009). Professional development in scientifically based reading instruction: Teacher knowledge and reading outcomes Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 403-417. [Link]

Cunningham, A. E., Zibulsky, J., Stanovich, K. E., & Stanovich, P. J. (2009). How teachers would spend their time teaching language arts: The mismatch between self-reported and best practices. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 418-430. [Link]

Spear-Swerling, L. (2009). A literacy tutoring experience for prospective special educators and struggling second graders. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 431-443. [Link]

Kaiser, L., Rosenfield, S., & Gravois, T. (2009). Teachers’ perception of satisfaction, skill development, and skill application after instructional consultation services. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 444-457.[Link]

Joshi, R. M., Binks, E., Graham, L., Ocker-Dean, E., Smith, D. L., & Boulware-Gooden, R. (2009). Do textbooks used in university reading education courses conform to the instructional recommendations of the National Reading Panel? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 458-463. [Link]

Stotsky, S. (2009). Licensure tests for special education teachers: How well they assess knowledge of reading instruction and mathematics. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 464-474. [Link]

Lyon, G. R., & Weiser, B. (2009). Teacher knowledge, instructional expertise, and the development of reading proficiency. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 475-480.[Link]