The Effects of School-Based Curricula on Reading Achievement of African American Males in Special Education

Article excerpt

Longitudinal research on reading curricula and skills that predict future reading achievement for African American males in special education is quite limited. Using a national sample over a five-year period, this study highlights reading skills most associated with later reading achievement for African American males in special education. For African American males in special education, findings show that prior comprehension ability is consistently associated with future reading comprehension after several years. Other commonly taught reading skills produced inconsistent results and were less reliable for African American males in special education, but more consistent for non-African American males in special education. Curricular implications and practices for these findings are discussed.

Large-scale studies focused on school-based reading curricula and teaching techniques, largely fail to include or adequately address the needs of African American males. A key concern related to the lack of inclusion of African American males in large-scale literacy studies is that large-scale studies are often used to influence educational policy and practices (see policies and standards in What Works Clearinghouse, 2008). Moreover, research has shown that literacy levels are linked to future achievement, student behavioral issues, and delinquency (Anderson, Howard, Graham, 2007; Geliert & Elbro, 1999; Kowaleski-Jones & Duncan, 1999).

Considering the literacy underachievement of African American males and the overrepresentation of African American males in special education (Anderson, 2007; Ebersole & Kapp, 2007; Hall, 2006; Hilliard, 2003; Washington, 2001; Watkins & Kurtz, 2001), this article will attempt to address literacy underachievement and African American males in special education by making contributions in four areas: first, the dearth of reading-related curricular studies that include substantial samples of African American students will be discussed; second, problems associated with the Report of the National Reading Panel (NRP): Teaching Children to Read, a major study that was used to frame current day reading-related curricula and teaching techniques will be presented (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NCIHD, 2000); third, a review of the literature regarding African American males in special education will be presented and assumptions associated with the NRP will be tested using a longitudinal, national sample of African American male students in special education. Finally, implications for school-based reading curricula and instructional techniques for African American males will be discussed.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

Reading-related Curriculum Research

Reading-related curricula and teaching research containing large samples of African American males are limited in the peer-reviewed public domain. In response to the need for more guidance to practice on reading interventions for African American males, this review synthesizes a select number of the experimental and quasi-experimental studies on reading conducted with African Americans from 1994-2004. The aforementioned period is critical for two reasons: (a) the years 1994-2004 cover the timeframe in which the NRP conducted their review of research which heavily influenced reading curricula in the United States, and (b) key reading-related studies primarily focusing on African Americans were identified and presented in the peer-reviewed literature during this period (see Lindo, 2006). A key contribution of Lindo's review is that her review focused solely on experimental or quasi-experimental studies published in peer-reviewed journals with a specific reading intervention of some sort. Furthermore, the purpose of her review was to document the small presence of African Americans included in empirical studies of this type. Specifically, out of three highly regarded peer-reviewed journals - Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Educational Psychology, and Scientific Studies in Reading - she found that from 1994-2004, 0. …