Creating Opportunities for Intensive Intervention for Students with Learning Disabilities

By Fuchs, Lynn S.; Fuchs, Douglas | Teaching Exceptional Children, November/December 2009 | Go to article overview

Creating Opportunities for Intensive Intervention for Students with Learning Disabilities


Fuchs, Lynn S., Fuchs, Douglas, Teaching Exceptional Children


With the last reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, also known as No Child Left Behind or NCLB), special education research exerted a major influence on general education. We see this influence in a variety of ways. For example, the explicitness of reading instruction in the primary grades increased substan- tially, with prominent special educa- tion researchers authoring many of the major commercially published core reading programs. Also, multilevel pre- vention systems championed by spe- cial education policy makers, adminis- trators, and researchers were intro- duced within responsiveness to inter- vention (RTI) and Reading First, which restructured service delivery toward the prevention of reading difficulties. In addition, the use of curriculum- based measurement became wide- spread for screening to identify aca- demic risk and for progress monitoring to assess responsiveness to instruction. You might say that special educators have been busy in the last decade reforming general education. And as special educators, we should take sat- isfaction in having played an impor- tant role in shaping recent education reform in this country. At the same time, the education of students with disabilities has benefitted in important ways from the reading instruction innovations associated with NCLB and Reading First, from IDEA'S early intervening prevention services, and from IDEA'S emphasis on the general education curriculum.

Even so, the academic outcomes of students with learning disabilities (LD), who are the focus of this article, are far from satisfactory. Consider the following data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2; Wagner, Marder et al., 2003; Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Levine, & Marder, 2003).

* Forty percent of students with LD have general education teachers who receive no information about their instructional needs, and only 11% of students with LD receive substantial modifications to the general education curriculum.

* This is the case despite that the academic achievement of students with LD is dramatically below grade level in reading and math. On average, by the time they are at the secondary level, (hey are 3.4 years behind their grade-level in reading; 3.2 years behind in math. Clearly, the magnitude of these academic deficiencies raises important questions about the lack of important substantive accommodations to the general education curriculum and the lack of guidance provided to general education teachers in meeting students' needs.

* It is not surprising, therefore, that in 2007, one quarter of students with LD dropped out of school.

* And concern about this unacceptable graduation rate seems appropriate as the proportion of jobs that require at least some postsecondary education is steadily increasing. In fact, in 2007, only 46% of students with LD had regular paid employment within 2 years of leaving school.

These sobering data, which are echoed in the 2008 Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS) report (Schiller, Sanford, & Blackorby, 2008), are corroborated by some projections that, with implementation of alternate assessments based on modified academic standards (AAMAS), some states anticipate that 45% of students with disabilities are likely to qualify and take the AA-MAS (Steve Elliott, personal communication, August 20, 2009) ; this is roughly the equivalent of 6% of the general population of students participating in this new feature of the accountability system. And this 6% is projected even though the federal government prohibits states from reporting annual yearly progress for more than 2 % of students as proficient or advanced based on the AA-MAS. Although students with LD do not comprise all of this 6%, it's safe to assume that they are well represented in this group.

So how did policy makers initially formulate the 2% cap for the 2% alternate assessment? …

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Creating Opportunities for Intensive Intervention for Students with Learning Disabilities
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