Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Can Students with LD Become Competent Writers?

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Can Students with LD Become Competent Writers?

Article excerpt

Abstract. The inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education curriculum and in district and state assessment programs has major implications for instruction because many of these students are expected to earn standard high-school diplomas and to meet the same standards as their typically achieving peers. This is especially problematic in the area of writing, which involves the use of many complex skills. This article reviews the research associated with a group of instructional programs on writing strategies that are part of the Learning Strategies Curriculum developed by researchers associated with the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. The research shows that students with disabilities can learn to use complex writing strategies to such an extent that they can write multi-paragraph themes appropriate for general education classes and that enable them to pass district and state competency tests.

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The 1997 Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (P.L. 107-15) brought about a very significant shift in how the quality of educational services on behalf of individuals with disabilities will be judged. That is, the focus shifted from processes to ensure adequate services were available for individuals with disabilities to producing positive outcomes for students with disabilities. In order to ensure that programming would focus on educational outcomes, the new law mandated the participation of students with disabilities in the general education curriculum (Goertz, McLaughlin, Roach, & Raber, 2000) and required that students with disabilities be included in district and statewide assessments and in other accountability programs (Kearns, Kleinert, Clayton, Burdge, & Williams, 1998; Kleinert, Kennedy, & Kearns, 1999). Similarly, the 1994 Improving America's Schools Act also called for the reporting of assessment results of students with disabilities along with other student results.

Around the same time that these two significant pieces of legislation were enacted, a growing number of states were specifying sets of curriculum standards that could be used to organize and design instruction as well as to judge the performance of students. Currently, all states have curriculum standards, and the vast majority also have procedures for administering assessments statewide. Nearly all of the states assess student competence in reading and mathematics, and 35 states include assessments in writing and science (Council of Chief State School Officers, 1999).

The inclusion of students with disabilities in the instruction provided through the general education curriculum and in district and state assessment programs has major implications for the entire field of special education. The implications are especially significant for students who are classified as having a learning disability (LD) because many of these students are expected to earn regular high school diplomas and to meet the same standards as their typically achieving peers. Since nearly half of the school population with disabilities is included in the LD category, educators face a major challenge with regard to ensuring that these students succeed. While increasing numbers of students with disabilities are being educated according the requirements of the general education curriculum (U.S. Department of Education, 1999), a much smaller percentage of these students are being successful in passing district and statewide assessments (Olson, 2000). For example, in 2001, 91% of students with disabilities in the state of California failed the math section, and 82% failed the language arts portion of the high school exit examination (Egelko, 2002). Similarly, the National Center for Educational Outcomes reported that in 17 states a substantially smaller percentage of students with disabilities were able to meet state standards than the student population at large (Ysseldyke, Thurlow, Langenfield, Nelson, Teelucksingh, & Seyfarth, 1998). …

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