Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Mathematics Instructional Practices and Assessment Accommodations by Secondary Special and General Educators

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Mathematics Instructional Practices and Assessment Accommodations by Secondary Special and General Educators

Article excerpt

Educational reforms in the United States continue to place increasingly higher demands on youth with and without disabilities. These demands are measured through mandatory district and state assessments that directly affect whether or not students graduate (Gagnon & McLaughlin, 2004). For example, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2001) includes a focus on high standards and accountability for student learning. The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (1997) assures that students with special needs are also included in current educational reform via mandated access to the general education curriculum to the greatest extent possible and participation in assessments with accommodations, as needed. Subsequently, general and special educators are faced with the task of assisting youth with disabilities, including those with learning disabilities (LD) and emotional/behavioral disorders (E/BD), to achieve maximum benefit from the curriculum and progress toward academic goals.

Provisions within NCLB (2001) and IDEA (1997) also increase the expectations of teachers. To assist students with special needs, teachers must have the knowledge and training to provide effective instructional practices and assessment accommodations. For example, in the area of mathematics, teachers are expected to provide effective instruction on curriculum that addresses higher level math skills and encompasses open-ended, problem-solving tasks (see Maccini & Gagnon, 2000) as set forth by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards (NCTM, 2000). Currently, 42 states (Blank & Dalkilic, 1992, as noted in Thurlow, 2000) have developed state math standards consistent with NCTM.

The use of effective instructional procedures and testing accommodations are critical because most youth with LD and E/BD experience difficulty acquiring and retaining math skills, such as algebraic reasoning skills (Maccini, McNaughton, & Ruhl, 1999) and basic skills/computational skills (Algozzine, O'Shea, Crews, & Stoddard, 1987). These students also have difficulty passing math tests aligned with state standards (Thurlow, Albus, Spicuzza, & Thompson, 1998). For example, Thurlow and colleagues determined that 83% of nondisabled eighth-grade students passed a Basics Standards Math Test, in comparison to 42% of students with E/BD and 34% of students with LD.

Given the difficulties that most students with LD and E/BD experience with mathematics, it is important to identify the instructional practices and assessment accommodations that help these students succeed in math. In this article, instructional practices refer to both empirically validated and recommended practices for teaching math to students with LD and/or E/BD. Empirically validated and recommended instructional practices and assessment accommodations are defined and discussed relative to the literature and the purpose of the current study.


As mandated by IDEA (1997), students with disabilities should have access to the general education curriculum and are entitled to empirically validated instructional practices that help them succeed. Empirically validated practices refer to research-based approaches to teaching math skills (Wilson, Majsterek, & Jones, 2001). Maccini and Gagnon (2000) determined that special and general education teachers of secondary students with LD and E/BD noted using a number of empirically validated approaches for teaching math to these students. These approaches included the following: (a) use of objects for conceptual understanding; (b) peer or cross-age tutoring strategies; and (c) organizational strategies for retention (e.g., cue cards of strategy steps, graphic organizers, mnemonics, and time for additional practice).

Maccini and Gagnon (2000) also found that teachers noted using other instructional practices with students with LD and E/BD in math: (a) use of calculators; (b) assignment modifications (i. …

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