Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Efficacy of a Reading Intervention for Middle School Students with Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Efficacy of a Reading Intervention for Middle School Students with Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

Over the past 2 decades, considerable attention has focused on beginning reading instruction, including an emphasis on designing and implementing effective interventions to prevent reading problems in young children (Fletcher, Lyon, Fuchs, & Barnes, 2007; Torgesen, Rose, Lindamood, Conway, & Garvan, 1999; Vellutino, Scanlon, Small, & Fanuele, 2006; Wanzek & Vaughn, 2011). Findings from these studies have provided a foundation for designing appropriate instruction for students with reading difficulties and disabilities with an aim toward preventing reading problems. Despite their documented effectiveness, these interventions have either been

inadequately implemented or are insufficient to prevent reading difficulties in older students. To illustrate, although recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007) data showed a slight gain in fourth- and eighth-grade reading comprehension scores since 1992, 26% of students still read below basic--which means that they cannot understand grade-level text.

Remediation of reading difficulties in older students may require considerable intensity and differentiation of instruction. A significant problem is that intensive, small-group instruction provided by highly skilled teachers is an expensive and infrequently applied instructional practice within most educational settings (Vaughn, Levy, Coleman, & Bos, 2002; Vaughn, Moody, & Schumm, 1998). Therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that the few available studies of students who receive special education services show flat levels of growth and little evidence that interventions through special education actually close the achievement gap (Bentum & Aaron, 2003; Foorman et al., 1997; Hanushek, Kain, & Rivkin, 1998; Torgesen et al., 2001).

Beyond inclusion, resource rooms, and other standard special education practices, there is relatively little research on reading interventions for middle school students with reading disabilities. In 2007, Scammacca and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of reading intervention studies with older students with reading disabilities. There were 17 studies examining interventions for students with learning disabilities (LD) that met criteria for the meta-analysis. The interventions in these studies were brief (all but one was conducted for less than 15 hr of intervention) and 15 of the studies used researcher-developed measures that were associated with higher effects than the standardized measures. The majority of the interventions addressed the reading components of vocabulary and comprehension. Overall, the authors identified several key findings from their analyses about reading interventions for older students with LD:

* Students demonstrated gains from the interventions with large effect sizes reported for reading comprehension on researcher-developed outcome measures; however, it was not possible to determine the extent to which these gains actually resulted in overall advancement--meaning that students were closing the gap with typical readers--or merely making gains relative to comparison but not actual normative progress.

* Students benefited from a range of intervention types including word- and text-level interventions as well as vocabulary and comprehension interventions.

* There were an inadequate number of experimental studies, conducted over extensive time (> 10 hr of intervention) and utilizing standardized measures as outcomes.

Recently, a practice guide (Kamil et al., 2008) provided a summary of effective practices for adolescent literacy broadly, not specifically for students with LD or reading difficulties. They identified three practices that had strong research evidence: (a) providing explicit vocabulary instruction, (b) providing direct and explicit comprehension instruction, and (c) providing intensive and individualized interventions by trained specialists. …

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