Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Collaborative Strategic Reading for Students with Learning Disabilities in Upper Elementary Classrooms

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Collaborative Strategic Reading for Students with Learning Disabilities in Upper Elementary Classrooms

Article excerpt

Reading to understand, to learn, and to stay connected via technology are essential life skills. Yet for many students with learning disabilities (LD), understanding text remains an elusive goal. Increasingly, general education teachers are responsible for improving reading comprehension for all learners--including those with disabilities. In fact, more than two thirds of students with LD spend most of their day in general education classrooms (National Center for Education Statistics, 2014), whereas only a decade ago less than 50% of students with LD were included to the same extent. In addition, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (2006) recommends that students with disabilities are educated in the least restrictive environment and as much as possible with their peers without disabilities. Yet, although the amount of time students with LD spend in general education classrooms has increased steadily over time, their academic achievement continues to be far behind that of their peers without disabilities (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014).

Further, initiatives such as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS; National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010) call for increasing rigor with a particular emphasis on engaging students with challenging expository text. Instructional models supporting struggling readers in general education classrooms are needed to help students increase their reading comprehension outcomes and facilitate access to high-level texts. The current study examined the influence of using a set of reading comprehension strategies, Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR; Klingner, Vaughn, Boardman, & Swanson, 2012) in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms compared to a business-as-usual comparison group who used their typical instructional strategies. Specifically, we were interested in the influence of CSR on the reading achievement of students with LD who participated in grade-level reading instruction in their general education classrooms. This study extends existing CSR research by increasing the sample size of students and teachers under investigation and by looking closely at grade levels that have had mixed results in other CSR studies, some in favor of students who receive CSR (Klingner, Vaughn, & Schumm, 1998) and others that have shown no differences between CSR and typical instruction (Hitchcock, Dimino, Kurki, Wilkins, & Gersten, 2010). In addition, we use fidelity of implementation measures to look closely at the similarities and differences across conditions to establish how implementation of CSR in authentic classrooms settings compares with instruction in classrooms without CSR.

Reading comprehension has been described as "the most critical skill students need to be successful in school" (Watson, Gable, Gear, & Hughes, 2012, p. 80), and conceptual, subject-matter knowledge is enhanced when students are able to access and understand text (Reed & Vaughn, 2012). Yet, for students who have difficulty understanding what they read, focusing on mechanisms for enhancing text-based reading comprehension is essential to improve overall understanding (Kamil et ah, 2008; McKeown, Beck, & Blake, 2009). As noted by the RAND Reading Study Group (2002), "because meaning does not exist in text, but rather must be actively constructed, instruction in how to employ strategies is necessary to improve comprehension" (p. 32)

Nearly four decades of research has confirmed that reading comprehension is a cognitively demanding task that requires individuals to actively construct meaning by self-monitoring and applying tactics to facilitate understanding throughout the reading process (e.g., Duke, Pearson, Strachan, & Billman, 2011; Kendeou, van de Broek, Helder, & Karlsson, 2014). It can be challenging for teachers to teach students who are poor readers to enact the reading comprehension practices that are often used effortlessly by more capable readers. …

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