Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Reading Instruction in the Resource Room: Set Up for Failure

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Reading Instruction in the Resource Room: Set Up for Failure

Article excerpt

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that students with disabilities will be provided "specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability" (20 USC 1401.25 et seq.). When special education services were mandated in 1975 and schools began to implement programs to provide students with specially designed programs, many schools began to pull students out of the general education classroom into resource rooms. The intent of these "pullout" programs was to provide a setting where teachers could work with students either in small groups or individually, and thus provide them with an intensive, individualized program of study.

There is mounting evidence that many students with disabilities are not provided this specialized instruction, particularly in reading. Despite the importance of reading and the fact that most students with learning disabilities (LD) require specialized instruction in reading, students spend very little of their school day (less than 10%) reading and teachers spend little time directly teaching reading (averaging about 16 min; Leinhardt, Weidman, & Hammond, 1987). Though findings vary by study, they report the failure of programs to provide specialized instruction in reading (e.g., Allington & McGill-Franzen, 1989; Haynes & Jenkins, 1986; Ysseldyke, Thurlow, Mecklenburg, & Graden, 1984). There is a notable exception in a study of model reading interventions where both the intervention and comparison groups exceeded results from previous studies (Marston, Deno, Kim, Diment, & Rogers, 1995).

Findings from a recent study designed to examine the reading instruction and grouping practices provided for students with LD by special education teachers in resource room settings (Vaughn, Moody, & Schumm, 1998) indicated that little individualized instruction was provided. Teachers provided primarily whole group reading instruction to relatively large groups of students (5 to 19) and little differentiated instruction or materials were provided despite the wide range (3 to 5 grade levels) of reading abilities that were represented. Additionally, most teachers taught reading much like they were instructing a whole class of "general education students," and they provided little instruction that addressed word recognition or specific reading comprehension strategies. These critically low levels of reading comprehension strategy instruction were also reported by Pressley and colleagues (Pressley, Wharton-McDonald, Hampston, & Echevarria, 1997) in 10 fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms.

In a study in kindergarten classrooms, Durkin (1990) found that teachers had a difficult time matching classroom instruction with reading abilities. Durkin notes:

   Use of whole class instruction was the practice even when differences in
   children's abilities were so great as to be obvious to anyone willing to
   take but a few minutes to observe. Such differences meant that some
   children kept hearing what they already knew; for others, the observed
   lesson was too difficult and proceeded too quickly. (p. 24)

Allington, Stuetzel, Shake, and Lamarch (1986) reported that even when the class sizes of remedial reading programs were as small as 3 to 6 students, teachers often reverted to using whole-group instruction. Slavin, in his review of the literature on class size (1990), suggested that the reason reducing class size does not appear to affect student outcomes until one-to-one ratios are reached is because teachers do not change their instruction when group size decreases.

In addition to working with students in small groups or individually, teachers might also be expected to "meet the unique needs of a child with a disability" by providing materials at the student's instructional level. This notion of providing texts at the instructional level of the student is fundamental to our basic understanding about teaching and learning, and certainly essential for providing a special education (Gersten & Dimino, 1993; Mather, 1992). …

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