Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Reading Outcomes for Students with and without Reading Disabilities in General Education Middle-School Content Area Classes

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Reading Outcomes for Students with and without Reading Disabilities in General Education Middle-School Content Area Classes

Article excerpt

Abstract. Ten sixth-grade middle-school teachers and their 60 targeted students (14 students with reading disabilities, 17 low-achieving students, and 29 average-achieving students) participated in a four-month professional development and intervention program to enhance reading outcomes. The multicomponent reading intervention included three reading strategies: word identification, fluency, and content area comprehension. All three groups improved in accuracy of oral reading and fluency. Although many students made significant gains in word identification, fluency, and comprehension, a subgroup of very poor readers made little or no gains. Implications for enhancing outcomes for students with severe reading disabilities by providing intensive reading instruction (i.e., small-group explicit instruction) are provided.

Concern about students' reading abilities has been expressed at local, state, and national levels as well as in the broader political arena. President Clinton announced in a State of the Union address in 1996 that it was a national priority that every child read by the end of third grade. Many states including California, Texas, and Maryland have declared Reading Initiatives and are redesigning curricula and teacher standards. Additionally, early reading inventories are being developed in an attempt to better affect the quality of early reading practice and thus reading outcomes for youngsters.

Most, if not all, of these efforts aimed at improving reading have addressed the reading problems of students in kindergarten through third grade (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). There is good reason for this. Students who struggle with reading in the early grades are unlikely to improve considerably over time; fewer than one child in eight who is failing to read by the end of first grade ever catches up to grade level (Juel, 1988; Torgesen & Burgess, 1998). The rationale for early reading intervention is sound and, if implemented effectively, should reduce considerably the number of poor readers at the middle-school level. However, there are now and will continue to be middle-school students who struggle with reading and learning from text because of reading disabilities, reading problems, and inadequate instruction (Greene, 1998; Williams, Brown, Silverstein, & deCani, 1994). For these students, effective content area reading instruction must be addressed.

Considerations for Designing Effective Content Area Reading Instruction

Although there is little disagreement that struggling readers exist, including students with reading disabilities and low achievers, there is less harmony about how to meet their needs at the middle-school level (Deshler & Schumaker, 1986; Vaughn, Schumm, Niarhos, & Daugherty, 1993). One consideration when designing a reading intervention for struggling learners and students with reading disabilities is what they need to learn to be more effective readers. At the middle-school level there is considerable emphasis on new vocabulary, connecting and summarizing ideas, and organizing and remembering information (Readance, Bean, & Baldwin, 1998). To use text to accomplish this, students must be able to decode difficult words, read fluently, implement strategies for understanding word meaning, monitor their learning while reading, and summarize and connect key ideas (Beck & McKeown, 1991; Beck, McKeown, Hamilton, & Kucan, 1997; Dole, Duffy, Roehler, & Pearson, 1991; Lenz, Ellis, & Scanlon, 1996). Thus, multiple reading interventions are necessary to ensure successful instruction and learning.

A second consideration when designing a reading intervention at the middle-school level is how instruction will be delivered. Middle-school teachers often work in interdisciplinary teams in which a core group of teachers provides instruction to the same cohort of students at some time during the day. Interdisciplinary teaming allows for optimal strategy instruction because the team can implement reading interventions throughout the day as part of content area instruction. …

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