Middle and High School Students with Learning Disabilities: Practical Academic Interventions for General Education Teachers - a Review of the Literature

Article excerpt


Increasingly, students with learning disabilities are being educated in the general education setting by general education teachers. This trend requires general education teachers to use instructional practices that benefit all students. This article reviews of the literature from 1986 to 2002 in order to identify and examine academic interventions for middle and high school students with learning disabilities that can be applied to various subject areas. The practices that appeared to be most effective were categorized under the following headings: (a) mnemonic instruction, (b) graphic organizers, (c) guided notes, (d) class wide peer tutoring, (e) coached elaboration, and (f) inquiry teaching.

As educational reform has become more heavily focused on inclusion and standards-based assessment, general education teachers have been held increasingly responsible for educating students with learning disabilities (LD). Today, nearly two million adolescents are being served under the category of learning disabilities (U. S. Department of Education, 2000). 75% of all special education students spend 40% or more of their day in general education and 96% of all general education teachers teach or have taught students with disabilities (SPeNSE, 2002). Moreover, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (Public Eaw 105-17) and the No Child Left Behind Act require that students with disabilities participate in all state- and district-wide assessment. These laws not only codify previous calls for integration of students with disabilities into the general education setting (Heumann, 2000), making inclusion a necessity for nearly every student with a disability, but they also give general education teachers the additional role of preparing students with disabilities for standardized tests.

Given the aforementioned statistics, it is clear that there are a huge number of students in middle and high schools who are receiving special education services under the LD category and being educated in general education. As Scanlon, Deshler, and Schumaker (1996) report, "several instructional challenges await classroom teachers who have responsibility for teaching classes ... which include students with disabilities" (p. 42). They propose a reconceptualization of teaching at the secondary level that encompasses both content and strategy instruction. With the increasing curriculum demands (i.e., passing standardized tests) being placed on middle and high school students with learning disabilities, it is vital to provide general education teachers with the tools that will benefit students both with and without disabilities.

The purpose of this review was to locate empirical studies that have investigated the use of an academic intervention that was effective in enhancing the academic performance of middle and high school students with learning disabilities, which could ultimately enhance the academic performance of students without LD. Interventions included in this study were those that teachers could use regardless of their content areas. This review presents five types of strategies that are applicable across different academic content areas (e.g., English, math, science, social studies).


The methodology employed in this review is a narrative synthesis of intervention research that has been conducted with middle and high school students with learning disabilities. Studies in this review used a specific instructional strategy with middle and high school students that could be generalized across various subject areas.

Several strategies were employed to locate appropriate articles. A computerized search was conducted through ERIC using key words such as learning disabilities and interventions; learning disabilities and secondary education; learning disabilities and secondary education and interventions; learning disabilities and adolescents and interventions; learning disabilities and high school students and interventions; learning disabilities and middle school students and interventions for the years 1986-2002. …


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