Policy Decisions in Special Education: The Role of Meta-Analysis
Kenneth A. Kavale
The University of Iowa
Steven R. Forness
University of California, Los Angeles
Let's turn the clock back some 25 years; suppose that you have to decide whether or not to include "psycholinguistic training" for students in the recently designated special education classification of learning disabilities (LD). The elements of psycholinguistic training were formulated by Samuel A. Kirk, a prominent name in special education, were based on the widely used Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Abilities (ITPA), and were targeted at the process deficits assumed associated with LD. Although appearing to be a useful remedial technique, your decision would probably require a more rational justification. Such justification might be gleaned from the available evidence that could be scrutinized to show "what the research says." The literature would reveal that the ITPA has served as the clinical model for a variety of remedial and developmental language programs. These programs are based on the assumption that language is comprised of discrete components, and these components can be improved with training. Suppose you acquired a reasonable sample of research studies that investigated the effectiveness of psycholinguistic training. In all likelihood you would not be able to make an unequivocal decision; the research evidence would be mixed with some positive and some negative evaluations. Under such circumstances, the policy decision about whether or not to include psycholinguistic training in the remedial curriculum becomes complex and difficult.