Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Thursday, February 6, 2014
That said, I have noticed that as a result of high stakes accountability linked to teacher evaluations there seems to be a bit of a shuffle around identifying students for special education. While we are encourages to "identify early", the Woodcock Johnson rarely finds deficits that warrant special education identification. Given current research on constrained skills theory ( Scott Paris) and late emerging reading difficulties (Rollanda O’Connor), how do we make sure we are indeed identifying students early?
If a student has been with me for two years (Grades 1 and 2) and the instructional trajectory shows minimal progress on meeting benchmarks, (despite quality research-based literacy instruction), but a special education evaluation using the Woodcock Johnson shows skills that fall within norms, how do we service these children? Title I is considered a regular education literacy program. Special Education seems to be pushing back on servicing these students, saying they need to "stay in Title I." Or worse, it is suggested that these students be picked up in SPED for phonics instruction, and continue to be serviced in Title I for comprehension.
I am wondering what your thoughts are on this. The "duplication of services" issue of being service by both programs aside, how does a school system justify such curriculum fragmentation for its most needy students? Could you suggest some professional reading or research that could help me make the case for both early identification of students at risk for late emerging reading difficulties, and the issue of duplication of services when both Title I and SPED service a student?
This is a great question, but one that I didn’t feel I could answer. As I’ve done in the past with such questions: I sent it along to someone in the field better able to respond. In this case, I contacted Richard Allington, past president of the International Reading Association, and a professor at the University of Tennessee. This question is right in his wheelhouse, and here is his answer:
I know of no one who advocates early identification of kids as pupils with disabilities (PWDs). At this point in time we have at least 5 times as many kids identified as PWDs [as is merited]. The goal of RTI, as written in the background paper that produced the legislation, is a 70-80% decrease in the numbers of kids labeled as PWDs. The basic goal of RTI is to encourage schools to provide kids with more expert and intensive reading instruction. As several studies have demonstrated, we can reduce the proportion of kids reading below grade to 5% or so by the end of 1st grade. Once on level by the end of 1st about 85% of kids remain on grade level at least through 4th grade with no additional intervention. Or as two other studies show, we could provide 60 hours of targeted professional development to every K-2 teacher to develop their expertise sufficiently to accomplish this. In the studies that have done this fewer kids were reading below grade level than when the daily 1-1 tutoring was provided in K and 1st. Basically, what the research indicates is that LD and dyslexics and ADHD kids are largely identified by inexpert teachers who don't know what to do. If Pianta and colleagues are right, only 1 of 5 primary teachers currently has both the expertise and the personal sense of responsibility for teaching struggling readers. (It doesn't help that far too many states have allowed teachers to avoid responsibility for the reading development of PWDs by removing PWDs from value-added computations of teacher effectiveness).
I'll turn to senior NICHD scholars who noted that, "Finally, there is now considerable evidence, from recent intervention studies, that reading difficulties in most beginning readers may not be directly caused by biologically based cognitive deficits intrinsic to the child, but may in fact be related to the opportunities provided for children learning to read." (p. 378)
In other words, most kids that fail to learn to read are victims of inexpert or nonexistent teaching. Or, they are teacher disabled not learning disabled. Only when American schools systems and American primary grade teachers realize that they are the source of the reading problems that some kids experience will those kids ever be likely to be provided the instruction they need by their classroom teachers.
As far as "duplication of services" this topic has always bothered me because if a child is eligible for Title i services I believe that child should be getting those services. As far as fragmentation of instruction this does not occur when school districts have a coherent systemwide curriculum plan that serves all children. But most school districts have no such plan and so rather than getting more expert and more intensive reading lessons based on the curriculum framework that should be in place, struggling readers get a patchwork of commercial programs that result in the fragmentation. Again, that is not the kids as the problem but the school system as the problem. Same is true when struggling readers are being "taught" by paraprofessionals. That is a school system problem not a kids problem. In the end all of these school system failures lead to kids who never becomes readers.
Good answer, Dick. Thanks. Basically, the purpose of these efforts shouldn’t be to identify kids who will qualify for special education, but to address the needs of all children from the beginning. Once children are showing that they are not responding adequately to high quality and appropriate instruction, then the intensification of instruction—whether through special education or Title I or improvements to regular classroom teaching should be provided. Quality and intensity are what need to change; not placements. Early literacy is an amalgam of foundational skills that allow one to decode from print to language and language skills that allow one to interpret such language. If students are reaching average levels of performance on foundational skills, it is evident that they are attaining skills levels sufficient to allow most students to progress satisfactorily. If they are not progressing, then you need to look at the wider range of skills needed to read with comprehension. The focus of the instruction, the intensity of the instruction, and the quality of the instruction should be altered when students are struggling; the program placement or labels, not so much.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
This year's IRA conference is over and it was a good one. Here are a couple more of my presentations.
The first one is about Response to Intervention. Russell Gerstein and some of his colleagues were presenting the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide on RtI. They asked me to join in and provide a comparison of the guide with the IRA RtI guidelines. I did so and found some interesting differences. The IRA guide says more about Tier I interventions than did the practice guide, but it did more with Tier 2 and Tier 3. Bob Schwartz, from Oakland University, was in the audience and he asked why Reading Recovery evidence had not been included as part of the justification for some of the RtI practices championed in the guide. The answer was not a substantial one (the reason, it appears, was the fear of the Department of Education to look like they were favoring a particular program, as opposed to a practice; that was in the wake of the scandals around Reading First). I agree with the idea of avoiding conflicts of interest, but the point of using such evidence would be to show that a practice works, not that Reading Recovery is the only way to go.
I also talked to a few hundred of my closest friends about reading comprehension. I have posted this before, but here it is again. After this presentation an audience member (from Weekly Reader) was puzzled about my point on our inability to teach question types. He was worried that I was saying that it wasn't important to ask kids different kinds of questions. It is very reasonable to ask students a wide variety of questions as long as they make sense for the passages read. Just don't think that asking a particular kind of question raises that kind of comprehension. The key is the texts themselves, and then using questions to get the students to think effectively about what they have read (rather than trying to teach them to answer a particular type of question).
Here are those presentations:
Monday, June 8, 2009
The latest rage in the schools is RtI. Special education money (about 15% of it) can now be used for improving classroom instruction and installing preventative intervention programs. I'm a big fan of this movement for several reasons: First, because the best way to determine if someone has a learning problem is to offer really good teaching and if the struggling continues then you know. Second, special education programs simply haven't worked very well for most kids, and the learning disabilities label has been over applied, and those programs are getting expensive.
But even though I like RtI, I have problems with it (as do others, perhaps most notably, Dick Allington--however, his problems emanate from concerns about who will deliver the prevention services). My concern is that RtI is often so mechanistic that nothing good is happening for the children. Schools buy an instructional program and/or a regimen of professional development and they think they have a good Tier 1 response... they set up a reading class a couple of times a week for groups of struggling students and you can check off Tier 2 as well. That won't work and so if RtI is going to cut the case load in special education schools are going to have to be real aggressive about meeting students' learning needs in reading.
This weekend I met with a group of educators from across the country in Santa Fe and I told them about my 9-Tier Model. The first reaction was 9 tiers instead of 3, is this guy crazy? However, once they saw what has been missing from their 3-tier plans, they were more than willing to consider building up their efforts (not by going to 9 tiers, but by implementing a richer set of responses across the three tiers they have been doing). Good for them--and, more importantly, good for the kids whom they are responsible for. Here's my powerpoint on the 9-tier model: