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High School Reading Intervention in the Special Education Classroom

  • Author(s): Goodwin, Vanessa Anne
  • Advisor(s): O'Connor, Rollanda E.
  • et al.

Providing reading intervention for adolescent students is a complicated process. Multiple factors specific to high school settings affect the process, including: curriculum selection, designating a class period (core or elective), identifying students, allocating highly qualified teachers, and choosing effective strategies. Confounding these variables is the influence of non-academic skills that are also frequently deficient for students with learning disabilities (LD) such as organization, independence, self-advocacy, and self-esteem.

This study investigated practices for teaching reading to high school students with special needs through a Tier 3 core-replacement English-language Arts (ELA) program at 2 high schools and within the context of district planning. Qualitative methods were used, including observation, interview, and document review. Although reading intervention is defined legally in terms of NCLB (2002) and IDEA (2004), what is meant by "reading intervention" in schools and classrooms is continually made and remade by participants. Special education practitioners negotiate, prioritize, and adapt practices with a sometimes startling rapidity that is tied to the influence of IDEA and NCLB, and also local factors, including district and school policies, understanding of their role, and student-teacher interactions.

ABC and XYZ High Schools were located in Mission School District in southern California. Mission employed an RTI model to provide reading intervention (Fuchs et al., 2007). Reading difficulties are a substantial concern for older students and there is not a strong a literature base for this population (Denton et al., 2008) or about Tier 3 interventions (Vaughn et al., 2011).

Mission purchased a scripted program for use in high school special education classrooms. Results indicated that there was great variety in how special education teachers defined their many roles and how they allocated class time for: 1) use of the scripted curriculum, 2) preparation for high stakes tests, and 3) addressing IEP goals. Teachers in the study tended to adapt the program to fit their classroom practices rather than changing their teaching behaviors to align to the script. Implications for school districts include problems associated with lack of fidelity of program implementation in pubic school settings. Even with fidelity procedures in place, teachers' buy-in to the program and their own prioritizing of the roles of special education teachers strongly influenced how classes were conducted.

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