The goal of this project was to observe the instructional and behavioral practices of special education teachers in algebra I and English I who provided support to students in inclusive high school classrooms. Observations were conducted in several waves during a school year. Teachers implemented a brief, 3-week intervention in the spring for English I or algebra I. Researchers gathered data to analyze the feasibility of the interventions.
The data revealed the following themes for the ninth-grade students in the study.
- Students often lack the the prerequisite skills (the ability to understand and use symbols, simplify expressions, solve linear equation and inequalities) needed for success in algebra I.
- Students often lack a mastery of eighth-grade skills; instructors must fill in these gaps before students can master algebra I.
- Many students lack conceptional knowledge, the deeper understanding of operations, and basic arithmetic skills.
- Students with LD often lack several prerequisite skills, including the ability to process literary and informational texts, organization and detail in writing and text analysis, and oral and written conventions.
- Students often struggle with basic reading comprehension, vocabulary, and phonemic awareness—yet these basic skills are not part of the ninth-grade curriculum.
In addition to the above data, the teachers were also observed implementing systematic, explicit instruction. The teachers documented any additional learning scaffolds applied to increase mastery and success for the students. The sample size was small, thus producing positive trends but not significant main effects. In algebra, all scores increased from the pretest to posttest, with the largest growth seen in students with LD as compared to typical or nondisabled students.
Overall, the findings indicate that teachers of students with LD should provide instruction that aligns with the quality indicators of effective instruction. Based on teacher interviews and focus group comments, students with LD often lack the prerequisite skills to meet classroom demands. Observations also point to an occasional disconnect between what is called for on a student’s individualized education plan and what educators deliver. Further, results show that educators need to write and implement instructional “escalators” (i.e., lessons to bridge the gap between current and needed student knowledge) to help students with LD have legitimate access to the general education curriculum. Finally, the results indicate that educators should put in place an effective behavior-management program to create an environment conducive to learning.
- Identify how general education and special education teachers collaboratively plan for and deliver instruction in English I and algebra I to special education students with learning disabilities (LD) in inclusive classrooms
- Identify the critical components in English I and algebra I taught to special education students with LD in inclusive classrooms
- Identify the evidence-based instructional practices of special education and general education teachers who teach students with LD in algebra I and English I inclusive classes
- Identify adaptations, accommodations, and modifications that teachers provide to support students with LD in English I and algebra I inclusive classes
- Identify behavioral practices of special education and general education teachers who teach students with LD in algebra I and English I inclusive classes
- Identify individualized education plan goals that relate to English I and algebra I coursework
- Examine progress-monitoring data to determine the performance of students with LD in algebra I and English I inclusive classes
- Determine the feasibility of mathematics and reading interventions for students with LD in algebra I and English I inclusive classes
Ninth-grade students with LD