Implementation of a High-Quality, Grade-Level Curriculum for Students with a Specific Learning Disability

Date

2022-12-20

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Abstract

Background: This study focuses on students’ reading and math achievement in Grades 3–8 who have Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) and aims to inform districts' curriculum practices within special education programs. Purpose: There is a historical gap in student performance on the STAAR for students with an SLD, even though they are taught alongside their peers without disabilities. The extent to which this achievement gap shows up for students in reading and mathematics in Grades 3–8 can inform curricular changes and adjustments in how Individual Education Programs are implemented in general education settings. According to data from the United States Department of Education, students with an SLD, categorized together, represent the largest disability type nationally. Therefore, improving achievement outcomes for students with an SLD will significantly impact the national educational landscape. Rotter’s research (2014) confirms that students with a qualifying disability need all the support outlined in their IEP and meaningful engagement with grade-level core content. That is, both the IEP and the state mandates must be satisfied. Methods: A large urban Texas school district’s State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) data from the district’s data warehouse and the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) were analyzed for students with SLD and their non-disabled peers. STAAR test results for third to eighth-grade students were included in the dataset. Descriptive data analysis was used to answer the three research questions utilizing SPSS crosstabs, t-test, and ANOVA. The t-test descriptive design was used to compare the mean reading and mathematics outcomes between the student groups (SLD and no-disability). An ANOVA was used to analyze if there was statistical significance in the instructional setting of students with SLD based on STAAR performance results. Results: The first research question examined the distribution of scale scores on the 2019 STAAR for students with SLD in third through eighth grade across the district. The sampling of 5,375 achievement score results for students with SLD had a normal distribution with a slightly platykurtic kurtosis. Most scores were in the median range, with fewer extreme positively or negatively skewed results. The second research question analyzed the t-test results, which determined the statistical significance between the scale scores of students with SLD and peers without disabilities. The mean was significantly different and lower for students with SLD. The third research question found that the instructional setting for students with SLD was significant as it relates to STAAR proficiency. The most inclusive learning environment, mainstream, aligned to the highest overall mean score. STAAR scale scores for students with SLD were highest for students who received their instruction in the general education classroom, PEIMS instructional arrangement code 40 (M = 1482.11, SD = 121.66). Students with SLD and an instructional arrangement of 40 had a statically significant difference in the mean STAAR scale scores when compared to instructional setting codes 41 (M = 77.977, SD = 3.711), 42 (M = 50.193, SD = 5.864), and 44 (M = 70.949, SD = 16.157). The mean difference was significant at the 0.05 level between settings 40 (mainstream), 41 (resource room services than 21%), 42 (resource room services 21%-50%), and 44 (self-contained more than 60%). Conclusion: Students with SLD make up the largest percentage of students served in special education programs. Their achievement on state reading and math assessments followed a normal distribution with mean scores significantly below their peers without disabilities. Mainstream classrooms are an appropriate setting for students to have access to grade-level curriculum, as students who spend more than 80% of their time in these inclusive environments had statically significantly higher scores than students in more restrictive learning environments.

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Keywords

Learning disability, Achievement, Proficiency level, Grade level curriculum, Curriculum, Students with disabilities, Specific learning disability, STAAR

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