Secondary Students with Special Needs: Is LANGUAGE! Effective in Closing the Reading Gap?

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Bennett, Sheila Diane
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Middle Tennessee State University
The purpose of the research project was to determine if the use of LANGUAGE!, a curriculum-based reading program had been effective in closing the reading gap for high school learners with special needs, which included specific learning disabilities (SLD), intellectually delayed (ID), functionally delayed (FD), and language impaired (LI) through direct instruction. The LANGUAGE! reading program was designed for adolescents at risk for reading delays (Green, 1995) and struggle with reading. LANGUAGE! includes direct instruction in phonemic awareness, letter-sound correspondence, reading, writing, spelling, grammar, language, and vocabulary skills in every lesson within the unit (Joseph & Schisler, 2009; Scheffel, et al., 2003). Over the last 40 years, the achievement gap has increased from 10% to 40% among high school students (Reardon, 2011). The need for students to be able to read the text in school has been considered important, but through the years some students have fallen behind and acquired a reading gap, thus making this an area of major concern for most high schools.
Extant data for this research study were collected using the LANGUAGE! curriculum-based reading program from the calendar school year of 2016-2017, which provided Lexile and reading fluency raw scores. Participants included in this study were 9-12 grade students from four high schools in one school district in Tennessee using the LANGUAGE! curriculum-based reading program as a reading intervention program for students with special needs and taught by special education teachers. Raw scores were collected from the Language Reading Scale (LRS) benchmarks that are administered in the fall, winter, and spring each school year. Raw scores were also collected from the Test of Silent Word Reading Fluency (TOSWRF) benchmarks that are administered in the fall, winter, and spring each school year. There were 170 participants that qualified for the LRS group and 128 participants that qualified for the TOSWRF group from four high schools. Multiple repeated measures ANOVA were conducted to answer four research questions. 1) What effect does LANGUAGE! have on closing the reading gap for secondary students with special needs? 2) Were there significant gains in Lexile scores while using the LANGUAGE! reading program? 3) Was there a significant improvement of a specific assessment AB, CD, or EF? 4) Was there a significant overall difference of growth among the four high schools?
LANGUAGE!, Reading Instruction, Reading Programs, Secondary Students, Special Education