Good teaching prevents learning disabilities

The learning disabilities epidemic may be waning, writes Mike Petrilli on Education Next.

In Rethinking Special Education for a New Century, Fordham and the Progressive Policy Institute argued that “most children with learning disabilities suffered from poor reading instruction, not an underlying neurological problem.” Good prevention programs could prevent children from being designated as learning disabled, they wrote.

This thinking found its way into the No Child Left Behind act via the Reading First program, and into the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act via “Response to Intervention” strategies. In both cases, the focus was on identifying children at risk for reading problems early, and intervening quickly with research-based, rigorous, direct instruction.

The percentage of kids with learning disabilities, which was rising rapidly, has  dropped by 11 percent in five years, Petrilli writes. Why aren’t we talking about that? It’s not that often that something works in education.

Intervening with ELLs

Response to Intervention — extra help for kids who are starting to fall behind – works well for students who aren’t fluent in English, reports Education Week. RTI is designed to keep students from being designated as learning disabled by “catching them before they fall.”

In Chula Vista and across the country, response to intervention provides instructional triage with three “tiers.” All students receive Tier 1 instruction, in which teachers ideally take into account the individual needs of students in their regular instruction. In Tier 2, a subset of students who need additional help receives interventions in small groups, which in Chula Vista are provided by teachers in regular classrooms and while students are pulled out of class, such as for the reading clinic at Rice Elementary. Lastly, some students are identified for Tier 3; they receive even more intensive help, such as daily one-on-one instruction . . .

Teaching well in Tier 1 is critical.