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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education Part IV Improving Outcomes In this section we turn our attention away from the processes that lead to special education placement and toward the outcomes for students once they are assigned. Is special education a benefit for the students who are placed in it? Do the additional resources improve students’ educational prospects? Are the benefits similar for students of different races/ ethnicities? The answer to these questions signals the level of concern that is warranted regarding the disproportionate representation of minority children. If the educational achievement and life prospects of special education children is advanced through program placement, then disproportionate representation is less alarming than if the reverse is true. The ultimate goal of reducing the disparities in early experiences that generate disproportionate need for services may still be a social policy priority. But special education would nonetheless be a helpful mechanism for responding to the need for additional supports for school success. Without evidence of educational benefit, however, assignment to special education warrants close scrutiny. We ask the same questions for gifted and talented programs. Are there interventions that make a difference for students placed in these programs? Our concern here is different in nature. The more effective interventions for gifted student prove to be, the greater the concern when minority children who may benefit from that education are not identified. In contrast to special education, the “gifted” label itself may confer a benefit through
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education higher expectation and positive perceptions of teachers, peers, and placed students. In Chapter 9 we review the literature on what works for special education and gifted students. While the research literature provides encouraging findings regarding effective interventions, evidence that looks at racial/ ethnic groups separately was virtually absent. Similarly, there is a paucity of research on the extent to which interventions with documented positive outcomes are used and the difference in utilization among schools in districts with widely differing financial and demographic characteristics. Our report has covered many different topics, and our recommendations appear in several different chapters. In a final chapter, we revisit the major conclusions of the report. We summarize our answers to the four questions that have structured this inquiry. We then present our recommendations as a consolidated proposal for policy change.
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education 9 Weighing the Benefits of Placement Placement in a gifted and talented program is widely viewed as beneficial. In addition to providing instruction that is closely tailored to the students served, eligibility signals positive judgment of the student as highly capable. At the outset of this report, we noted a paradox in special education that is not present in gifted education. Special education provides additional resources to support the achievement of eligible students, yet eligibility singles out the student’s achievement or behavior as substandard in some respect. And while instruction that is tailored to the needs of high-achieving students raises expectations for their performance, instruction tailored to low-achieving students has the potential to undermine their performance by lowering expectations. Whether placement of minority students in special education in disproportionate numbers should be viewed as a problem depends in part on whether the trade-off is worthwhile. Is special education beneficial to the students it serves? Does the benefit of special education differ for students in different racial/ethnic groups? DO STUDENTS BENEFIT FROM SPECIAL EDUCATION INTERVENTIONS? A rapidly growing body of research details what interventions have been demonstrated to work with students who are identified for special education. We summarize these findings below, emphasizing at the outset
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education that the extent to which effective practices are used among students of any race or ethnicity is largely unknown. The findings reviewed here are drawn from research conducted primarily with students with learning disabilities (LD) and to a lesser extent students with emotional and behavioral disorder (ED/BD). This emphasis reflects the bulk of the research conducted in the past 20 years. Little research on curriculum and instruction has been conducted in that period with students with mild mental retardation (MMR). Most of the research on moderate and severely mentally retarded children has addressed issues of where and not how to teach them, with the debate often being more philosophical than empirical in nature. Features of Effective Interventions Considerable progress has been made over the past two decades in designing, implementing, and evaluating effective academic and behavioral interventions for students with disabilities (Gerber, 1999-2000). These interventions have been closely linked to models of learning and to providing access for students with disabilities to the general education curriculum. With the support of the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education Programs, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities, research syntheses have been completed to examine the converging findings related to intervention studies for children with LD. These syntheses have addressed the overall effectiveness of interventions for students with learning disabilities (Swanson et al., 1999), specific findings for reading comprehension (Gersten et al., 2001) and written expression (Gersten and Baker, 2001), higher-order processing (Swanson, 1999), grouping practices that are associated with improved outcomes in reading (Elbaum et al., 1999), behavioral interventions (Marquis et al., 2000), and interventions for students with learning disabilities associated with improved outcomes in self-concept (Vaughn and Elbaum, 1999). For summaries of the above-stated syntheses, see Gersten and Baker (2000a, b) and Swanson et al. (1999). Initially presented in Vaughn et al. (2000), the following principles of instruction associated with effective outcomes for students with LD are drawn from the above described syntheses in special education. It is reasonable to assume that the best intervention practices would be hybrids that capitalize on as many of these findings as is sensible. 1. Research on effective interventions for students with LD has demonstrated success with both general and special education. All the research conducted thus far demonstrating significantly positive effects for students with LD has also resulted in at least as high (often higher) effect sizes for all other students in the class, including average and high-achieving students.
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education Given the increasing numbers of students with LD who are provided instruction in the general education classroom, this is a very important finding. Teachers and parents need not be concerned that effective interventions provided for students with disabilities will provide less than effective outcomes for students without disabilities. In addition, it demonstrates that effective interventions for students with disabilities can be generalized and effective in the broader learning community. Thus, intervention practices associated with positive outcomes for individuals with LD have educational benefits for all learners. It is important to note, however, that it is unclear how these interventions influence students identified as gifted. While many of the interventions and features of instruction designed to improve outcomes for students with disabilities have overall positive outcomes for most students, this should not suggest that students who are gifted or those with severe learning disabilities would not benefit from instruction and curriculum that is even further differentiated. In the case of students who are gifted, more complex curriculum that provides extensive opportunities to extend learning would be needed. For many students with learning disabilities, this may include highly specialized instruction that is provided one-on-one or in very small groups, extended time to learn the building blocks of literacy and math, greater specificity in pacing instruction, additional practice, and continuous feedback. 2. Explicit instruction is a consistent feature of effective interventions (Elbaum et al., 1999; Gersten and Baker, 1998; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000; National Research Council [NRC], 1998; Swanson, 1999). Students with disabilities reach mastery more quickly when overt strategies for completing tasks are identified and taught. Examples of overt strategies are the explicit teaching of the steps in the writing process (see for review, Swanson et al., 1999; Wong, 1999) or the use of “think alouds” as a means for teaching reading comprehension strategies. The benefit to making instruction explicit and overt is twofold. First, students are given an opportunity to learn how to think about completing a task in a way that they would probably not discover on their own. Second, overt instruction allows teachers and peers to provide students with feedback during the learning process. The utility of direct instruction has been considered effective for students with ED (Coleman and Vaughn, 2000). In one study, direct instruction was more effective than another approach (i.e., Language Master and independent practice) in terms of increasing sight word acquisition of students with behavioral and emotional disorders (Yell, 1992). A study using focus groups of ED teachers demonstrated that they perceived direct instruction to be effective for these students (Coleman and Vaughn, 2000). In
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education addition, direct instruction was more likely to increase on-task behavior and decrease disruptive behaviors of students with behavioral problems than cooperative learning or independent practice (Nelson et al., 1996). 3. Interactive dialogue between teacher and student and between students is a feature of effective reading and writing programs. The role of the teacher and the other students is to provide ongoing and systematic feedback to assist in repairing misunderstandings or revising text, giving students an opportunity to learn from each other and to expand their knowing by linking it to the constructs and thinking of fellow students. For example, Wong (1999) concluded that the quality of feedback and verbal interaction between teacher and student leads to improved outcomes in the quality of written expression. 4. Basic or fundamental elements of reading and writing, such as sounding out words in reading and handwriting in writing, are essential elements for students with LD. For example, Berninger and colleagues (1998) found that students’ speed of writing is linked with improved outcomes in writing. Word-level reading and decoding of sight words are interventions that are associated with high effect sizes in reading (Swanson et al., 1999). Consequently, effective intervention approaches in reading and writing build skills and knowledge both specifically and broadly using both top-down and bottom-up instruction. 5. Small-group instruction and pairs are connected with improved outcomes in reading and writing. As stated earlier, a critical component of effective interventions in reading and writing is interactive dialogue between teacher and student (Gersten and Baker, 1998). For example, in reading, Englert and colleagues (1994) promoted teacher-student dialogue in ways that mediated students’ performance and facilitated their use of cognitive strategies while reading. Likewise, interaction between students in the form of peer tutoring has shown effectiveness with all students (Mathes and Fuchs, 1994) and particularly for students with disabilities when they serve as the tutor (Elbaum et al., 1999). These benefits seem to reach beyond academic outcomes. In fact, in a synthesis of intervention studies for elementary students with LD that included self-concept as one of the outcome measures (Elbaum and Vaughn, 2001), interventions focusing on academic skills within cooperative group structures also showed gains in self-concept. Similarly, students with ED/BD increased their academic performance in various areas (e.g., reading, math) by tutoring (Lock and Fuchs, 1995; Maher, 1982, 1984; Scruggs and Osguthorpe, 1986). Tutoring interventions in special education usually take two formats, cross-age tutoring and
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education peer tutoring (Scruggs and Osguthorpe, 1986). In cross-age tutoring, an older student tutor serves as “expert” providing instruction to a younger student (Durrer and McLaughlin, 1995; Scruggs and Osguthorpe, 1986). Peer tutoring consists of same-age pairs of students working together (Scruggs and Osguthorpe, 1986). The effectiveness of cross-age tutoring on academic outcomes for students with ED/BD has been well established by many researchers. A recent synthesis on reading intervention for students with ED/BD revealed that cross-age tutoring was the most distinct practice associated with improved reading outcomes for students with ED/BD (Coleman and Vaughn, 2000). Studies by Maher (1982, 1984) reported that cross-age tutoring in which adolescents with BD tutored elementary students with MR yielded increased academic performance (in social science and mathematics) for both tutors and tutees. Top and Osguthorpe (1987) implemented cross-age tutoring by assigning 4th- to 6th graders with BD as tutors for 1st graders without disabilities in reading. Both tutors and tutees increased their reading performance, and tutors with BD improved their self-esteem as well. Similarly, cross-age tutoring was associated with social gains for students with BD (Scruggs and Osguthorpe, 1986). The effectiveness of peer tutoring on academic outcomes yields lower effect sizes than cross-age tutoring, but it is a promising practice for students with ED/BD. Adolescents with BD in roles of both tutor and tutee improved their mathematics outcomes after participating in peer tutoring (Franca et al., 1990). Similarly, peer tutoring yielded improved spelling outcomes for adolescents with BD (Stowitschek et al., 1982). Partner reading, which is a component of class-wide peer tutoring, yielded enhanced on-task behavior and positive social interaction for students with ED/BD (Lock and Fuchs, 1995). 6. Motivation to learn, task difficulty, and task persistence influence intervention effectiveness. As early as 1982, Keogh noted that “the organization of curricular content, and the order and sequence of presentation, may have important consequences for children’s accomplishments” (p. 33). Planning instruction around task difficulty to ensure students experience success and persist in learning activities has long been recognized as a critical feature of effective instruction for students with LD (Gersten et al. 1984). In addition, “time on task” has been established as an essential factor linked to improved academic outcomes. However, time on task and persistence with tasks is affected by students’ motivation to learn and their working on tasks that are challenging, meaningful, and within their capabilities. Most of the instructional activities in which students with LD are engaged are at inappropriate levels of task difficulty. Students who experience some successes in school are much more likely to participate actively in
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education educational or work experiences following school (SRI International, 1995). Conscious attention to task difficulty is likely to be linked to higher levels of student achievement (Swanson and Hoskyn, 1998). To date, research in instructional areas such as reading comprehension, expressive writing, and problem solving has rarely addressed these issues of task difficulty, persistence, and motivation in a systematic fashion. In part, this is because the domains of these topics have not been well systematized (Kucan and Beck, 1997), especially in terms of task difficulty and measurement. This may well be a productive direction for future research. Maintaining motivation to learn for students with BD/ED was identified as a challenge for teachers (Coleman and Vaughn, 2000). These students lack interest in school and tend to attribute their failure in school to their inability rather than the need for increased practice (Cutler, 1982; Luchow et al., 1985). Kim (1999) found that students with BD showed higher rates of off-task behaviors under learning conditions that provided difficult tasks and low adult attention. 7. Procedural facilitators or strategies help students develop a plan to guide their learning in the areas of reading comprehension, written expression, and general higher-order processing. Students with LD are not likely to discover these plans of action on their own, and therefore it is necessary that they be explicitly taught. For example, although students with LD may possess the conceptual and background knowledge to generate texts about a particular topic (e.g., the American Revolution), they may appear to have little of this foundation knowledge because they do not have a strategy for generating the categories and structure of expository text about the American Revolution, including setting, key characters, plot, etc. (Englert and Raphael, 1988). By teaching students strategies, the teacher provides them with “their culture’s best kept secret about how to obtain academic success” (Harris and Pressley, 1991:395). With practice, proficiency with the strategy develops, and there is an increased likelihood that students will apply the strategy on their own in new contexts. To facilitate the spontaneous application of strategies, it would seem that students must be explicitly taught where, when, and how to use a particular strategy. Once students have this metacognitive knowledge, they can take ownership of the strategies and modify them for use in different situations. Some of the research in science on using self-assessment procedures to monitor task and progress may be particularly useful for students with disabilities (White and Frederiksen, 1998).
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education Evidence of Effectiveness According to Kavale and Forness (2000), who reported findings from meta-analyses of the effectiveness of many interventions in special education, the following types of interventions have been highly effective with students with disabilities (the number in parentheses is the mean effect size): computer-assisted instruction (0.52), peer tutoring (0.56), direct instruction (0.84), behavior modification (0.93), reading comprehension (0.98, 0.113), and mnemonic strategies (0.162). Hockenbury et al. (1999-2000) also comment on the effectiveness of special education: Special education has a considerable history of devising and testing effective instructional methods for atypical students. These include, for example, direct instruction (e.g., Gersten, 1985; White, 1988), self-monitoring (e.g., Lloyd et al., 1989; Webber et al., 1993), mnemonic instruction (e.g., Mastropieri and Scruggs, 1998; Scruggs and Mastropieri, 1990), strategy training (e.g., Deshler and Schumaker, 1986; Ellis et al., 1991; Hughes and Schumaker, 1992), curriculum-based measurement (e.g., Deno and Fuchs, 1987; Fuchs and Fuchs, 1996), applied behavior analysis (e.g., Jenson et al., 1988; Wolery et al., 1988), and functional assessment (e.g., Arndorfer and Miltenberger, 1993; Horner and Carr, 1997). Some of these instructional methods are applicable in some form to many students in general education. This does not, however, preclude the need for special education. One thing that is right about special education is that it includes devising and testing empirically methods of instruction that are effective with atypical students, whose instruction often must be different in content or be made more explicit, carefully controlled, carefully monitored, intensive, and sustained than instruction for typical learners (p. 6). Minority Students with Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders Minority students are often represented in intervention research. However, findings for minority students are rarely, if ever, disaggregated and compared to majority students with LD or BD. The assumption is that the performance of minority students with disabilities is comparable to majority students with disabilities. Recently, a synthesis on instructional practices for English language learners was reported (Gersten and Baker, 2000a). Combining both a multivocal synthesis and a more traditional meta-analysis, results provide minimal guidelines for instruction of students who are English language learners. Eight studies that provided both an experimental and a control group were located. Effect sizes ranged from -0.56 to 1.95, with a median effect size of 0.25. This documents the frequently held belief that there is
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education little empirical data on the effectiveness of interventions with English language learners. Even these studies were often unclear about how interventions were implemented and the language of instruction. In any study with diverse populations, there are certain variables akin to Keogh’s “marker variables” for LD (Keogh et al., 1978). For minority students and English language learners, these would include, at a minimum, socioeconomic status (SES), ethnicity or race, and language proficiency in both languages if bilingualism is involved. These variables are particularly salient to consider when interpreting results from intervention studies. Of the 180 intervention studies of students with LD that were synthesized by Swanson et al. (1999:78), the majority did not report ethnicity; however, of the studies that did report it, 7 studies included Asians/Pacific Islanders, (4.71, 6.01), 25 studies included blacks (7.42, 7.97), 36 studies included whites (11.67, 8.45), 11 studies included Hispanics (9.36, 10.11), 2 studies included Native Americans/Alaskan Natives (1.0, —). (Note: The first number in parentheses represents the mean number of students and the second number the standard deviation.) Findings disaggregated by ethnicity were neither provided nor possible to calculate. Special Education Settings Versus the General Education Classroom Interventions that are designed to be implemented in the general education classroom for students whose primary disabilities are in learning and behavior demonstrate improved outcomes for all participants, even those who are average to high achieving. However, the overall outcomes, even of the most effective class-wide interventions implemented in general education classrooms, demonstrate low to modest effects for students with disabilities that are unlikely to significantly improve academic and social outcomes in ways that will adequately compensate for how far behind they are. For most students with disabilities, overall improvements in general education classroom instruction are a necessary but insufficient means to adequate instruction (Zigmond and Baker, 1994; Zigmond et al., 1995). This is not a commentary on where students are taught (general education classroom, resource room, special education setting), but rather a recognition that additional intensive and specifically designed instruction is necessary to enhance their outcomes. Since students with reading disabilities are the subgroup for whom there are the most converging data, we provide a brief discussion of their response to treatment. The effectiveness of intervention strategies for children at risk for, or having, reading problems has been examined in several recent meta-analyses.
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education Group Size. One of the most significant ways to improve the intensity and effectiveness of instruction is to modify dramatically the size of the group taught. For students with reading disabilities, this means that students need to be instructed in groups of four or fewer. Elbaum et al. (2000) carried out a meta-analysis of the effects of one-to-one tutoring in reading for students at risk for reading problems. They cumulated the results of 31 studies that contained a total of 219 effect sizes reported from 44 independent samples of children. The main results of interest were that the average weighted effect size was 0.39. The average weighted effect size for Reading Recovery of 0.60 was significantly greater than that for the other interventions of 0.27. However, the average weighted effect size for Reading Recovery is biased positively because many studies do not report results for all children who received the intervention. When intervention is provided by volunteers rather than professional educators, training and supervision were critical. Amount of intervention provided was not a predictor of variability in effect sizes across studies. In another meta-analysis, Elbaum and her colleagues (1999) cumulated studies that examined the effects of peer tutoring in reading. The average weighted effect size for peer tutoring in reading was 0.40. Similarly, Russ and her colleagues (2001) synthesized the research about class size for students with disabilities. The findings revealed that students’ engagement in tasks increased when group size decreased, regardless of age or type of disability. In addition, small group sizes were associated with higher academic performance of students with mild disabilities. Focus of Instruction. Swanson (1999) carried out a meta-analysis of the effects of various reading interventions for children and adolescents who were identified as having a learning disability. They cumulated the results of 54 studies that contained a total of 159 effect sizes for word recognition and 58 studies that contained a total of 176 effect sizes for reading comprehension. The average weighted effect sizes were .57 for word identification and .72 for reading comprehension. Variability in effect sizes across studies was not predicted by number of treatment sessions. Larger effect sizes for word recognition were associated with interventions that featured segmentation and sequencing as tools for simplifying complex or difficult tasks and metacognitive instruction in the form of advance organizers. R.K. Wagner (2000) carried out a meta-analysis of the effects of phonological awareness training on seven reading-related outcome measures: phonemic decoding (word attack), word identification, word-level decoding (a composite of phonemic decoding and word identification), fluency, comprehension, spelling, and phonological awareness. Results presented in Table 9-1 show that average weighted effect sizes ranged from a low of 0.36 for fluency to 0.84 for phonological awareness. Various moderators
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education In another out-of-school instructional intervention, young mathematically precocious children began receiving treatment as kindergarteners or 1st graders. Collecting data over a 2-year period, Robinson et al. (1997) demonstrated that a constructivist curriculum (problem posing, multiple solution paths, translating math concepts from one domain to another, solution sharing) delivered 14 times per academic year on Saturday mornings resulted in greater gains by the treatment group on measures of quantitative achievement. Direct Instruction and Inquiry Development While any studies of direct instruction versus other models conducted in classroom settings are most likely to include gifted students, the literature most often fails to analyze relative effects of the instructional model on that particular subgroup of students. Judy et al. (1988) investigated the relative effects of direct instruction versus inquiry approaches to learning about analogical reasoning. They found that gifted students benefited more from direct instruction but suggested that the difference may have been because of its novelty to the students. An earlier study of the efficacy of the inquiry development materials developed by Suchman (1962) compared with traditional science activities with high-IQ 7th grade students found no significant differences on measures of critical thinking or science achievement (Youngs and Jones, 1969). Peer Tutoring Peer tutoring is a strategy used in many classrooms based on the assumption that all students benefit from the experience. Higher-achieving students, including those who are gifted, presumably gain greater and deeper understanding of the content area taught by virtue of the teaching experience. Feldman et al. (1976) reviewed the empirical data on the effects of peer tutoring on tutors and tutees and found that while the positive effects on low-achieving student tutors were documented, the effects on high-achieving students were not, and the effects on tutees were inconclusive. A review by Arreaga-Mayer et al. (1998) points to the benefits of peer tutoring for several at-risk groups, but no evidence is presented on benefits to the gifted student. The research of Judy et al. (1988) did include gifted students in tutoring situations, who did not benefit from the tutoring experience. Wiegmann et al. (1992), in contrast, found that high-ability students benefited most from playing the student role. Other studies of peer tutoring do not contribute to the understanding of effects on students at the highest level of performance for a variety of reasons (e.g., consideration of the
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education “high” group as those above the median in a class—Depaulo et al., 1989— or samples of college students). Training in Mnemonic Strategies In a comparison of free study and the use of high, medium, and low structure mnemonic strategies with gifted students, their learning of low-level factual recall of information was enhanced by the provision of complex mnemonic strategies. Gifted students transferred those strategies to new learning situations, albeit more effectively with minimal prompting (Scruggs and Mastropieri, 1988; Scruggs et al., 1986). Grouping Arrangements The practice of tracking has been much debated. Since the work of Oakes was published in 1985 suggesting that ability grouping “does not appear to be related to either increasing academic achievement or promoting positive attitudes and behavior,” and that “poor and minoirty students seem to have suffered most from tracking,” (p. 191), tracking is widely considered an unacceptable practice. Mosteller et al. (1996) challenge that conclusion. Tracking can refer to very different practices—some of which involve instruction that is carefully tailored to each group, and some involving no instructional differentiation. In their review of the literature, Mosteller and colleagues find some studies that show positive effects when curriculum is differentiated. They argue that more careful experimental research needs to be conducted before firm conclusions can be drawn regarding when and for whom tracking does and does not provide benefits. Educators in the field of gifted education still recommend “cluster grouping” (ensuring that small groups of gifted students are placed in the context of one classroom) and within-class grouping on the basis of student achievement in specific academic domains for instruction in that content area. Since 1987, there have been four major reviews of the literature on grouping practices (Kulik and Kulik, 1987, 1982; Lou et al., 1996; Slavin, 1987). Mixed Results of Within-Class Grouping The earlier meta-analyses of the literature on the relative effects of within-class grouping versus whole-class instruction reported positive effects of grouping practices (Kulik and Kulik, 1987, 1991; Slavin, 1987). The average effect sizes reported in those reviews ranged from 0.32 (Slavin, 1987) to 0.17 (Kulik and Kulik, 1987) in studies that compared grouping with no-grouping arrangements. In a more recent review of the literature on
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education grouping practices, Lou et al. (1996) examined effect sizes of studies of small-group instruction versus no grouping on several outcome variables and the effects of heterogeneous grouping versus homogeneous grouping on achievement outcomes. They concluded that the overall effect size of small group instruction on achievement was 0.17. “On average, student learning in small groups within classrooms, achieved significantly more than students not learning in small groups” (p. 439). They also noted that the range of effect sizes indicated great heterogeneity in results. Their analysis of factors affecting the range of effect sizes on achievement produced the finding that in grouping/no-grouping comparisons, the high- and low-ability groups of students demonstrated larger effect sizes than the medium-ability students. Grouping was more effective when the group composition was based on mixed sources of information for assigning groups, when grouping was based on specific or general ability plus other factors, when groups were composed of small numbers (3-4 members), when teachers received extensive or even different training, and when class sizes were either small (less than 25) or large (more than 35). In their analysis of student attitudes and self-concept, they found that within-class grouping resulted in more positive attitudes toward the subject matter and significantly higher general, but not academic, self-concept (d = 0.16). Furthermore, comparisons of homogeneous versus heterogeneous groupings revealed “no evidence that one form of grouping was uniformly superior for promoting the achievement of all students” (p. 450). The average learner benefited significantly overall from homogeneous groupings; however, the researchers noted that the degree to which instructional materials were tailored appropriately to the groups’ readiness to learn and the peer influences greatly influence student performance in small-group learning situations. In a comparative study of grouping arrangements, Delcourt et al. (1994) found that students in special schools, separate class programs, and pull-out programs showed higher levels of achievement than students served in within-class programs and students not served in gifted programs. The performance of black students in this study indicated that that program type did not have a differential effect on this subgroup compared with white students. There were no differences across program type or race/ ethnicity for social acceptance. Students from the gifted comparison group, the pull-out programs, and the within-class programs had high perceptions of scholastic abilities. Again, there were no differences between white and black students on this variable. Similarly, Lockart (1996) found significantly higher reading achievement gains among gifted students in homogeneous classrooms or those receiving weekly enrichment in pull-out programs than the gains among gifted students in heterogeneous grouping
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education arrangements. In both of these studies, initial achievement levels served as covariates in the analyses. In a study of cluster grouping in one school division, the researchers found positive effects on the achievement of all students in the schools studied compared with a comparison group of students in another district (Gentry and Owen, 1999) but noted that cluster grouping was accompanied by a variety of other factors, such as regrouping for math and reading instruction, that probably also influenced achievement. Reviews of the practice of cross-age or cross-grade-level grouping also support this practice in general, pointing out that specific practices, for example, grouping in specific content areas such as reading or mathematics, are the most effective (Gutierrez and Slavin, 1992; Kulik, 1992). Kulik notes that the average effect size for gifted students in the two studies that reported separately for ability level was only 0.12. In an exploratory study of the effects of training in metacognitive awareness in homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping of gifted students, Sheppard and Kanevsky (1999) reported greater awareness of complexity of thinking and greater awareness of differences in thinking related to differences in tasks in both groups. Furthermore, the gifted students in the homogeneous group showed a greater increase in metacognitive awareness; they offered more sophisticated and creative responses; and they spontaneously made connections to and extended each other’s ideas. Students in the heterogeneous group were more hesitant and conforming. In two studies of attributional retraining of gifted females, Heller and Ziegler (1996) found that in German junior high and college students’ attributions for success and failure in mathematical domains could be modified by systematic feedback, both direct and indirect, and that the changes in attributions resulted in significantly greater gain scores in the domain in which the students were studying. Recent work by Carol Dweck (2000) also suggests the potential of attributional retraining. Cooperative Learning One of the commonly accepted guides to classroom practice relies on the assumption that what is good for all students is good for the gifted. And the literature on certain instructional strategies leads the reader to accept that conclusion when it may or may not be an appropriate interpretation. One case in point is the instructional strategy of cooperative learning. This particular instructional strategy gained widespread recognition as the middle school movement sought ways of maintaining the philosophical principles accompanying heterogeneous classrooms. Claims were made that cooperative grouping provides a vehicle through which all students, includ-
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education ing the gifted, benefit academically and socially. This overgeneralization is typified by an article in Educational Leadership (a publication widely read by administrators, curriculum supervisors, and teachers) stating that “cooperative learning can benefit all students even those who are low achieving, gifted, or mainstreamed” (Augustine et al., 1990). Middle school educators have accepted the instructional strategy as integral to their classroom practice, despite reported uncertainty and lack of clarity in appropriate practice of the strategy (Tomlinson et al., 1997b). While numerous studies have shown that, in general, cooperative learning positively affects student achievement and self-esteem, critics have questioned the appropriateness of the practice with gifted students (e.g., Kenny et al., 1995; Robinson, 1991). Their skepticism is based on the paucity of research evidence that supports using cooperative learning with this population, the “basic skill” measures used in most studies, and the use of only traditional classroom instruction for control conditions rather than educational treatments considered more appropriate for gifted students. In some studies, the top 25 percent of the class is considered the high-ability group (e.g., Johnson et al., 1993; Lucker et al., 1976), or high ability is defined as a score above the median on a teacher-made placement test (Mervasch, 1991) or is based on teacher judgement only (Johnson and Johnson, 1981; Johnson et al., 1983). Furthermore, the practice of heterogeneously grouping students for cooperative learning activities has been questioned. One controlled field experiment assessed the effect on both gifted and nongifted students of both heterogeneous and homogeneous grouping in cooperative learning settings (Kenny et al., 1995). Gifted students outperformed their nongifted peers in all groups and worked at a faster pace and produced more work in homogenous groups, but achievement differed significantly based on group composition. Materials were not tailored for student level of achievement, however, perhaps limiting possible gains. Gifted students’ self-concept did not differ based on group arrangement, but students grouped with gifted students experienced a significant decrease in social but not academic or general self-concept. In this study, students overall perceived each other to be less friendly, less of a teammate, less smart, less likeable, and less of a leader after working in cooperative groups regardless of ability or type of grouping arrangement. Nongifted students were perceived by their peers as less competent on task-related dimensions after being in heterogeneous groups with gifted students. Minority and Low-Income Students The literature on curricular or programming options that have been successful in the development of the talents of minority and low-income
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education students in particular is very limited. The dearth of research on specific interventions is consistent with funding patterns to support identification of and programming for these populations. Patton et al. (1990) surveyed state directors of gifted programs and found that 82.6 percent (43 states) had no specific funds allocated for disadvantaged but gifted students. No state indicated separate program standards. Although most of the model projects funded by the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program focused on the identification and development of giftedness in underserved populations (Ross, 1994), the collection of data with control or comparison groups was rare. Qualitative analysis of teacher and parent responses has been conducted in case studies of low-income and minority children (Tomlinson et al., 1997a). It indicates that even modest affirmation of talent and intervention, using a model of instruction based on structuring learning experiences to address student interests and cultural differences, which focused on hands-on learning and recognizing varied learning strengths (verbal, spatial, linguistic), brought about transformations in student learning behaviors as perceived by parents and teachers. This approach also resulted in greater identification of these students as gifted in later years. Initial research using a language arts unit of the Integrated Curriculum Model (discussed in an earlier section) provides preliminary data on effectiveness for lower-SES groups (VanTassel-Baska et al., 2002). It demonstrated equal gains between high-SES students and a low-SES group composed of 72 percent of students on free or reduced lunch status and 67 percent minority (unspecified). The early intervention projects designed to close the achievement gap between minority and low-SES children have largely focused on the general success of the programs, not on the issue of giftedness. However, Gandara (2000) concludes that these programs in general have an impact on higher-level functioning for children who are not at serous risk (p. 24). In one study that examined the factors associated with particularly high levels of academic achievement of Head Start students in 1st grade, the authors attributed the outcome to features of the home environment (Robinson et al., 1998). Gandara (2000) also concludes from her review of the school reform initiatives at the elementary school level that “school-wide reform efforts directed toward strengthening the curriculum (among other things) can have an impact on raising the achievement of high achieving African-Americans to even higher levels, conceivably to a level commensurate with gifted performance, at least in math” (p. 26). The conclusion she reaches about precollege programs, such as A Better Chance, Upward Bound, and I Have a Dream, is that while these programs are successful in increasing college attendance rates, there is striking “absence of evidence that these programs have a significant impact on academic performance” (p. 29).
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education There is little evidence of intervention programs at the high school level focused on producing exceptionally high achievers from minority groups (Gandara, 2000). One program showing promise is the Puente project. Larger proportions of students in this program attended college and they “demonstrated significantly higher interest in intellectual activity and in being a good student than matched control students from the same schools” (Gandara et al., 1998). Benefits of Gifted and Talented Assignment1 Adelman (1999) argues that the rigor of the curriculum to which students are exposed is the best predictor of their long-term outcomes (college attendance and completion) irrespective of race or ethnicity. If he is correct, then one of the most important roles that programs for gifted and talented students can play is in preparing and channeling them into upper-level curricula. As Adelman points out, the best proxy for a rigorous curriculum is taking math courses beyond two years of algebra. Students who take beginning algebra in the 8th grade are on track to take high-level math courses later in high school; those who postpone algebra will have a more difficult time reaching higher-level math in the time remaining to them in high school. Therefore, being assigned to algebra in the 8th grade is an important marker of a student’s assignment to a rigorous curriculum and a good predictor of future academic attainment. Using 8th grade data from the National Education Longitudinal Study database, Rumberger and Gándara (in preparation) asked if students from different ethnic groups who were in gifted programs had an equal chance of being assigned to algebra in the 8th grade. Table 9-7 displays the percentages of students from each major ethnic group who were in gifted and talented programs in the 8th grade and who were also assigned to algebra. All data are based on student self-report. Evidently being in a gifted and talented program is highly associated with being assigned to algebra in the 8th grade, suggesting that students who have been identified as gifted are generally perceived as being more academically able, at least in mathematics. Students in gifted and talented programs were two to three times more likely to be assigned to algebra than those students who were not in the program. For students not in a gifted program, differences among racial/ethnic groups in the percentage of students assigned to algebra were relatively small. However, there are considerable discrepancies by race/ethnicity in assignment to algebra for students 1 This section is drawn from the paper written for the committee by Patricia Gandara (2000).
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education TABLE 9-7 Percentage of Students in Gifted and Nongifted Programs Who Are Assigned to Algebra in Grade 8 (Percentage) Ethnicity Gifted in Grade 8 Algebra Nongifted in Grade 8 Algebra White 73 28 Hispanic 52 26 Black 60 27 Asian 83 35 SOURCE: Data from National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (Gandara, 2000). who are in a gifted and talented program. Asian and white students are much more likely to be assigned to algebra than are black or Hispanic students. Hispanic students have the least likelihood of being in algebra, whether they are in the program or not. To consider why would this be, Gandara (2000) then examined grades and achievement test scores for each of the groups to determine if students’ grades or test scores were responsible for the discrepancies in algebra placement. Table 9-8 displays the percentages of students falling into each test score quartile and at each of four levels of grade point average by ethnicity. Grades and test scores probably explain a fair amount of the variance in assignment to algebra in the 8th grade by race/ethnicity. For white students, 82.4 percent had overall grades of 3.0 or higher, and for Asians, 90.4 TABLE 9-8 Percent of Students with Specified Grades and Test Scores by Ethnicity for 8th Grade Gifted and Talented Students Ethnicity Test Score 1st Quartile (Low) Test Score 2nd Quartile Test Score 3rd Quartile Test Score 4th Quartile (High) Grades Less Than 2.0 Grades 2.0–2.99 Grades 3.0–3.49 Grades 3.5+ White 18.1 25.8 30.3 23.0 2.2 15.3 20.0 62.4 Hispanic 29.7 22.6 22.9 20.9 6.9 24.8 28.3 40.1 Black 39.6 19.1 13.7 18.9 17.7 30.4 22.6 29.3 Asian 11.4 7.7 17.0 37.9 2.2 7.5 21.7 68.7 SOURCE: Data from National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (Gandara, 2000).
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education had 3.0 or higher, and grades correlate highly with assignment to upper track classes. However, the fact that Hispanic students were less likely than blacks to be assigned to algebra is not explained by grades or test scores, inasmuch as both were higher for Hispanics than for black students. This may be related to other findings noted earlier that teachers are somewhat less likely to identify Hispanic students for gifted classes and that even training in identification procedures does not appear to reduce this problem substantially. The discrepancies in grades among different racial/ethnic groups does raise another fundamental concern, however: Are students from different racial/ethnic groups being selected into gifted and talented programs on the basis of very different criteria? And, if this is the case, does the curriculum to which they are exposed in the program meet their needs equally? Put another way, does the experience of being in a gifted program contribute significantly to closing the high achievement gap between groups? The labeling effect of being identified as gifted may be a factor in some black and Hispanic students being assigned to algebra (given their overall lower grades and test scores). However, it is difficult to know to what extent the benefits of the program extend beyond the label for these underrepresented students. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Throughout this chapter we have highlighted what we know about effective instruction for special needs students, particularly those identified as having learning disabilities or emotional disturbance and those identified as gifted and talented. The principles of what constitutes good instruction apply across all students. The generally applicable principle of managing task difficulty might require that the pace of instruction, the amount of repetition, and the speed at which complexity or abstraction can be introduced be made different for students at opposite ends of the achievement spectrum. But all students benefit when, for example, the goals of instruction are explicit and metacognition is incorporated into instruction. Instructional practices that have been verified as effective in research are not widely used. Making those practices more common is likely to require a research and development effort that does not end with promising findings—but rather begins with them. Those findings will need to be translated into effective curricula and other teaching tools, field-tested in classroom practice, and carefully scaled up when appropriate in a studied fashion. We repeat our recommendation for research and development from Chapter 5, but specify several additional areas that the research and development program should cover.
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education Federal-Level Recommendations Recommendation RD.1: We recommend that education research and development, including that related to special and gifted education, be systematically expanded to carry promising findings and validated practices through to classroom applicability. This includes research on scaling up promising practices from research sites to widespread use. Research on what works in special education offers some important principles, but too few well-tested interventions with a solid evaluation of the conditions under which they work and for whom. In particular, the research base with respect to English language learners needs to be strengthened. While there has been substantial progress on educational interventions for students who are having difficulty learning to read, little is currently known that can guide educational interventions for the nonresponders to reading interventions. Research needs to attend now to this group of students. We have given relatively little attention either in research or in program development to the education of gifted and talented students. This research base needs to be strengthened substantially. Features of cultural sensitivity that have an impact on learning outcomes for minority students have not been rigorously researched and evaluated in classroom settings. While a significant amount has been written about culturally appropriate accommodations, many of the recommendations have no empirical basis (such as matching learning styles) and should be avoided. Shoring up the empirical foundation for culturally sensitive teaching practice should be a research priority. Development is needed of effective mechanisms for communication of research findings to practitioner, policy, and teacher educator communities. Successful teaching of all students requires a substantive and complex knowledge base in the subject matter being taught, in how children learn, and in pedagogical strategies to promote learning. Understanding the cultural, gender, and other differences in how individual students learn is also an essential skill for effective teaching. Successful in-school implementation of the types of assessments and interventions the committee proposes to maximize educational effectiveness for all students—including the gifted and talented—those who are low achieving and those with disabilities— requires intensive training based on the scientific evidence supporting those strategies. The changes the committee recommends in this report can occur only if there is a significant cadre of well-prepared education professionals and paraprofessionals to implement them. There is ample evidence, how-
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Minority Students in Special and Gifted Education ever, that the growth in knowledge about effective teaching and learning has not begun to significantly impact the practices of educators, administrators, and support services personnel in many schools (National Research Council, 1999c). There is also evidence that part of the reason for the failure of local educators to embrace scientific advances in teaching and learning is the inadequacy of educator preparation programs and professional development activities (Clifford and Guthrie, 1988; Goodlad et al., 1990; National Commission for Teaching and America’s Future, 1996; Orlosky, 1988; Roth, 1999; Zeichner et al., 1996). Many commentators have asserted that higher education-based educator preparation programs are particularly unresponsive to the scientific advances of the past several decades concerning teaching and learning (Clifford and Guthrie, 1988; Goodlad et al., 1990; Murnane et.al., 1991; National Commission for Teaching and America’s Future, 1996). In fact, many states have begun to rely on alternate routes to educator certification in an effort both to bypass traditional college and university teacher preparation programs and to address a shortage of people interested in education jobs. These three significant challenges—unresponsive educator preparation programs, a failure to infuse scientific advances into local practice, and the impending shortage of individuals willing to work in education settings— present the potential for significant barriers to the effective implementation of the committee’s recommendations. Recommendation TQ.4: The committee recommends that a panel be convened in an institutional environment that is protected from political influence to study the variety of programs that now exist to train teachers for general, special, and gifted education; the mechanisms for keeping training programs current and of high quality; the standards and requirements of those programs; the applicability of training to the demands of classroom practice; and the long-term impact of the programs in successfully promoting educational achievement for pre-K, elementary, and secondary students. Direct comparison with other professional fields (e.g., medicine, nursing, law, engineering, accounting) may provide insight in this endeavor applicable to education. The marketplace will demand responses to the staffing shortage. The need for an assessment of the current state of the nation’s educator preparation mechanisms and recommendations for improvement could be a useful first step toward linking research and practice via effective professional training.
Representative terms from entire chapter: