These findings point to the likelihood of rather discrepant patterns of parental influence as well as instructional quality in special education programs serving low-income, minority populations.
The National Longitudinal Transition Study of Students in Special Education (SRI International, 1995) revealed that after high school, only 73 percent of students with LD were involved in work or educational activities. Furthermore, only 50 percent of students with BD/ED were employed (SRI International, 1995). Dropout rates are particularly high for BD/ED and LD students. As Figure 9-1 shows, almost a third of students in these two categories fail to graduate. This highlights the need for continued attention to instructional research in this area to enhance outcomes for these students.
On a positive note, appropriate interventions that enhance outcomes for students with LD have been identified, and there is substantial research documenting their effectiveness. These findings have brought the field a long way from the “process approaches” to instruction that characterized early research efforts. However, there is still a long way to go. For example, understanding of the importance of task persistence on learning is still emerging. Similarly, strategy instruction is known to be effective, but surprisingly little is known about how to get students to “own” strategies, adapt them, and apply them spontaneously to new contexts. Investigation of these areas and others must continue in order take the field and the students to the next level.
The big principles of instruction presented earlier are not revolutionary. Certainly, these principles are both intuitively reasonable and well recognized as effective instructional practices for students with LD. However, these principles are rarely implemented in classrooms (McIntosh et al., 1993) and certainly less than consistently. The future challenge is to increase the sustained implementation of these documented effective practices in all classrooms.
Most gifted and talented students spend the majority of their time at school in the general education classroom. Relatively little is known about the extent to which instruction is differentiated for them. Westberg and colleagues (1993) conducted structured observations in a national sample of 46 3rd and 4th grade classrooms. The study found very little differentiation of curriculum in any area; in 84 percent of the activities in which students participated, there was no difference at all. The greatest amount of differentiation occurred in mathematics, in which advanced content instruction constituted 11 percent of the mathematics activities (Westberg et al., 1993).