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Results of TCLD research should address the gap in knowledge of:

  • Reliable and valid classifications of LD, with direct implications for identification of students with significant reading disabilities, including models that incorporate response to intervention.
  • Understanding the role of executive functions in reading comprehension and other academic skills.
  • Effective interventions and response to intervention for students at risk for or experiencing serious reading difficulties.
  • The neural correlates of reading disabilities in children.

Project activities and results will provide educators with information about effectively intervening with students with a range of reading difficulties, including students with learning disabilities and those at risk for these disabilities. In addition, screening and diagnostic procedures for identifying struggling readers in middle school will be developed. The project will integrate information from multiple perspectives, including assessment, identification, and measurement, intervention, and the neural correlates of reading.

Significance

Many years ago, the legislation now known as IDEA made it possible for students with disabilities to attend public schools and to receive an appropriate education. Now that access to public education for all individuals with disabilities is available, the next goal is to assure that students with disabilities receive an education that is reflective of enhanced instructional outcomes.

Recent consensus reports concur in highlighting issues related to the identification and treatment of students with learning disabilities as a central component of education reform in general education and special education. In special education, four reports in the past 3 years all concluded that major changes in identification and treatment presaged any significant revision of the recently reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA): the National Research Council report on minority overrepresentation in special education (Donovan & Cross, 2002), a report titled Rethinking Special Education by the Fordham Foundation and the Progressive Policy Institute (Finn, Rotherham, & Hokansen, 2001), the Learning Disabilities Summit by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (Bradley, Danielson, & Hallahan, 2002), and the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education (2002).

All four reports suggested that the number of individuals identified with LD could be reduced if more effective reading instruction were in place, noting that many students placed in special education may not have received adequate instruction in general education. These reports also observed that current regulations for the identification of LD in IDEA lacked a research base and constituted obstacles to the implementation of better instructional approaches for students with disabilities. Thus the need for research on alternative models for the identification and treatment of LD is clear. Identification models for LD must require educators to intervene as early as possible when students display risk for learning problems. When students are not responding as expected to these early interventions, then, if appropriate, students should be referred for more formal, comprehensive evaluations or other services.

Specifically, there is presently a critical need to evaluate RTI systematically as a classification model of LD. Such research should incorporate a multidisciplinary perspective that is conducted from a methodologically rigorous classification approach that facilitates the integration of research on the cognitive, neural, and instructional components of RTI models. Projects like the ones being undertaken by TCLD are first steps in the direction of addressing these needs.