Reading Instruction for Middle School Students with or at-risk for an Emotional Impairment: An Examination of Reading Courses, Content, and Practices

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Students with emotional impairments exhibit a wide range of academic and behavioral difficulties within school settings. Academically, this group of students holds low grade point averages, have higher rates of academic failure, progress at slower rates, and often do not graduate from high school. Behaviorally, these students make classroom instruction difficult, often causing teachers to focus on behavioral management for these students rather than on academic successes. Within the participating school district, students with disabilities obtained much lower standardized test scores than their same grade peers. The purpose of this study was to investigate reading instruction for students with or at-risk for emotional impairments across three middle schools, 6th through 8th grades. Five students and seven middle school language arts and/or reading teachers participated. The seven teachers had at least one participating subject in a language arts, reading, or READ 180 class in one or more middle school grades. Student cumulative school files were reviewed to obtain academic, demographic, and attendance data. In addition, teacher interviews were conducted to obtain data on teacher experience, reading program knowledge and implementation, reading strategies applied within their classes, and collaboration practices with special education personnel. The evaluated data associated with this study produced results which varied between individual participants. Information gained however, provided suggestions for improving the delivery of reading instruction in the participating school district.