As a Special Education Specialist, I chose to focus on Reading Comprehension, as reading comprehension is a foundational skill needed for all core content and subject areas.
Currently, at the national level, there is a disproportion of students reading at grade level. In 2012, 33 percent of fourth-grade students in the United States and 25 percent of the eighth-grade students reading scores were below the basic levels. (McMaster, et al., 2012).
The focus of Reading Comprehension for my action research project is essential to me for several reasons. My struggles with reading, reading comprehension, and written expression throughout my academic career as an individual with a disability was a barrier for me post-secondary. This and my son's struggles are the reasons for pursuing a career and passion for becoming a Special Education Specialist. I have witnessed several students in my teaching career struggle with reading comprehension, which has had an impact on their success in nearly all of their core academic classes.
Within the state of California, there is a literacy crisis. In 2017, according to Larry Sand of the California Literacy Center, approximately 25 percent of California's six million students did not demonstrate their ability to perform basic reading skills at their current grade level. (Inglis & Rigg, 2017).
In a small, rural town, located in northern California, nestled in the Napa Country is a Basic Aid comprehensive public high school, which had 468 students enrolled in the 2017-2018 academic school year. The population of students with disabilities consists of 8.9%, equalling some 42 students. Thirteen of the 42 students are identified as being diagnosed with a moderate to severe disability (Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome, etc.). The remaining 29 students are diagnosed with a mild to moderate disability (Specific Learning Disability, Other Health Impairment, etc.). According to an online district profile report titled EdData, 61.7 percent of the 42 students did "Not Met" standard in the English Language Arts California Student Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) statewide assessment and 15% "Nearly Met" standard. The remaining students "Met" or "exceeded" the standard in ELA on the CAASPP assessment (www.ed-data.org, 2019).
Some believe that districts and schools are focusing primarily on improving the reading achievement of the students who are struggling, resulting in the average and advanced readers being set aside (Scharlach, 2008).
Based on statistics and reports from various sources at the national, state, and local levels that there is no focus on reading instruction and intervention for students from multiple sub-groups, especially students with special needs. Furthermore, there remains a gap between students with disabilities and their typical age/grade level peers in various academic areas, in particular, reading comprehension. Students from multiple sub-groups are enrolled in general education learning environments, are struggling in their reading comprehension.
Reading comprehension is foundational to academic success in all cross-curricular subject areas (i.e., social studies, science, mathematics, etc.). Often, the general education settings are ones where instruction is not differentiated or individualized to meet their learning style, instruction levels, or provides accommodations or modifications as outlined in their Individualized Education Program or 504 accommodations.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
According to McMaster and her co-authors, in 2010, the disproportion of students reading at grade level is alarming. Among 33 percent of the fourth and 25 percent of eighth-grade students who completed reading assessment were identified as reading below basic level (McMaster et al., 2012). Students who are not at or near grade level with their typical peers are a risk of future trouble with the law or incarceration. Author Troyatlms stated that 85 percent of juveniles who encounter a courtroom demonstrates low literacy skills. Additionally, these students are three and half times more likely to drop out of school before graduation. Nearly three-quarters of all adult inmates are unable to read past the fourth-grade level (Troyatlms, 2016).
At the local level in Napa County in 2016, kidsdata.org indicates only 47 percent of students enrolled in grades 3 to 12 are meeting or exceeding grade-level standards on the CAASPP in English Language Arts. Therefore, 53 percent of students nearly or not meeting the standard (kidsdata.org, p 1, 2019). At the school site level, which enrolls the participants of this action research, 61.7 percent of the 42 students did the "Not Met" standard in the English Language Arts California Student Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) statewide assessment and 15% "Nearly Met" standard. The remaining students "Met" or "Exceeded" the standard in ELA on the CAASPP assessment (www.ed-data.org, 2019).
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