Key Takeaway: Children with reading disorder (RD) have an increased risk of anxiety disorders, the most common mental health disorder in children. Fortunately, preliminary research suggests that an improvement in anxiety symptoms is associated with an improvement in academic performance over time. These findings highlight the importance of practitioner awareness of the common co-occurrence of RD and anxiety and provide support for: 1) screening for anxiety disorders in children diagnosed with RD and 2) comprehensive intervention that addresses both academic and mental health needs of children with RD. —Ashley Parnell

Reading disorder (RD), a type of specific learning disorder (SLD) that involves impairment in word reading, reading fluency, and/or reading comprehension, is common in the general population, with reported prevalence ranging from 5% to 17%. Children with RD have an increased risk for developing other psychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorder, and show higher anxiety levels than children without learning disabilities. However, “this co-occurrence is often under-recognized and under-treated resulting in less than optimal outcomes in all areas including emotional outcomes.”1

Given these concerns and statistics, the purpose of the current study from Hossain, Bent, and Hendren was to examine the association between anxiety symptoms and overall academic performance in children with RD, in hopes that a better understanding of this relationship would result in improved screening and treatment. 

Participants included 128 children (aged 7-14) from three special education schools that specialized in teaching students with RD. Teachers completed two rating scales every three months for two years, one that measured anxiety symptoms and another that measured academic progress in content areas including reading, writing, and math. 

Comparison of the two measures occurred over the two-year time period and at each time point of survey completion, both revealing a significant association between anxiety and academic performance with increased levels of anxiety symptomatology being associated with poorer academic performance in children with RD. Of specific importance, findings suggest that an improvement in an individual’s anxiety symptoms is associated with an improvement in their academic performance over time. 

Given the prevalence of anxiety and RD in isolation and comorbidly, these findings highlight the importance of screening for anxiety disorders in children that have been diagnosed with RD upon diagnosis and on a regular basis. Once identified, an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, targeted intervention that addresses both academic and mental health needs is recommended.

Summarized Article:

Hossain, B., Bent, S., & Hendren, R. (2021). The association between anxiety and academic performance in children with reading disorder: A longitudinal cohort study. Dyslexia.

Summary by: Ashley M. Parnell — Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment, and passion and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Additional Reference: 

  1. Hendren, R. L., Haft, S. L., Black, J. M., White, N. C., & Hoeft, F. (2018). Recognizing Psychiatric Comorbidity With Reading Disorders. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 101.

Key Takeaway: In evaluating the intervention strategies we employ with students, we must consider both global effectiveness and effectiveness for target populations, as the success of the intervention may differ depending on the student population it is serving. As educators, we strive to be measured in practice, so monitoring the impact of an intervention within our own unique context is one way to responsibly apply what we have learned from the research base. —Erin Madonna

Self-questioning (SQ) strategy intervention is designed to engage the learner in monitoring their own understanding as they read, increasing their active construction of meaning in the process. Previous studies have shown SQ to be an effective intervention for improving comprehension, and it is cited in both the National Reading Panel report (2000)1 and Willingham’s subsequent analysis (2006-2007)2 as being supported by conclusive evidence. Furthermore, “past systematic reviews for this student population have shown that combining self-questioning strategy with paragraph restatement/summarization,3 main idea generation, and text structure analysis4 have yielded positive outcomes.”

Daniel and Williams’ purpose in undertaking this review was to address the lack of specificity in previous syntheses pertaining to the effect of the SQ strategy instruction on the development of reading comprehension skills in struggling K-12 readers rather than on a heterogenous population as previous reviews have undertaken. 

Comprehension strategies have the potential to enable struggling readers to digest text as proficient readers would.5 There are two categories of SQ strategies that have been explored in previous studies: top-down and bottom-up. The top-down strategy puts the question-generation responsibility on the student, asking them to pose and answer their own questions while reading a text. The bottom-up approach involves the teacher generating questions prior to reading, with the student actively seeking answers during the reading of the text. One benefit of a top-down approach, as shared by the authors, is that students are able to generalize their use of the strategy to other contexts. “Teaching students to independently use the strategy through a top-down approach provides them with tools to problem solve comprehension failures independently. Hence, only interventions that used the top-down approach to learning self-questioning strategy were included in this synthesis.”

Ten studies met the criteria for inclusion pertaining to the diagnostic category of students: experiment design, isolated SQ strategy instruction utilizing student-generated questions, the use of measures of reading comprehension, and English language instruction. There were 129 students identified as having a reading-based learning disability, and 137 students identified as struggling readers were included in this review. Students with comorbidity of additional diagnoses were not included. The frequency, cohort size, and duration of the strategy instruction varied between the included studies.  

In discussing the results of the included studies as well as findings from their literature review, the authors highlighted some potential hypotheses indicated in the data:

  • The “self-questioning strategy may be more effective for students who are moderately below grade level in reading.”6
  • “Students who read three or more years below grade level may need more intensive interventions such as increased frequency and duration of sessions to gain proficiency in strategy use.”7 
  • The SQ strategy may be more effective with elementary students than with secondary students.8,9 
  • “While both explicit and non-explicit strategy instruction may be beneficial for improving struggling readers’ reading comprehension, explicit strategy instruction may improve generalization and allow students to use self-questioning strategy independently.”
  • “While self-questioning strategy may benefit some students, we recommend that teachers monitor students’ comprehension outcomes and if the strategy is not having the desired effect, to consider alternative reading comprehension strategies.”

This review did not find conclusive support for the effectiveness of isolated SQ strategy instruction for students identified with a learning disability or as a struggling reader, but it did identify avenues for further investigation. The authors were careful to note important limitations to the current synthesis, namely the scarcity of research directly measuring the isolated SQ strategy amongst students identified with a learning disability or as struggling readers, small sample sizes in the included studies, and the challenge of isolating the impact of the SQ strategy in studies looking at multiple interventions.

Summarized Article: 

Daniel, J., & Williams, K. J. (2019). Self-questioning strategy for struggling readers: A synthesis. Remedial and Special Education, 0741932519880338.

Summary by: Erin Madonna – Erin philosophically aligns with the MARIO Framework’s deeply rooted conviction that all learners are capable, and she firmly believes in MARIO’s commitment to the use of evidence-based practices drawn from the field of current multidisciplinary research.

Additional References: 

  1. National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
  2. Willingham, D. T. (2006–2007). The usefulness of brief instruction in reading comprehension strategies. American Educator, 30(4), 39–50.
  3. Sencibaugh, J. M. (2007). Meta-analysis of reading comprehension interventions for students with learning disabilities: Strategies and implications. Reading Improvement, 44(10), 6–22. Retrieved from
  4. Berkeley, S., Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (2010). Reading comprehension instruction for students with learning disabilities, 1995-2006: A meta-analysis. Remedial and Special Education, 31, 423–436. doi:10.1177/0741932509355988
  5. Pressley, M., Borkwski, J. G., & Schneider, W. (1989). Good information processing: What it is and how education can promote it. International Journal of Educational Research, 13, 857–867.
  6. Nolan, T. E. (1991). Self-questioning and prediction: Combining metacognitive strategies. Journal of Reading, 35, 132–138.
  7. Vaughn, S., Wanzek, J., Murray, C. S., & Roberts, G. (2012). Intensive interventions for students struggling in reading and mathematics: A practice guide. Portsmouth, NH: Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.
  8. Scammacca, N. K., Roberts, G. J., Vaughn, S., & Stuebing, K. K. (2015). A meta-analysis of interventions for struggling readers in grades 4–12: 1980–2011. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 48, 369–390
  9. Wanzek, J., & Vaughn, S. (2007). Research-based implications from extensive early reading interventions. School Psychology Review, 36, 541–561.]

Key Takeaway: Students with multiple disabilities (SMDs) deserve the right to communicate effectively. One way to meet their needs is to implement Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), an assistive technology that enhances their inclusion into general education classrooms. Special educators believe that barriers to AAC are due to a lack of access to AAC, lack of professional development, and lack of support for families. Being aware of these barriers will allow us to develop the best solutions to support communication needs for SMDs. —Michael Ho

Rashed Aldabas (2021) investigated special education teachers’ perspectives regarding barriers and facilitators when using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) with students with multiple disabilities. The author acknowledges that an assistive technology like AAC has the potential to facilitate language acquisition and communication competence among SMDs. More importantly, the author emphasizes that the use of AAC not only enhances inclusion into general education classrooms and increases levels of spoken language but it also decreases problem behaviors among SMDs.

The author investigated the following four research questions: 

  1. How do special education teachers perceive barriers to using AAC with SMDs?
  2. Are there significant differences in teachers’ perspectives regarding barriers to using AAC with SMDs based on: (a) gender; (b) previous use of AAC; and (c) attendance of AAC training programmes?
  3. Are there significant differences in teachers’ perspectives regarding barriers to using AAC with SMDs based on: (a) previous teaching experience; (b) level of education; and (c) number of students taught?
  4. How do special education teachers perceive facilitators when using AAC with students with multiple disabilities?

Here are the major takeaways from the article:

  • Aldabas (2021) refers to Raghavendra et al. (2012)1 and Rubin et al. (2009)2—“Students with severe disabilities, including SMDs, who have difficulties using natural speech in order to meet all of their communicative needs, are usually at high risk for reduced participation, with poorer peer relationships and greater exclusion from classroom activities.” Assistive technologies, including AAC, are able to support those students with these barriers.
  • The main barriers to effective integration of AAC within schools were associated with staff inadequacy, lack of AAC resources, lack of teacher training, a lack of college-level courses covering essential skills and knowledge about AAC, and lack of ongoing team collaboration between teachers and students.
  • Aldabas (2021) quotes Bruce, Trief, & Cascella (2011), “Language plays a key role when considering to use AAC.” Bruce, Trief, & Cascella (2011) found that teachers of SMDs noted that there were many benefits when using tangible symbols intervention, but the symbols needed to be labelled in both English and the family’s primary language. This indicates that language can also be a significant barrier. 
  • 172 special education teachers of SMDs participated in this study. The study was conducted in all schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia that offer educational services to different types of students including SMDs. The data was collected using a non-probability convenience sampling.
  • In response to the first research question, special education teachers identified the following top three barriers to using AAC with SMD: Difficulty in obtaining high- or low-tech AAC because of expense and lack of availability, difficulty in obtaining high- or low-tech AAC supporting the Arabic language, and lack of family collaboration in supporting the use of AAC. 
  • In response to the second research question, female special educators had a higher awareness of their lack of knowledge and skills as barriers to AAC use compared to their male counterparts. Additionally, special educators who had experience with using AAC viewed these barriers more seriously than those who did not. Participants who had attended training on AAC were more knowledgeable about these barriers than those who had not attended training.
  • In response to the third research question, the participants’ teaching experience, the level of education, and the number of SMDs taught did not have an effect on the respondents’ perceptions of barriers associated with teaching SMDs.
  • In response to the fourth research question, the participants perceived the following as the top facilitators of AAC for students with disabilities: providing a special room with AAC, providing AAC support in the Arabic language, providing AAC at affordable prices, and providing sufficient times to train SMDs to use AAC.
  • The most significant barriers for [the participants] were access to AAC, family support, and professional training, all of which should be supplied by the school environment, namely, the school administration . . . The three sets of facilitators—teacher training, awareness programmes, and SMDs’ family collaboration—could go a long way to addressing some of the most serious barriers to AAC as identified by respondents” (Aldabas, 2021).
  • The study has a few limitations, such that the sample size is relatively small and that the data is restricted to schools in Riyadh. Moreover, the participants were special educators only. Future research could target other stakeholders and other geographical locations. Research on barriers and facilitators other than schools, students, and teachers may provide a more holistic understanding of the effectiveness of AAC among SMDs. 

Summarized Article:

Aldabas, R. (2021). Barriers and facilitators of using augmentative and alternative communication with students with multiple disabilities in inclusive education: Special education teachers’ perspectives. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 25(9), 1010-1026.

Summary by: Michael Ho—Michael supports the MARIO Framework because it empowers learners to take full control of their personalized learning journey, ensuring an impactful and meaningful experience.

Additional References:

  1. Raghavendra, P., C. Olsson, J. Sampson, R. Mcinerney, and T. Connell. 2012. “School Participation and Social Networks of Children with Complex Communication Needs, Physical Disabilities, and Typically Developing Peers.” Augmentative and Alternative Communication 28 (1): 33–43. doi:10.3109/07434618.2011.653604; 
  2. Rubin, K. H., W. M. Bukowski, and B. Laursen. 2009. Handbook of Peer Interactions, Relationships, and Groups. New York, NY: Guilford.

Key Takeaway: Narrative skills play a crucial role in social and academic development, yet prove challenging for students with language disorders. Practitioners can optimize the chances of successful oral narrative intervention through the use of (1) icon cards to represent macrostructure narrative elements and/or pictures to support the telling of the target narrative, (2) repeated student retellings of the entire target narrative, and (3) teacher modeling of narratives. —Ashley Parnell

According to authors Pauls and Archibald,1 “The ability to tell a story is particularly important for school-age students,” and narrative ability has been broadly linked to improved social and academic outcomes. Narrative skills are critical to developing and maintaining friendships and are predictive of later academic skills, including reading comprehension, writing, and vocabulary. 

Children with language disorders and language problems associated with Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, fragile X, Williams syndrome, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) display difficulties with many aspects of narration, requiring targeted instruction and intervention to develop these skills. Oral narrative interventions target macrostructural (i.e., story structure & organization) and microstructural aspects of narrative discourse (i.e., linguistic devices at the sentence level) through the telling and retelling of stories.

In a recent systematic review of the literature, Favot et al. examined the efficacy, quality, and common features of oral narrative intervention on the narratives of children with language disorders. Favot et al. reviewed 24 research articles published between 1993 and 2018, involving three hundred twenty-six participants between 5 years 1 month and 16 years 2 months with varying degrees of language disorder.  

Overall, findings of the review suggest that “oral narrative intervention is likely to be effective” across individuals with varying ages, degrees of language disorder, and co-occurring disabilities. Despite generally good quality and results of the single case studies, confident conclusions could not be drawn regarding efficacy due to the low quality and variable results reported by group research studies. Suggestions for future research included: 1) conducting more robust, group research designs, 2) investigating the effect of intervention on students with more significant disabilities and the inclusion of generalization measures, and 3) evaluating the effect of intervention on personal narrative skills.

Based upon their review, the research team identified common features of effective oral language interventions. Practitioners should consider incorporating the following features in order to optimize the chances of successful intervention: 

  • Macrostructure frameworks or rubrics which identify and sequencing core elements (i.e., setting including characters, initiating event/problem, attempts to solve, resolution) 
  • Icon cards to represent macrostructure elements and/or pictures to support the telling of the target narrative 
  • Repeated retelling of the entire target narrative as opposed to partial retellings
  • Clinician modelling of target narratives

Summarized Article:

Favot, K., Carter, M., & Stephenson, J. (2020). The effects of oral narrative intervention on the narratives of children with language disorders a systematic literature review. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities. 33, 489-536.

Summary by: Ashley M. Parnell — Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment, and passion and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Additional References:

Pauls, L.J. & Archilbald, L. (2021). Cognitive and linguistic effects of narrative-based language intervention in children with Developmental Language Disorder. Autism and Developmental Language Impairments, 6.

Key Takeaway: Research has indicated that parental training and coaching programmes can be effectively translated into the student’s natural environment. Studies have also provided support for using routines-based models to improve the quality of goals in early intervention/early childhood special education professional training programmes. —Emmy Thamakaison

Sara Movahedazarhouligh (2021) at the University of Northern Colorado shares her systematic review investigating the effectiveness of family-centered practices in naturalistic settings and the early-intervention of such practices in parent training.

The routines-based (RB) family-centered approach was suggested to be functional in naturalistic settings for toddlers with Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or developmental delays. Specifically, using “varied family-identified routines” resulted in “parents [being] more likely to use communication strategies” and “children [being] more likely to use targeted communication skills,” Movahedazarhouligh (2021) quotes Brown & Woods (2015).1

  • Modelling intervention practices and providing parents with opportunities to implement interventions has been reported to correspond with “positive changes in [children’s] communication skills” and results in better unprompted requests in children with ASD and partial hemispherectomies, based on research by Meadan et al. (2013),2 Ingvarsson (2011),3 and Chaabane et al. (2009).4
  • The family-centered approach of problem-solving is suggested to have “contributed to the stability and durability of reductions in challenging behaviour” of young learners in a study by Moes & Frea (2002).5
  • Other family-centered approaches, including written instructions, performance-based feedback, and role-play, have also been suggested to contribute to improvement in aspects such as “children’s independent work skills,” “social interaction,” and “participation in play dates” based on work by Welterin et al. (2012),6 and Jull & Merinda (2011).7

Approaches focusing on RB interventions are also suggested to be beneficial in training programmes for interventionists, as they “improved quality ratings of goals and objectives” and resulted in “professionals’ knowledge, understanding, confidence, and home visiting skills [increasing] from pre to post-intervention.”

The effectiveness of other family-centered approaches other than RB in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education training programmes are yet to be explored in a wider context.

Though further research is needed, there is a “growing body of evidence” that has “validated many of the theoretical links between family-centered approaches . . . and desirable outcomes for families with a child with disability.” Therefore, practices that employ family-centered care and encourage parent-implemented interventions are encouraged as an early intervention for some children with special needs.

Article Summarized: Movahedazarhouligh, S. (2021). Parent-implemented interventions and family-centered service delivery approaches in early intervention and early childhood special education. Early Child Development and Care, 191, 1–12.

Summary by: Emmy Thamakaison—Emmy is a recent high school graduate attending Stanford University and is an enthusiastic advocate of MARIO Framework.

Additional References:

1. Brown, J. A., & Woods, J. J. (2015). Effects of a triadic parent-implemented home-based communication intervention for toddlers. Journal of Early Intervention, 37(1), 44–68. doi:10.1177/1053815115589350

2. Meadan, H., Meyer, L. E., Snodgrass, M. R., & Halle, J. W. (2013). Coaching parents of young children with autism in rural areas using internet-based technologies: A pilot program. Rural Special Education Quarterly; Morgantown, 32(3), 3–10.

3. Ingvarsson, E. T. (2011). Parent-implemented mand training: Acquisition of framed manding in a young boy with partial hemispherectomy. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44(1), 205–209. doi:10.1901/jaba.2011.44-205

4. Chaabane, D. B. B., Alber-Morgan, S. R., & DeBar, R. M. (2009). The effects of parent-implemented PECS training on improvisation of mands by children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(3), 671–677.

5. Moes, D. R., & Frea, W. D. (2002). Contextualized behavioral support in early intervention for children with autism and their families. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(6), 519–533. doi:10.1023/A:1021298729297

6. Welterlin, A., Turner-Brown, L. M., Harris, S., Mesibov, G., & Delmolino, L. (2012). The home teaching program for toddlers with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(9), 1827–1835. doi:10.1007/s10803-011-1419-2

7. Jull, S., & Mirenda, P. (2011). Parents as play date facilitators for preschoolers with autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 13(1), 17–30. doi:10.1177/1098300709358111

Key Takeaway: School climate is a critical component for successful school outcomes. The type of engagement occurring between students, faculty, and the community, the level of safety, and environmental factors all affect school climate. With school-wide programs focusing on specific domains, like School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports for discipline and social and emotional learning for safety, schools can change the perceptions and overall climate. – Ashley Parnell

A safe, supportive school climate is critical for school effectiveness. From teacher longevity, satisfaction, and stress to student academic achievement, problem behavior, and social-emotional health, the impact of school climate on all stakeholders is well supported by research. 

The association of school climate and key school outcomes supports the need for educators to be concerned with creating and sustaining a healthy school climate. Yet, evidence regarding ways to implement change remains limited and reviews focusing on the effects of intervention to improve school climate have not been conducted.

In this systematic review, Charlton, Moulton, Sabey, and West examined methodological quality and findings from 18 experimental studies evaluating the effects of schoolwide intervention programs on teacher and student perceptions of school climate.

Specifically, school climate refers to the comprehensive social and physical conditions, which involve three critical/core domains (DoE, 2014): 

  • Engagement. Relationships between students, teachers, families, and the broader community.
  • Safety. Schools and school-related activities where students are safe from violence, bullying, harassment, and controlled substance use.
  • Environment. Facilities, resource & technology access, teacher-student ratios, and teacher-student retention.

Researchers summarized and analyzed all available experiential research on the topic while prioritizing the highest quality literature when drawing conclusions.

Evidence identified supports the following key conclusions:

  • Careful, systematic implementation of schoolwide programs is likely to improve multiple domains of school climate, specifically the engagement and environment domains for School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) and social and emotional learning (SEL).
  • Findings suggest that programs targeting specific domains of school climate (e.g.., SWPBIS for discipline, SEL for emotion safety) seem effective in changing perceptions. 
  • School climate improvement is amenable to change. This review identified evidence supporting the malleability of school climate and the finding that schoolwide intervention can improve school climate.

While these findings are encouraging, some limitations and recommendations of the current study as they relate to: a) the quality of literature, b) definitions of independent variables, and c) measures of school climate warrant consideration. 

Summarized Article:

Charlton, C.T., Moulton, S., Sabey, C.V., West, R. (2021). A systematic review of the effects of schoolwide intervention programs on student and teacher perceptions of school climate. Journal of Positive Behavioral Interventions. 23(3), 185-200.

Summary by: Summary by: Ashley M. Parnell—Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment, and passion and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Key Takeaway: In education, we throw around the term evidence-based quite casually, at times without the awareness of whether the evidence we rely on is empirically sound. Bringing clarity to how we ascertain veracity can support our ability to identify high-quality interventions. – Erin Madonna

In this article, Kauffman and Farkas discuss veracity as it pertains to special education, particularly around issues of policy and access to services. The authors outline two types of beliefs that drive educational decisions, Type A or scientifically verifiable beliefs and Type B, opinions or personal assertions which are not scientifically verified. The authors argue that when Type A beliefs have been established as replicable and truthful, they should be given precedence over Type B beliefs when making educational decisions.

In defining Type A and Type B beliefs, the authors provide the example of reading instruction to illustrate the difference between scientific beliefs and those based upon opinion. A Type A belief around reading is that explicit reading instruction of decoding skills works, while a Type B belief around reading is that reading emerges naturally in a literature-rich environment. We know this Type B belief as a “whole language” or a “balanced literacy” approach. The Type A belief has been verified scientifically, replicated, and is determined to be an evidence-based intervention not because we believe it to be, but because it has qualified as such through rigorous testing. This Type A belief can be challenged and reverified or debunked at any point. 

  • A Type A belief is not based on popular opinion, it is based upon the outcome of credible scientific study. 
  • The Type B belief is based upon personal testimonies and is often reinforced by the assertions of an authority figure or by a collective opinion held by a large group. It has not been exposed to the same scientific scrutiny as the Type A belief but is accepted by many because it fits with their personal opinions. This particular Type B belief is based upon flawed research which demonstrates how a Type B belief can be reinforced by data that does not meet the requirements of scientific assessment, but that is accepted anyway, becoming pseudoscience.

With the definition of Type A and Type B beliefs established, the authors go on to discuss practical applications of greater awareness around the two types of belief. “When we claim that something is evidence-based in special education, the matter of Type A belief about it—the empirical evidence—is of enormous consequence.” This is because making educational choices without empirical evidence risks, at best, neutral outcomes and, at worst, potential harm for our students. “Conformity to a personal version of belief, Type B, must not be substituted for a confirmable reality.”

The authors connect the concept of veracity with social justice when they discuss the impact of Type B beliefs on public policy, including the belief of “over-representation of certain racial or ethnic groups” in special education. With only partial veracity, amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) aimed at addressing the belief that “over-representation” is occurring have denied Black students badly needed services. “When a social policy or the fate of an individual is in question, as is often the case in special education, then Type A truth matters a great deal.” 

Educators must look beyond the fads or popular movements in education and seek out information about whether the interventions they plan to implement are based upon a Type A belief or a Type B belief. Part of this process for the individual is being willing to adjust their practice if new empirical evidence demonstrates that a previously held belief is not in fact a Type A belief. Adaptability and commitment to relying on scientific evidence provide the best opportunity for delivering a high-quality educational experience for our students. Allowing for external pressures to influence our choice of intervention without evidenced veracity is problematic. 

The authors are careful to express that Type B beliefs can positively influence education. They make clear that Type A and Type B beliefs may not always be in conflict. When one’s personal beliefs allow them to “make better sense of the objective world and/or provide moral guidance or a star to steer by,” that Type B belief can provide the motivation to advocate for special education services or improved policy. The point is not to abandon all Type B beliefs but to become conscious of how they influence our decisions as educators and to always check our Type B beliefs against available evidence before acting upon them. 

Summarized Article:

[Kauffman, J. M., & Farkas, G. (2021). Veracity in Special Education. Exceptionality, 1-14. DOI: 10.1080/09362835.2021.1938066]

Summary by: Erin Madonna—Erin philosophically aligns with the MARIO Framework’s deeply rooted conviction that all learners are capable, and she firmly believes in MARIO’s commitment to the use of evidence-based practices drawn from the field of current multidisciplinary research.

Key Takeaway: The implication of this study for educators is that utilizing peer-mediated interventions, within academic, SEL, and executive function lessons, is once again proven an evidence-based approach to increasing academic gains. Peer-mediated interventions may also have positive indirect effects on social-behavioral outcomes. —Erin Madonna

The primary purpose of this meta-analytic study by Moeyaert et al. (2019) was to contribute to the body of evidence addressing peer-tutoring’s impact on academic skill growth and social-behavior outcomes. This particular analysis investigated the direct and indirect effects of peer tutoring on students at risk of low achievement and students with disabilities, resulting in statistically significant implications for special education practice. 

The majority of the study participants were students with behavior disorders (36.59%), followed by students at risk or low achieving (29.1%), students with autism spectrum disorders (13.39%), students with learning disabilities (11.91%), students with intellectual disabilities (6.86%), and students who were deaf (1.95%). Of the 46 studies included, 13 focused on classwide peer-tutoring, 12 looked into reciprocal peer-tutoring models, and 21 reviewed the effects of non-reciprocal peer tutoring. Four moderators were factored into the analysis, including gender, age, study quality, and disability. 

Both the direct effects on academic performance and the indirect effects on social-behavior outcomes were measured. 

A large and statistically significant intervention effect size was noted for academic outcomes with social outcomes also seeing large effect sizes, just not to the magnitude of the academic results. While not statistically significant, there was some evidence found that the impact of the peer-mediated intervention may increase over time for academic skills. This trend was not observed for social-behavior outcomes. 

Peer-mediated interventions were found more effective for older students, age 10 and older. The gender effect was also observed to be large, indicating that peer-mediated interventions may be more impactful for female students than for male students. When moderating for disability, the largest effect size noted for academic skills was in the participant group identified as at-risk or low achieving. Students with learning disabilities saw the greatest indirect impact on social-behavioral outcomes. 

“For both academic and social outcomes, peer tutoring is less effective for children with intellectual disability.”

The authors conclude by addressing some limitations and implications of their study: 

  • There was significant variability between the social outcomes measured in the included studies. As a result, comparison of the social-behavior outcomes is more challenging than comparisons of academic skill development. This is a potential avenue for future research to explore further.
  • Alternative models of peer-mediated interventions, specifically addressing peer interaction, may have more impact on social-behavior outcomes than peer tutoring focused primarily on academic skills.
  • “Educators seeking to address the academic and social-behavioral outcomes of students with disabilities may wish to combine more than one type of peer-mediated interventions to concurrently improve the student’s academic and social-behavioral skills.”
  • “Further research is needed to determine the maintenance of the effects of peer tutoring and to establish whether the effects generalize to other outcomes.”

Despite the limitations “practitioners can consider peer tutoring as an evidence-based approach for improving the level or trend in students’ academic skills and level of students’ social-behavioral outcomes.”

Article Summarized:

Moeyaert, M., Klingbeil, D. A., Rodabaugh, E., & Turan, M. (2019). Three-level meta-analysis of single-case data regarding the effects of peer tutoring on academic and social-behavioral outcomes for at-risk students and students with disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 0741932519855079.

Summary by: Erin Madonna— Erin philosophically aligns with the MARIO Framework’s deeply rooted belief that all learners are capable, and she firmly believes in MARIO’s commitment to the use of evidence-based practices drawn from the field of current multidisciplinary research.

Key Takeaway: In addition to implementing the best interventions for students who are qualified for learning support, providing effective learning strategies needed to avoid the misidentification of English language learners (ELLs) in special education has never been more crucial. Implementing six effective vocabulary acquisition strategies (VAS) within the frameworks of self-regulated and multimedia learning may not only have promising effects on the language acquisition of ELLs but it may also prevent ELLs being falsely identified for special education eligibility. —Michael Ho

Ortogero and Ray (2021) searched, gathered, and analyzed eight research articles to examine the research question: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, what recent vocabulary acquisition strategies (VAS) are feasible for e-learning and effective in reducing the over-representation of ELLs in special education?

Here are the major takeaways:

  • Nearly 12% of English language learners were identified as having a disability in 2016.1 This has prompted educators to use technology effectively to teach a second language; integrate the second language into content areas; use the first language to teach the second language; and focus on other language learning strategies, such as vocabulary acquisition strategies (VAS).
  • Vocabulary acquisition is essential among English language learners because they need to constantly acquire the meaning of unknown words when speaking, listening, reading, or writing. Having a strong literacy foundation is a prime indicator of academic success among English language learners.
  • “The following VAS for ELLs were found to be effective: (1) using L1 (first language) to teach L2 (second language), (2) Content and Language Integrated Learning, (3) designing culturally relevant activities in both L1 and L2, (4) pre teaching vocabulary multimodally using explicit word learning strategies, (5) multimedia use, and (6) promoting self-regulation.” Ultimately, these strategies can be taught in an online learning mode and may prevent the overrepresentation of English language learners in special education.
  • During and even after the COVID-19 pandemic, the six VAS strategies work best in the Self-Regulated Multimedia Cognitive Learning Model, which balances the use of technology and multimedia with self-regulation. It begins with pre-teaching vocabulary using explicit word learning strategies, followed by content and language integrated learning and culturally relevant learning activities. By using L1 to teach L2, the students’ vocabulary acquisition will be further enhanced. Ortogero and Ray (2021) mention “Implementing the six effective VAS within the frameworks of self-regulated and multimedia learning may have promising effects on educators continuing their efforts of effectively instructing ELs (English learners) amid an increased e-learning culture.”
  • Many stakeholders worry about the potential detrimental effects of learning through technology. In order to address this issue, self-regulation skills, such as setting goals and monitoring one’s learning, need to be emphasized during online learning.2 Ortogero and Ray (2021) refer to Huebeck’s 2020 study3 and emphasize that “teaching and promoting self-regulation skills can help curb technology’s distracting features and lead to a culture of learning English as a second language amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has driven educators to embrace technology.”

This study had some limitations. First, the search methods were only conducted by the first author, and the eight studies reviewed used self-reporting instruments only. In addition, a few studies did not indicate whether all instruments used were in the participant’s first language. Other VAS learning strategies related to the Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP), such as using open questions, wait time, and code-switching, were also not included.

Experimental studies examining the effects of VAS on English language learners is recommended for further research, in order to address response bias. Comparing the effects of various native languages may explain why certain VAS are more effective than others. Finally, the effects of VAS pre, during, and post COVID-19 could determine the impact the pandemic has had on English language learners.

Summarized Article:

Ortogero, S. P., & Ray, A. B. (2021). Overrepresentation of English Learners in Special Education Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. Educational Media International, 1-20.

Summary by: Michael Ho — Michael supports the MARIO Framework because it empowers learners to take full control of their personalized learning journey, ensuring a impactful and meaningful experience

Research author Shawna P. Ortogero, Ph.D., was involved in the final version of this summary.

Additional References:

  1. National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). English language learner (ELL) students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools, by home language, grade, and selected student characteristics: Selected years, 2008-09 through fall 2016. Institute for Education Sciences.
  2. Pintrich, P. (2000). The role of goal orientation in self-regulated learning. In M. Boekaerts, P. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (pp. 451–502). Elsevier Inc.
  3. Huebeck, E. (2020, June 3). How did COVID-19 change your teaching, for better or worse? See teachers’ responses. Education Week.