• Increasing Reading Skills and On-Task Behavior in Alternative School Students Through Empirically-Supported Reading Interventions: A Behavior Support Plan to Consider

      Fiorello, Catherine A.; Connell, James; Farley, Frank; Rosenfeld, Joseph G.; Axelrod, Saul (Temple University. Libraries, 2009)
      Reading problems can have an extremely adverse effect on a person's quality of life, opportunities in education and employment, and access to enjoyable activities (Daly, Chafouleas, & Skinner, 2005). Unfortunately, almost 20% of students in the United States have significant difficulty learning to read (Good, Simmons, & Smith, 1998). Federal legislation drafted in an attempt to address this important issue (No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, Reauthorization of Individuals with Disabilities Act 2004) propose initiatives that are unclear to teachers and practitioners in terms of how to best instruct students to become successful readers. For older students, and students identified with emotional disturbance, research in this area is considerably lacking. Many students with emotional disturbance have poor reading skills which follow them into the later grades and adulthood. This cycle of poor reading and difficult classroom behaviors often spirals out of control, with each variable negatively and reciprocally impacting the other. The purpose of the present study was to investigate of the impact of a two-pronged reading intervention package on specific reading skill acquisition and levels of on-task classroom behavior exhibited by students in an alternative school setting. The interventions used individualized direct instructional techniques with students who were placed in an alternative educational setting as a result of behavioral symptomatology that was considered to be unmanageable in their home school districts. The two interventions focused on improving reading skills through the development of phonemic awareness/basic phonics skills, and repeated readings with error feedback to improve levels of reading fluency. Additionally, the impact of the intervention was also examined in relation to student classroom behaviors believed to be connected to their frustration with the reading process. Two single-subject multiple baseline across subjects research designs were used to assess the effectiveness of the interventions on reading skill development and on-task behavior, and the order of the interventions was reversed for the second experimental condition in order to address the possibility of order effects. Five upper-elementary and middle school level students completed participation in the study. Results indicated noticeable gains across all students in the area of phonemic segmentation. Assessment results in the areas of word reading, phonetic encoding, and reading fluency showed variable results and flat trend lines, indicating nominal growth in these areas. Additionally, behavioral observation data indicated few patterns of positive behavioral change having resulted from intervention participation. Analysis of study design indicated that the interventions as implemented might have been too short to produce meaningful gains for these students who had long-established patterns of reading difficulty. Generalization of gains made in segmentation to the overall reading process would likely require greater frequency of intervention with more opportunities for repetition and practice. The results of this study indicate that further research is needed in the area of designing reading interventions for students with identified emotional disturbance who are attending an alternative school setting, both to improve their ability to read and to potentially improve their behavior by providing for more opportunities for success with reading tasks.