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Students with Learning Differences – Policy and Legal Issues. IDEA NCLB Section 504 Gifted/Talented. Learning Differences. Students with learning differences are not always students with disabilities Teachers need to accommodate all student needs in learning.

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Students with learning differences policy and legal issues

Students with Learning Differences – Policy and Legal Issues



Section 504


Learning differences
Learning Differences Issues

  • Students with learning differences are not always students with disabilities

  • Teachers need to accommodate all student needs in learning

Individuals with disabilities education act idea

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - IDEA Issues

-originated in the 94th congress in 1975

-original name was Education of All Children with Handicaps Act

-autism and TBI not specified as disabilities originally

-has been reauthorized twice

-next reauthorization is this year

Students with learning differences policy and legal issues
IDEA Issues

  • Mandates


    Free appropriate public education


    Least restrictive environment

    Inclusive settings where appropriate

    Related Services

    Provided to allow the student to derive benefit from the general education curriculum

    Review of program


    Re-evaluation every three years

Students with learning differences policy and legal issues
IDEA Issues

  • Incidence

  • The four largest disability groups served in special education are…

  • specific learning disabilities (47.2%)

  • speech/language impairments (18.8%)

  • mental retardation (9.6%)

  • emotional disturbance (8.1%)

  • These students make up approximately 83% of the special education population

  • Source: NCES report, 2007

Idea source national association of special education teachers 2007
IDEA Issuessource: National Association of Special Education Teachers, 2007

Students with learning differences policy and legal issues
IDEA Issues

  • Alignment with NCLB

    The mandates of the legislation known as No Child Left Behind apply to special education students as well

    States and districts can create alternative assessment formats for students with special needs, but they are not released from their responsibility to provide research-based, regularly evaluated programs of instruction with rigorous standards

Students with learning differences policy and legal issues
IDEA Issues

  • Compliance

  • Schools and their professional staff are required to provide all services in the IEP as written, including the provision of accommodations, modifications and supports

  • Providers are required to provide the parent with periodic reports on progress

  • IEPs must be reviewed by the IEP team at least annually

No child left behind act of 2001

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Issues

-Full Title: An act to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind

-enacted by the 107th Congress

-will be reauthorized in 2011

Provisions Issues

  • Statewide assessments

  • AYP standard

  • Consequences for failing schools

  • Provision of “highly qualified” teachers

  • Common expectations for all students

  • Increased accountability

  • School choice

Some complications for students with special needs and learning differences
Some complications for students with special needs and learning differences

  • No provisions for students for whom English is not the first language

  • Narrow definition of “research” in identifying research-based practices – almost exclusively quantitative

  • Reduced time for arts and electives in order to provide time for instruction in core subjects that are assessed has resulted

Some complications for students with special needs and learning differences1
Some complications for students with special needs and learning differences

  • 100% of students required to meet the same standard

  • No special provisions for students in special education or who have other disadvantages – accommodations such as more time, typing instead of writing, or having problems read to the student do not count as “special”

  • Alternative assessments are permitted for only 1% of students with special needs

504 plans

504 Plans learning differences

-originated in 1973

-part of Rehabilitation Act, not education legislation

-may follow an individual into adulthood for higher education or employment accommodations

504 plans1
504 Plans learning differences

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 outlines the provisions that can be made for students who have disabilities or impairments that adversely affect their performance in the general education classroom.

  • Children who are offered services under 504 plans are enrolled in their school districts as regular education students, and therefore are not entitled to the IEP provisions granted to special education students.

Who is eligible for a 504 plan
Who is eligible for a 504 plan? learning differences

  • To be covered under Section 504, a student must be “qualified ” (which roughly equates to being between 3 and 22 years of age, depending on the program, as well as state and federal law, and must have a disability)

  • [34 C.F.R. §104.3(k)(2)].

Who is disabled under 504
Who is disabled under 504? learning differences

  • As defined by federal law: “An individual with a disability means any person who:

    • (i) has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity;

    • (ii) has a record of such an impairment; or

    • (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment”

  • [34 C.F.R. §104.3(j)(1)].

How is referral done
How is referral done? learning differences

  • Anyone can refer a child for evaluation under Section 504. However, while anyone can make a referral, such as parents or a doctor, OCR has stated in a staff memorandum that “the school district must also have reason to believe that the child is in need of services under Section 504 due to a disability”

  • Therefore, a school district does not have to refer or evaluate a child under Section 504 solely upon parental demand.

  • (OCR Memorandum, April 29, 1993).

Who decides on placement
Who decides on placement? learning differences

  • According to the federal regulations: “...placement decisions are to be made by a group of persons who are knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, placement options, least restrictive environment requirements, and comparable facilities”

  • Unlike Special Education, the federal regulations for Section 504 do not require or even mention that parents are to be a part of the decision-making committee. The decision to include parents in the decision-making committee is a determination that is made by each school district and should be spelled out in the district’s procedures for implementing Section 504.

  • [34 C.F.R. §104.35(c)(3)].

What documentation is needed
What documentation is needed? learning differences

  • The 504 Committee should look at grades over the past several years, teacher’s reports, information from parents or other agencies, state assessment scores or other school administered tests, observations, discipline reports, attendance records, health records and adaptive behavior information.

  • Schools must consider a variety of sources. A single source of information (such as a doctor’s report) cannot be the only information considered.

504 accommodations
504 Accommodations learning differences

  • Children who exhibit ADHD traits may be entitled to extra time for completing assignments, seating in the front of the classroom to prevent distraction, or help from peers when working in the classroom.

  • --Students with emotional issues may receive group or individual counseling with a school psychologist, a behavior modification plan, and specific reinforcements for positive behavior.

  • --Test questions can be modified or simplified for students with academic difficulties.

  • --Children with medical problems can be provided with a safety plan and assistance from trained staff members when needed.

Gifted students

Gifted Students learning differences

-each state defines differently

-no special provisions for state assessments for gifted

-only 26 states require special programs for the gifted

Federal definition
Federal definition learning differences

  • Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities

    Source: Marland Report to Congress, 1972

  • Note: States and districts are not required to use the federal definition, although many states base their definitions on the federal definition.

Who is gifted
Who is Gifted? learning differences


  • “In this subtitle, ‘gifted and talented student’ means an elementary or secondary student who is identified by professionally qualified individuals as:

  • Having outstanding talent and performing, or showing the potential for performing, at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared to other students of a similar age, experience or environment;

  • Exhibiting high performance capability in intellectual, creative, or artistic areas;

  • Possessing an unusual capacity; or

  • Excelling in specific academic fields.”

    Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 8-201

Who is gifted1
Who is Gifted? learning differences

  • Approximately 3 million children of school age are identified as being academically gifted

  • This represents about 6% of the school population

  • There is no official statistical report on gifted students – it is estimated that the numbers change as categories of “giftedness” expand

Risks learning differences

  • Gifted students can be at risk in the same way that students with diagnosed special needs for an accurate and appropriate program of instruction

  • They may actually be at greater risk of not receiving appropriate programs due to the fact that there is no mandate for such programs

  • Students may be gifted in a specific area of functioning and have differences and special needs in another

Students with learning differences policy and legal issues

ADHD learning differences

-a commonly identified learning difference that requires accommodation, either through the IEP and special education process, or through the process to provide a 504 plan

Students with learning differences policy and legal issues
ADHD learning differences

  • The American Psychiatric Association states in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) that 3%-7% of school-aged children have ADHD.  

  • However, studies have estimated higher rates in community samples.

Students with learning differences policy and legal issues
ADHD learning differences

  •  Approximately 9.5% or 5.4 million children 4-17 years of age have ever been diagnosed with ADHD, as of 2007.

  • The percentage of children with a parent-reported ADHD diagnosis increased by 22% between 2003 and 2007.

  • Rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of 5.5% per year from 2003 to 2007.

Students with learning differences policy and legal issues
ADHD learning differences

  • Boys (13.2%) were more likely than girls (5.6%) to have ever been diagnosed with ADHD.

  • Rates of ADHD diagnosis increased at a greater rate among older teens as compared to younger children.

  • Prevalence of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis varied substantially by state, from a low of 5.6% in Nevada to a high of 15.6% in North Carolina.

What does this mean in instruction

What does this mean in instruction? learning differences

-differences require perspective from the teacher

-knowledge of learning theories is helpful

-understanding tiered instruction is essential

-UDL is a useful framework

Se lected theories of instruction lear ning
Se learning differenceslected Theories of Instruction & Learning

Vygotsky’s Zones

Proximal development

Actual development

Gagne’s Events of Instruction

Gaining attention

Activating motivation

Stimulating recall

Presenting stimulus

Eliciting performance

Providing feedback

Assessing performance

Promoting retention & transfer

Slavin’s QAIT Model

(after Carroll)


Carroll’s Model of

School Learning

Degree of Learning = f(time spent/time needed)

Gagne’s Phases of Learning


Bloom’s Levels of Challenge

Knowing+Understanding+Using+Breakingapart+Judging+Putting together in a new way

Tiered learning
Tiered learning learning differences

  • Differentiation of instruction requires that the teacher match the content to be taught to the level of readiness that the student has to engage with that content

  • A basic strategy for identifying student levels of readiness and performance is to use levels, or tiers, for instruction

Tiers learning differences

  • The basic grouping strategy used in many classrooms is to note the following:

    • Who is really struggling to grasp concepts, apply prior knowledge, utilize content and related vocabulary, and see the connections of the content presented to skills already present for the student?

    • Who is on the brink of mastery, showing progress in applying the content, but in need of practice to really consider the skills their own?

    • Who has mastered the content and is ready to expand their skills or move ahead to more complex levels of the content and related skill use?

Vygotsky s zones vygotsky l 1978 mind in society 1986 thought and language revised
Vygotsky’s Zones learning differences Vygotsky, L. (1978) Mind in Society; (1986) Thought and Language – revised.

  • Zone of actual development

    • This is the level at which a student demonstrates independence in using skills to comprehend content and solve problems. At this level of functioning, the student can take assignments home and create something that shows this master of skills. Homework is intended to be an opportunity to use skills that are in the zone of actual development.

  • Zone of proximal development

    • This is the level at which students can demonstrate proficiency with the guidance of a teacher, but they are not yet at the point at which they can demonstrate mastery independently.

Bloom bloom b s 1956 a taxonomy of educational objectives handbook 1 cognition
Bloom learning differencesBloom, B.S. (1956). A taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook 1 - cognition

Gagne s phases gagne r m the conditions of learning and theory of instruction 1985
Gagne’s Phases learning differencesGagne, R.M. the Conditions of Learning and Theory of Instruction, (1985)

The actual phases of learning that the student passes through. The teacher should consider each as he or she designs a lesson.

  • Alertness – the attention of the student must be engaged before

    instruction can begin

  • Expectancy – the objectives of the lesson must be clear to the learner

  • Retrieval – accessing the short term memory of the learner – review of prior knowledge of the content of the lesson

  • Perception – materials and management of learning behaviors must be

    in place so that the course of the lesson is smooth and not disrupted

  • Encoding – moving information from short term to long term memory of the learner – needs embedded routines and clarification of misconceptions

  • Responding – ungraded practice opportunities with wait time, note any

    apparent disabilities as students prepare answers and learning products

  • Feedback – use self-regulation, provide constructive reinforcement when correction is needed and positive when the job is done well.

  • Cueing - getting the student back on task in subsequent lessons – use overlearning and distributed practice

Gagne s events
Gagne’s Events learning differences

Aligned with the phases of learning, Gagne also outlines the actual behaviors of teaching that elicit the student indicators of the phases. The teacher should engage in the following:










Embedding tiers into the instructional day
Embedding tiers into the learning differences instructional day

  • Once content has been properly introduced, and the general understanding of the levels of ability are recognized, the teacher can prepare assignments that provide adequate opportunities for practice.

  • Assignments should be designed to challenge, but not bore or frustrate, the learner.

    • Too easy = boredom

    • Too difficult = frustration

Mastery and complexity
Mastery and Complexity learning differences

Mastery moves the learner to higher and higher

levels of difficulty, connecting a hierarchy of skills.

Grade one to grade two to grade three, for example.

Complexity expands the dimension of

the learned skill at whatever level of

mastery the student is demonstrating.

Writing a paragraph can be extended to

creating a statement of opinion or

argument for a point of view for example.

Why is tiered learning desirable
Why is tiered learning desirable? learning differences

  • It requires the teacher to be aware of and teach to the dimension and scope of skill and need within the given class.

  • This creates a strong scaffold or frame for instruction on a daily basis.

The scaffold of instruction
The scaffold of instruction learning differences

  • Creating the supports for a good lesson connect to the principles of Universal Design for Learning and differentiated instruction.

  • They include elements that all lessons must have, whether they are used each time or not.

Elements of scaffolding j dodge 2005 differentiation in action
Elements of Scaffolding learning differences J. Dodge, (2005). Differentiation in Action.

  • Modeling by teacher

  • Highlighting or color coding important parts

  • Samples of completed, accurate work

  • Manipulatives – stickies, calculators, flash cards, etc.

  • Graphic organizers

  • Starters and guides

  • Prompts and signals

  • Templates and formulae

  • Mnemonics

Creating tiers
Creating Tiers learning differences

  • Design of instruction includes two or three versions of the task.

    • BASIC version – for the struggling student

    • ON GRADE version – for the student in need of practice

    • ADVANCED version – more complex, requiring more critical and creative thought for the student ready to move ahead

Universal design for learning

Universal Design for Learning learning differences

-originated in architecture

-design of environments to accommodate all

-adapted in education as a means to accommodate all levels of need and types of learners

-not restricted to special needs

-scaffold for differentiation of instruction

Universal design and udl
Universal Design and UDL learning differences

  • Design of products and environments to be useable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design = Universal Design.

  • Design of the learning environment to make learning possible for all students, without separating those with special needs as “different” = Universal Design for Learning.

Schools are learning communities
Schools are Learning Communities learning differences

  • Within the community are neighborhoods or groupings of the members of the community.

  • The neighborhoods vary each time a new lesson starts.

Variability learning differences







Variability learning differences

comprehension for

material heard





comprehension for

material read

Who needs instruction that is universally designed
Who needs instruction that is Universally Designed? learning differences

  • Students with IEPs

  • Students who are gifted

  • Students who are learning English as a new language

  • Students new to the school or class

  • Students who need variety and stimulation

  • Teachers who are charged with meeting the needs of a range of ability levels

Three principles
Three Principles learning differences

  • Multiple means of representation

  • Multiple means of action and expression

  • Multiple means of engagement

Multiple means of representation
Multiple means of representation learning differences

  • Perception

    • display of information

    • visual and auditory alternatives

  • Language and symbols

    • define vocabulary and symbols

    • clarify syntax and structure

    • non-linguistic illustration of concepts

  • Comprehension

    • background knowledge

    • critical features, ideas and relationships

    • information processing

    • memory and transfer

Multiple means of action expression
Multiple means of action & expression learning differences

  • Physical action

    • modes of physical response

    • navigation

    • tools and assistive technology

  • Expressive skills and fluency

    • media for communication

    • composition and problem solving

    • scaffolds for practice and performance

  • Executive functions

    • goal setting

    • planning and strategy development

    • managing information and resources

    • capacity for monitoring progress

Multiple means of engagement
Multiple means of engagement learning differences

  • Recruiting interest

    • individual choice and autonomy

    • relevance, value and authenticity

    • threats and distractions

  • Sustaining effort and persistence

    • salience of goals and objectives

    • levels of challenge and support

    • collaboration and communication

    • mastery-oriented feedback

  • Self regulation

    • personal goal setting and expectations

    • coping skills and strategies

    • self assessment

Think about
Think About learning differences

How does the use of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) assist both teachers and students in accommodating need and still meeting mandates such as IDEA, NCLB and the 504 regulations?

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