Supporting Reading Instruction for Students with Disabilities: The Intersection of Disability, Race, and Trauma

Shaundrika Langley-Grey, Fordham University


Students with severe reading difficulties in elementary school often continue to struggle with reading throughout their school careers These problems are exacerbated for students with disabilities and early childhood trauma; the COVID-19 pandemic heightened the challenges for these students. Zion Elementary School had 30 classes at two sites serving 188 predominantly Black and Hispanic students all of whom had disabilities. This research study used the Carnegie Foundation’s Improvement Science methodology. The Theory of Action was that if teachers planned their lessons tailored to individual student needs coupled with culturally relevant and trauma informed practices, students would improve their reading proficiency. The Plan-Do-Study-Act strategy guided three nested interventions 1) professional development embedded in weekly grade level team meetings, 2) an intensive experience for four focus teachers from the K-1 teams, and 3) professional development embedded into monthly faculty meetings. Outcomes were positive in spite of the myriad challenges posed by the pandemic. Between fall and spring assessments, 80% of students increased their reading scores. State reading scores more than doubled, with 84% of K-1 students scoring above the district’s threshold score for the previous year. The majority of teachers agreed that they could confidently meet the learning needs of their struggling readers at the intersections of disabilities, race, and trauma (90%), use culturally responsive tools to meet the learning needs of their students (87%), test out new teaching practices to meet student learning needs (97%), and model reading strategies (90%).

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Special education|Reading instruction|Disability studies

Recommended Citation

Langley-Grey, Shaundrika, "Supporting Reading Instruction for Students with Disabilities: The Intersection of Disability, Race, and Trauma" (2022). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28864421.