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IES Grant

Title: Improving Reading and Mathematics Outcomes for Students with Learning Disabilities: Next Generation Intensive Interventions
Center: NCSER Year: 2013
Principal Investigator: Fuchs, Douglas Awardee: Vanderbilt University
Program: Accelerating the Academic Achievement of Students with Learning Disabilities Research Initiative      [Program Details]
Award Period: 09/01/2013–08/31/2018 Award Amount: $10,000,000
Goal: Multiple Goals Award Number: R324D130003

Purpose: Over the last 10 to 15 years, strides have been made in the development of reading and mathematics instruction to improve student achievement, yet there is a wide and persistent achievement gap between students with disabilities and their peers without disabilities. The proportion of students determined to be at high risk for disability or school failure decreases with more intensive interventions and students who receive more intensive instruction show significant improvements compared to students who receive instruction typically provided by their schools. A number of students, however, show limited or no progress despite receiving secondary, tertiary, or both levels of more intensive instruction. Thus, there is a need to develop a science of intensive instruction for students who have disabilities in reading, mathematics, or both, or are at high risk for being identified as such. This need is more urgent for students in late elementary school and higher. By late elementary school, academic deficits and achievement gaps between students with disabilities and their peers have become well established, and the likelihood of accurately identifying students who need more intensive interventions (i.e., true positives) is improved. The purpose of this project is to develop and evaluate the efficacy of math and reading interventions for students with learning disabilities in grades 3–5.

Projects: The Center's primary research will involve two sets of studies across 5 years: (1) developing math and reading interventions and (2) evaluating the efficacy of the interventions and their components.

Focused Program of Research: Approximately 60 lessons will be developed for each academic area. They are intended to be administered three times per week, for 40 minutes per session, over a period of 20 weeks. The interventions will consist of multiple evidence-based components (including explicit components focused on transfer), focus on students in grades 3–5, and be tailored to each grade level. The reading intervention will focus on basic literacy skills and the transition from story-based to informational text. The math intervention will focus on the transition from whole numbers to fractions, decimals, and algebraic thinking. The interventions will be linked to the Common Core State Standards.

Development Studies (Years 1–3)

The base reading and math programs, consisting of multiple evidence-based components, will be developed during Year 1. A series of four 6-week pilot studies will be conducted to contrast the effects of two active treatment conditions against each other and a business-as-usual condition. Approaches to inferencing will be compared in reading, approaches to algebraic thinking will be compared in math, and explicit transfer approaches will be compared in both reading and math. During Year 2, language comprehension and executive functioning components will be developed, and another series of four 6-week pilot studies will be conducted to contrast the newly developed components with a business-as-usual condition. The team will also adapt and refine proximal, transfer, and mediator measures and create fidelity and teacher training tools during this phase. In Year 3, the research team will conduct four 20-week randomized controlled trials (two in reading and two in math) to contrast two further refined components with a business as usual condition. In reading, these studies will focus on two of the four components (inferencing, explicit transfer, language comprehension, executive functioning) selected on the basis of results from Years 1 and 2. In math, these studies will focus on two of the four components (algebraic thinking, explicit transfer, language comprehension, executive functioning) also selected on the basis of results from Years 1 and 2.

Efficacy Studies (Years 4–5)

In Year 4, two randomized controlled trials (one in reading and one in math) will be conducted to assess the added value of the embedded language comprehension and executive functioning components over the base intervention. For both studies, four conditions will be contrasted: The base intervention without embedded components, the base intervention with an embedded language comprehension component, the base intervention with an embedded executive functioning component, and business as usual. The reading and math interventions will be finalized based on results from these studies. In Year 5, the team will conduct its final randomized controlled trials for the reading and math interventions. Three conditions will be contrasted for each academic subject: the base intervention with specific transfer instruction components, the base intervention without transfer instruction components, and business as usual. For all studies, students will be randomly assigned to condition and then randomly assigned to their small group.

Key Personnel: Vanderbilt University: Douglas Fuchs, Lynn Fuchs, Donald Compton, Mark Lipsey, Kris Preacher, and Melanie Schuele

IES Program Contact:
Sarah Brasiel
Telephone: (202) 245-6734

Project website:

Related IES Projects: National Research and Development Center on Improving Mathematics Instruction for Students with Mathematics Difficulties (R324C100004)


Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L.S., & Vaughn, S. (2014). What is intensive intervention and why is it important? Teaching Exceptional Children, 46 (4), 13–18.

Fuchs, D., & Fuchs, L.S. (2015). Rethinking service delivery for children with significant learning problems: Developing and implementing intensive instruction. Remedial and Special Education, 36, 105–111.

Fuchs, D. & Fuchs, L. S. (in press). Responsivness-to-Intervention: A "systems" approach to adaptive instruction. Adaptive teaching: Theoretical implications for practice. Special issue of Theory into Practice.

Peng, P. & Fuchs, D. (in press). A meta-analysis of working memory deficits in children with learning difficulties: Is there a difference between verbal and numerical domains. Journal of Learning Disabilities.