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Report: Forward Together — Helping Educators Unlock the Power of Students Who Learn Differently [downloadable]

NCLD report 527Individuals with learning and attention issues often face lifelong challenges, frustration, and failure as they are currently less likely to graduate high school, enroll in and complete college, and hold a job compared to their peers. Schools and districts will continuously seek goals for student achievement and development that are beyond reach if the learning needs of the “1 in 5” go unmet.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) and Understood have just released Forward Together — Helping Educators Unlock the Power of Students Who Learn Differently, a new report in which they set out to understand and address this problem by partnering with teachers to gather their experiences and insights.

In compiling the report, NCLD and Understood  surveyed 1,350 K–12 public school general education teachers who teach core subjects, held 13 focus groups of K–12 general education teachers with mixed levels of experience and in low-income schools, reviewed teacher certification and licensure data for all 50 states, and reviewed 150 data-driven research articles and studies.

Selected Research Findings

Only 30% of teachers surveyed feel strongly that, when they try their best, they can be successful with the 1 in 5.

Teachers’ beliefs about inclusion and about what the 1 in 5 can achieve vary. Only 50% of surveyed teachers feel strongly that the 1 in 5 can achieve at grade-level standards.

Only 56% of teachers surveyed believe IEPs provide value to students, and just 38% believe IEPs help them be better teachers.

Some teachers express beliefs suggesting they are unaware of scientific findings showing that learning disabilities and ADHD are based on differences in brain structure and function:

  • 1 in 3 view students’ learning or attention issues as laziness.
  • 1 in 4 believe learning and attention issues can be outgrown.
  • 1 in 4 believe ADD/ADHD is a result of bad parenting.

The more experience a teacher has with the 1 in 5—or, more importantly, the more they believe in their own abilities to be effective—the stronger their mindsets toward inclusion.

At least one-third of teachers reported that they have not participated in professional development on learning and attention issues. Yet, teachers express an interest in improving their practice and are highly interested in learning more about “strategies for teaching struggling learners.”

What Works

Three critical mindsets appear to have a positive influence on the learning and development of the 1 in 5:
NCLD 3 mindsets 529

  • Strong sense of self-efficacy
  • Positive orientation toward inclusion and personal responsibility for all students
  • Growth mindset

Educators can implement eight key practices to improve achievement of the 1 in 5 in a general education classroom:
NCLD 8 strategies 530

  • Explicit, targeted instruction
  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
  • Strategy instruction
  • Flexible grouping
  • Positive behavior strategies
  • Collaboration
  • Culturally & linguistically responsive pedagogy
  • Evidence-based content instruction


Understood.org and NCLD provide resources and tools that build educators’ understanding of the 1 in 5. The user-friendly resources make accessible the complex findings from learning science on how the 1 in 5 and all students learn, so you can use the information in your daily work.

Download Forward Together — Helping Educators Unlock the Power of Students Who Learn Differently for more detailed research findings, the teaching strategies that work for the 1 in 5, and recommendations for actions that teachers, school leaders, district leaders, families, and policymakers can take to more effectively reach and teach students with learning differences. A two-page summary of the key findings is also available.

Source: The National Center for Learning Disabilities | Forward Together — Helping Educators Unlock the Power of Students Who Learn Differently, https://www.ncld.org/forward-together | © 2019 National Center for Learning Disabilities

NCLD’s mission is to improve the lives of the 1 in 5 children and adults nationwide with learning and attention issues—by empowering parents and young adults, transforming schools, and advocating for equal rights and opportunities. We’re working to create a society in which every individual possesses the academic, social, and emotional skills needed to succeed in school, at work, and in life.

Understood’s mission is to help the 1 in 5 individuals who learn and think differently to thrive in life. As a leading digital resource and nonprofit organization, Understood empowers millions of families and educators through personalized resources, access to experts, interactive tools, and a supportive online community.

CHC offers free community education sessions for educators. Join us to learn practical teaching strategies you can use in your classroom to help more kids reach their promise and potential. Educator sessions are led by experienced educator/clinician teams from Sand Hill School and CHC.

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