Faculty Members




Deborah L. Speece


Department of Special Education

Phone: (301) 405-6482

Fax: (301) 314-9158

Email: DLSPEECE@umail.umd.edu

Home Page





The themes of Dr. Speece’s program of research are the developmental and contextual factors that place young children at risk for school failure. This research had its genesis in classification studies of children identified as learning disabled and evolved into the study of children prior to their placement in special education, specifically targeting the development of reading skills. A central problem in the field of special education is the early identification of children who may experience academic failure and the amelioration of the potentially debilitating effects of such failure. Current methods of identifying children as learning disabled rely on a "wait and fail" model in which children must demonstrate severe academic problems before remediation is rendered. Dr. Speece attempts to address these issues by describing the diversity of children who are learning disabled or at risk. The ultimate goals of this research are to understand developmental precursors of school failure, add precision to the definition of learning disabilities, and delineate interventions that better serve the needs of these children. The methodological approach is longitudinal and multivariate.

Dr. Speece currently is completing a project that is built upon a number of her interests including early identification, classification, classroom contexts, and reading. This research is designed to test the impact of a novel identification model on (a) prevailing methods of learning-disabilities identification in the public schools, (b) overrepresentation of minority children in special education, (c) classroom reading contexts of general education teachers, and (d) the reading progress of at-risk children over three years. The model is based on a measurement system that is tightly linked with reading instruction in the primary grades and extends her research to working directly with general educators to improve the quality of reading instruction for at-risk children. Both quantitative and qualitative methodologies are used to provide an in-depth examination of one of the more intractable educational problems: early identification and remediation of reading failure.

Dr. Speece received the Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of North Carolina in 1984. She teaches courses in assessment and learning disabilities.

Selected Recent Publications    

            Speece, D.L., & Keogh, B.K. (Eds.). (1996). Research on classroom ecologies: Implications for inclusion of children with learning disabilities. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

            Gallimore, R., Bernheimer, L., MacMillan, D. L., Speece, D. L., & Vaughn, S. R. (Eds.). (1999).  Developmental perspectives on children with high-incidence disabilities. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

            Speece, D.L., & Harry, B.  (1997).  Classification for children.  In J. W. Lloyd, E. J. Kame’enui, & D. Chard (Eds.), Issues in educating students with disabilities (pp. 63-73).  Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

            Hart, E. R. & Speece, D. L. (1998). Reciprocal teaching goes to college: Effects for postsecondary students at risk for academic failure.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 670-681.

            Speece, D. L., Roth, F. P., Cooper, D. H., & De La Paz, S.  (1999).  The relevance of oral language skills to early literacy: A multivariate analysis.  Applied Psycholinguistics, 20, 167-190.


Recent Grants

Title:                               Classification in context: The effects of research-based, classroom-grounded    
                            practices on children at risk for reading failure

Investigators:                 D. L. Speece, D. E. Molloy and L. P. Case

Funding Organization:  U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Special Education Programs

Dates:                            1997-2000       

Total Amount:                $555,000.


Title:                                Doctoral leadership program in learning disabilities: Preparing researchers and 
                                        teacher educators for inclusive environments

Investigators:                 D. L. Speece,  S. Graham and K. R. Harris

Funding Organization:  U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Special Education Programs

Dates:                            1997-2001       

Total Amount:                $813,812.


Last modified 18 February, 2001           © 2000 University of Maryland