Kenneth A. Kavale 1946-2008

Kenneth A. Kavale, 1946-2008
Ken Kavale

Kenneth A. Kavale, a noted scholar who studied learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, intellectual disabilities, and special education policies, died Saturday 13 December 2008 in Virginia Beach (VA, US). Professor Kavale, who was born in 1946 in Brooklyn (NY, US) and was most recently a distinguished professor at Regent University in Virginia Beach (VA, US), was widely known for his work on the nature, assessment, and treatment of students with disabilities. He was author or co-author of hundreds of articles, book chapters, and books and had presented scores of papers at professional meetings, conferences, and other public venues.

Professor Kavale, who had previously taught at the University of Georgia, University of Colorado, University of California at Riverside, and University of Iowa, earned a bachelors degree from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and a Ph.D. in 1976 from the University of Minnesota. He was widely known for having examined many aspects of special education policy and practice by systematically reviewing extant research. He was among the first to apply the methods of meta-analysis in education, and many of his reviews, which were conducted with his collaborator Steven R. Forness of the University of California at Los Angeles, revealed the weak or essentially absent scientific basis of some early special education interventions.

Professor Kavale also wrote more traditional analyses of the literature, bringing both a historical and scientific perspective to contemporary topics in special education. He published these works as books with titles such as these:

  • The Science of Learning Disabilities (1985; with S. R. Forness);
  • Handbook of Learning Disabilities: Dimensions and Diagnosis (1987; with S. R. Forness & M. Bender).
  • The Nature of Learning Disabilities: Critical Elements of Diagnosis and Classification (1995; with S. R. Forness);
  • Efficacy of Special Education and Related Services (1999; with S. R. Forness & G. N. Siperstein);
  • The Positive Side of Special Education: Minimizing its Fads, Fancies, and Follies (2004; with M. P. Mostert);
  • Challenging the Refusal of Reason in Special Education (2008; edited with M. Mostert & J. Kauffman.

Professor Kavale was the founding editor of Learning Disabilities Research (now Learning Disabilities Research & Practice) and served on the editorial boards of many other scholarly journals. Among the many honors accorded Professor Kavale were his election in 2008 to serve as president-elect of the Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children and his appointment to the executive board of the Learning Disability Association of America.

Link to Professor Kavale’s biography at Regent University, a bio for the Iowa Academy of Education, and a list of publications accessible via Google Scholar. See a video of Professor Kavale speaking about the discrepancy concept and its contribution to the identification of students with Learning Disabilities (snippet via the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities). Also see the ZoomInfo entry about Professor Kavale.

Original post 12:43 PM Monday 15 December.

Update (5:30 PM Monday 15 December): Regent University has issued a press release reporting Ken’s passing.

Update (5:30 AM Wednesday 17 December): Links to a post on EBD Blog and three posts (one, two, and three) on LD Blog referring to Professor Kavale’s work.

4 Responses to “Kenneth A. Kavale 1946-2008”


  • As are many among my colleagues, I am saddened by Ken’s passing. We worked and laughed together many times, and I’m sorry I shan’t have that privilege again. Although we sometimes disagreed, he was never disagreeable. Our discipline is better for his having contributed to it, and I hope we can honor his memory by sustaining his focus on employing reason and following the evidence.

  • I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Ken Kavale.

    While I did not know all that well, although I certainly knew of his work, I probably knew him the longest. It turns out that Ken lived in the apartment house on Avenue P in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY just across the street from the one that where I lived. We knew each other in elementary school, although with the many similarly aged baby boomer kids living in each apartment house, we did not “play” together, either in the street or the park. I believe I recall seeing his picture several years ago in our P.S. 247 class picture.

    Once Ken and I realized the connection, we always stopped to chat at CEC meetings. While I’m not certain it was in Boston, I do recall Ken recently telling me that he would still regularly return to Brooklyn to visit his Mom, who still lived in the same building.

    I know that I will miss seeing him this year and reminiscing. Our field has lost a good man.

  • Although I know that Ken was well known and respected in his professional field, I wanted to say that he was a devoted father to our daughter, Christine. Ken enjoyed life, his work, and family and I will always remember his laughter. He will be missed by all of us. Thank you for your kind words. Sincerely, Linda Kavale

  • I was both shocked and saddened to learn about the passing of Ken Kavale. We grew up in the same building on Ave. “P”, in Brooklyn, NY. Ken and his family lived in the apartment above my family. I guess since he was 7 years older than me, he knew me since I was born. Being older than myself, we reconnected as friends in 1971, when he taught me how to ski. As a youngster I would go up and visit his family and admire the models that Kenny use to put together.

    The past few summers I was in Virginia,but we weren’t able to connect,and I was looking forward to seeing him this Christmas in Brooklyn. I would call him on the phone quite often, and I could always make him laugh with my stories. I will surely miss that laugh of his, as I will miss him dearly.

    My dear friend Ken, you were taken to soon and I will always remember you. Your friend and neighbor, Richard

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