Chapter 2 Edit
The idea that children with disabilities could become functioning members of society did not take hold until the 19th century - educational structure developed by Edouard Seguin of France.
Public schools, however, didn't accept children with disabilities through the first half of the 20th century. Special ed students were segregated out of regular classes.
Civil Rights movement and desegregation later impacted special education; in 1973, the Rehabilitation Act banned excluding students with special needs. Further enhanced by the Education of the Handicapped Act, 1974. Later renamed Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA).
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) presents an education plan for a special needs student.
The main purposes of IDEIA are:
To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living;
To ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected;
To assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities; and
To assess and ensure the effectiveness of efforts to educate children with disabilities.
Several related services are also available for special ed students.
You are responsible for directions and decisions that will meet these students' needs.
IDEIA core principles: Zero Reject, Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), Non-discriminatory Evaluation, Parent and Family Rights to Confidentiality, Procedural Safeguards.
IDEIA defines FAPE (cannot be denied) as special education and related services that:
(a) are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without change;
(b) meet the standard of the SEA, including the requirements of this part;
(c) includes an appropriate preschool, elementary school or secondary education in the state involved; and
(d) are provided in conformity with an individualized education program (IEP) that meets the requirements of 300-324.
Least Restrictive Environment - special ed students should work with their peers and be provided with the needed services.
Each public agency must ensure that:
(i) To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are non-disabled; and
(ii) Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
Zero Reject - No one can be turned down for special ed services.
Nondiscriminatory Evaluation mandates that assessments used in the special education decision-making process are unbiased. The law ensures that tests are administered in the child's native language, tests are age- and developmentally- appropriate, a qualified professional administers the tests, and tests occur in all areas of suspected disability.
Parent and Family Rights to Confidentiality help to ensure that information about a student's disability is confidential and shared only with professionals who work directly with the student. As a special educator, you will be responsible for maintaining student confidentiality.
Procedural Safeguards seek to ensure that decisions about students with disabilities are made with parent input and in compliance with the state procedures of IDEIA, which can be found in district resources.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) - Special Ed students should be placed in classrooms with their peers and should not be isolated unless the disability is so severe, it is required to achieve supplemental aides and services. LREs vary by student, but should be constructed to be the most constructive environment for success. Teachers work in development of IEPs to determine the LRE.
Any student with at least one of 13 federally defined disabilities receives special ed services.
A disability would be any affliction that impacts a student's ability to learn and behave in a social setting, such as a classroom. I would like to know the exact terminology and what constitutes a "disability" that results in special ed services for an incoming student.
Under NYS Law, 13 disabilities: Autism, Deafness, Deaf-Blindness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, Intellectual Disability, Learning Disability, Multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment including blindness
6.5 million American students receive special ed services: 49% because of learning disability, followed by speech impairments and intellectual disabilities.
The terms "specific learning disability" or "learning disability" mean a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia.
LDs can be identified in unpredictable test scores, perceptual impairments, and certain motor behaviors. They can occur in speech, language, math, reading, and organizational skills.
Students with LDs generally benefit from specially designed instruction in order to help them to gain the skills they need and to learn compensatory strategies.
Emotional disturbances can be identified through an unexplained inability to learn or maintain satisfactory relationships, inappropriate behavior in normal circumstances, a general unhappy or depressed mood, or a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with school or personal problems.
Characteristics: Hyperactivity, aggression/self-destructive behavior, withdrawal, immaturity, learning difficulties. Many children who do not have EDs can show these, but if they are serious and continuous over 6-12 months, it shows they are not coping with their peers well.
Students with EDs can struggle to develop social and academic skills. They may also receive psychological counseling in addition to educational services.
Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, which adversely affects a child's educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements such as flapping one's hands, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. These acts, however, could also define an ED.
Characteristics: Communication problems, difficulty in relating to people, objects, and events, unusual playing with toys/objects, difficulty with changes in routine and familiar settings, repetitive body movements/behavior patterns.
Autistic students do better in predictable classrooms and learn better when both visual and verbal aides are present.
Intellectual Disabilities means significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period (birth to age 16), that adversely affects a child's educational performance.
Characteristics: Problems with memory, generalization, metacognition, language, and academic skills. Their functioning level is at least two standard deviations under the average IQ of 100.
Appropriate supports are potentially needed to help those with IDs learn, but they can and will learn with these and also be challenged like their peers.
Speech or language impairment (SLI) means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Students with speech disorders may be unable to produce sounds or maintain voice quality, while those with language impairments can struggle with using vocabulary or understanding it.
Those afflicted by SLIs can affect one's ability to read, write, and communicate, along with their reading and listening comprehension.
"Other health impairment" (OHI) means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment and can occur as the result of an acute health issue (e.g. asthma, AD/HD, diabetes, leukemia, Tourette's) and adversely effects one's academic performance.
Students with AD/H/D can qualify for special ed under OHI. They can have trouble paying attention or maintaining proper behavior. This can be identified by age seven, but can also be later.
AD/HD subtypes: AD/HD Predominantly Combined Type (combination of both other subtypes), AD/HD Predominantly Inattentive Type, and AD/HD Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type.
Visual impairment includes both partial sight and blindness and means a problem with sight that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. Those with such impairments may need help with special equipment and learning modifications. Combined with other disabilities, they may have a greater need for an interdisciplinary approach and may require greater emphasis on self-care and daily living skills.
A hearing impairment means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Deafness is a specific type where a child is severely hindered through an inability to process linguistic information through hearing.
Deaf-blindness means concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.
Students with hearing impairments require special services such as speech training, amplification, captioned films/videos, and the assistance of a note-taker. Those who are deaf may also receive communication through sign language, fingerspelling, and cued speech.
"Orthopedic impairment" means a severe physical disability that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly or disease and impairments from other causes.
"Traumatic brain injury" means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas.
"Multiple disabilities" means concomitant impairments (such as intellectual disability-blindness or intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. "Multiple disabilities" does not include deaf-blindness.
Students' disabilities manifest differently. Never assume based on their disability category - identifying this is only a step to determine their need for services and supports.
Chapter 3 Edit
In NYC, schools are divided into many districts. There are 32 geographic districts ("community school districts") which include "community schools" where students can receive special ed services. The system is divided into elementary, middle, and high schools.
Two non-geographical districts:
District 75 - Supports students with severe disabilities. Students are assigned to such schooling if their needs prevent them from receiving appropriate services in a community school setting and require a more intensive instructional setting.
District 79 - Provides alternative academic options, programs for students in temporary and/or involuntary settings and additional services that are designed to help pregnant and parenting students in their current school.
No matter what, you are likely to work with special ed students. In 2013-14, 17% of NYC'S students (1.1M total students) received such services. There was a significant discrepancy in test performance between gen-ed and special ed students - 34 and 40% of gen-ed students met or exceeded standards for Reading/English and Math, respectively while just 7 and 11% of special ed students did so. 23,000 special ed students received D-75 schooling.
While disability graduation rates are improving, a large gap remains between those and gen-ed students graduating within four years.
NYC developed a "Shared Path to Success" for those receiving special ed services. Students with IEPs are ensured that they continue to receive a rigorous, challenging curriculum to meet high academic standards and taught in the LRE, all while still attending their chosen school and receiving the proper supports.
Process: Referral -> Evaluation -> Eligibility -> IEP Development -> Implementation -> Annual Review
If a struggling student does not respond to teacher or other school admin intervention, special ed services are initiated. Referrals can be initiated by a teacher, parent, or other administrator.
Response to Intervention (RtI) is divided into three tiers, tier one being a general setting for all students, tier two featuring some outside instruction with a specialist, and tier three being the most intensive, with education frequently occurring outside the classroom with several specialists.
When a referral is made, social workers and school staff can monitor students' behavior, though only with parental consent. Specialists evaluate teachers' notes on the student(s) in question to determine the need for any services. Afterward, a Committee on Special Ed (CSE) discusses the evaluation and decides what disability the student qualifies for and any necessary aides. All three elements must be present: Determination of one or more of 13 recognized disabilities, a negative impact on academic performance, and the resulting need for services. If all three apply, an IEP is drafted.
If another factor for academic struggle is present, such as limited English proficiency or the lack of appropriate instruction in math or reading, including explicit and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency and/or reading comprehension strategies, a student may be ruled ineligible for services.
An IEP, in essence, is a plan that shows what disability the student has, what goals they need to meet, and what accommodation(s) is/are necessary for this to happen. The IEP informs the special and general educators' instructional design and delivery, classroom management, and assessment as well as the instruction and interventions of any related service providers. The IEP serves as the legal document that details the student's educational program.
The CSE consists of both gen-ed and special ed teachers, parents/guardians, a district representative, the student (if appropriate of if they are 15+), school psychologist, social worker, and anyone else involved with the student or may join in on request.
The special education teacher assists the CSE in creating goals for the student; they monitor them throughout the year and determine progress in reaching them. They are expected to know their students well.
Services must continue to provide the student with access to a gen-ed curriculum and opportunities to interact with their peers, meet their educational needs that result from a disability, and incorporate a regular review of their progress.
Special Education Student Information System (SESIS) - An online system that contains the IEPs for all students with disabilities as well as other relevant information such as student referrals, evaluation reports, and physicians’ prescriptions for related services. This online system allows principals and other school personnel to access and update student information including IEPs quickly and securely.
Evaluation Results: Students' testing performance compared to the rest of the district and instructional implications, developmental and management needs, present levels of functioning
Determining Goals: When and how a student should be meeting goals, keeping them in line with a gen-ed curriculum, determining educational needs. Should answer the question "What skills does the student require to master the content of the curriculum?" instead of "What curriculum content does the student need to master?"
Determining Services: What should be provided for a student to reach annual goals outlined by the IEP, be involved and progressing in a gen-ed curriculum, participate in nonacademic/extracurricular activities, and be involved and educated alongside gen-ed and special ed students. Will the student be able to manage general education with the service? Services must be provided in a gen-ed classroom before determining if the student should be partially or fully removed from it.
Determining an LRE: The IEP must decide what the school can provide to ensure a special ed student can remain in a gen-ed classroom and achieve their goals all the meanwhile. The CSE should consider evaluation results, student's strengths, parental concerns for education enhancement, results of general assessments, any special considerations unique to the student. LREs should not be based solely on the category of the disability, availability of services for the school, space, convenience, or delivery of a special ed system by the school/city.
Implementation: A parent must be notified by letter of and consent to an IEP. They can also challenge any aspects of it and appeal in a hearing if they cannot resolve with a CSE. Staff responsible for services must have a copy of the current IEP and school personnel can access one via SESIS. Specific providers who can access the IEP will be outlined within. Each designated provider is responsible for implementing the portions of the IEP document that pertain to his/her role. The CSE will review the student's progress annually and reevaluations may be requested at any time, with one mandated every three years.
The continuum of services ensures that students with disabilities have access to the general education curriculum and regular assessment of their progress. It presumes that they will be educated with non-disabled peers, with supports and services as needed, to the maximum extent appropriate, and that the school will take responsibility for their goal-directed learning.
The least restrictive setting is the gene-ed classroom. While there, students can receive an array of services, including related services and Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS). Settings range from this to most restrictive - a student being removed from a gen ed class without an IEP. All special ed students have this range of settings though it may vary depending on student to adult ratio. This allows for flexibility and encourages the creation of innovative instructional models that serve students in their least restrictive environment and more specifically address student needs, while maintaining the highest possible expectations for every student.
Class of 12:1:4 (12 students, one special ed teacher, 4 paraprofessionals) is more intensive than 12:1 (no paraprofessionals) since there are more adults. The intensity can be very high for a student working one-on-one with a paraprofessional. The gen ed class is the LRE here, but because of the high intensity, the student is working with someone assigned only to them.
Before considering the use of special ed services outside the classroom, a student must be given the full range of aides, services, and supports in a gen-ed class. Moving a student outside the gen-ed classroom must be given academic justification in the IEP. Supplementary aids and services may include the services of various special education providers and other materials, devices and instructional adaptations, including note takers and extra time.
Adapted physical education is designed to consist of developmental activities, games, sports and rhythms suited to the interests, capabilities and limitations of students with disabilities who may not safely or successfully engage in unrestricted participation in the activities of the regular physical education program. A student may be recommended for adapted physical education when the student's disabilities interfere with his or her ability to perform motor activities involved in the regular physical education program. Adapted physical education is taught by a certified physical education teacher.
Related services are instructional services designed to help students make progress toward their goals. They should be provided when it is determined that they can help educational success. Such services include counseling, speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and vision educational services. The IEP team must decide which of these will be used in a gen-ed or outside classroom.
Counseling is an interpersonal activity that addresses specific goals to enable students to succeed in school. Counseling may be recommended for students with problems that can include difficulty interacting appropriately with adults or peers, withdrawal or acting-out, low self-esteem or poor coping skills. It can help with self-esteem, self-control, and conflict resolution, among others. It is provided by licensed and/or certified school guidance counselors, school social workers and/or school psychologists.
Speech/language therapy is designed to address deficits in a student's auditory processing, articulation/phonological skills, comprehension and/or use of semantics, syntax, pragmatics, voice production and fluency. It may be recommended for a student with a communication or speech production problem that negatively affects their performance.
Hearing education services are designed to provide intensive instruction in speech, reading, auditory training and language development to enhance the growth of receptive/expressive communication skills. Hearing education services are delivered to students with a history of chronic hearing loss that adversely affects student performance. These services are provided by teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing.
Occupational therapy helps achieve independence in everyday activities and school participation. It is recommended for those with issues in fine motor functioning, sensory changes, and/or visual-perception motor abilities. OT helps improve or restore students' neuromusculoskeletal, motor, sensory/perceptual, cognitive, and psychological functions. It may be recommended to those with physical needs and/or learning challenges that negatively effect performance, with physician's referral. The IEP team collaborates with a physical therapist to determine the length and frequency of OT services, and they are carried out by state-licensed occupational therapists.
Orientation and mobility instruction is provided for students with visual impairments who require instruction to improve their ability to perceive and move safely in their environment. These improve one's grasp of spacial and environmental concepts and use of info acquired by senses for establishing, maintaining and regaining orientation and line of travel. Students learn the use of visual aides, such as using a long cane to help navigate one's environment. It enables students to understand and use remaining vision aids, as well as other techniques and tools for safe, purposeful travel, and is provided by teachers of the blind and visually impaired who are specially trained in orientation and mobility.
Physical therapy emphasizes independence in various settings. It may be recommended for a student whose physical needs impede their academic success and/or access to their educational program. Their skills and/or cognitive development is below age expectations and have challenges with gross motor activities. PT services may only be granted by physician's referral and the IEP team collaborates with a physical therapist to determine their length and frequency. They are carried out by state-licensed physical therapists.
School health services are designed to address the specific health needs of the student and to ensure a safe educational environment and may be provided by a skilled nurse or paraprofessional - this is determined by the nature of this service. The professional performs health services in school and/or on any bus to/from school, including catheterization, administration of oxygen, and blood glucose monitoring. A paraprofessional can assist with transfers from wheelchair to adaptive equipment, ambulation assistance, diapering and toileting assistance, feeding, dressing, and managing orthotics.
Vision education services are designed to provide instruction in utilizing Braille code, Nemeth code (a Braille code for math and scientific notation), large print, optical and non-optical low vision devices and other skills that are necessary to attain academic, social, vocational and life-adjustment skills, literacy and acquisition of information using tactile, visual and auditory strategies. This service is provided for students who are blind or have a visual impairment that adversely affects student performance and is provided by teachers of the blind and visually impaired.
A core component of being a special educator is collaborating with other stakeholders in order to ensure that your students are receiving their required services as effectively and efficiently as possible. Related service providers are some of the key stakeholders that you will collaborate with.
SETSS are designed to allow students with disabilities to remain in the general education setting with some additional instructional support. In other school districts, SETSS are referred to as "resource room“ and/or “consultant teacher” services. Special ed teachers provide SETSS through specifically designed and/or supplemental instruction to support a disabled student in consultation with a gen-ed teacher and/or to build strategies and modifications to the regular class setting. SETSS are flexible and help students remain in the gen-ed class.
Guidelines: Max staffing ratio of 8 students : 1 teacher, SETSS at least two hours a week but no more than 50% of a student's school day, indirectly through consultation with a gen-ed teacher to ensure the student receives the supplemental services needed, and directly by the special ed teacher. IEPs will outline when and where SETSS are provided, directly or indirectly, and can indicate general/strategical or specific supports.
SETSS providers can be responsible for scheduling that meets the needs of a range of many students, collaborating with classroom teachers to coordinate instruction to ensure your work is aligned with and supportive of class instruction, and making sure teachers are aware of student progress made during SETSS instruction.-
3.6 -3.8 Edit
Chapter 4 Edit
All teachers should be in the mindset that every student is capable of achievement. There has been a discriminatory attitude toward disabled students over the years. Special ed teachers need to minimize the impact of the disability and maximize opportunities for participation.
Special ed students are required to be challenged to excel within a gen-ed curriculum based on Common Core standards the same as any student. Most IDEA students, by definition, do not have a cognitive disability.
A potential roadblock to special ed students achieving success is pre-determined low expectations for them, something that has applied at all levels among educators. Schools and districts carrying such attitudes put forth watered-down curricula, students give up or develop "learned helplessness", and scores lag, resulting in a vicious cycle of poor results among special ed students who are unsupported and/or lack the self-confidence for success.
According to Congress, IDEA implementation "has been impeded by low expectations, and an insufficient focus on applying replicable research on proven methods of teaching and learning for children with disabilities." Over thirty years of research and experience has shown that "having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access to the general education curriculum in regular classrooms, to the maximum extent possible … to meet the challenging expectations that have been established for all children; and be prepared to lead productive and independent lives to the maximum extent possible."
Professional special educators are guided by principles and practice standards in ways that respect the diverse characteristics and needs of individuals with disabilities and their families, including maintaining high, but respectful expectations, protecting and supporting special ed students' safety, promoting meaningful and inclusive participation, and upholding laws, regulations, and policies that influence professional practice; and advocating improvements in laws, regulations, and policies.
Challenging expectations are consistent with the NYS Common Core learning standards and content standards. NYCDOE schools develop their curricula based on these standards. Schools should also maintain high behavioral standards and adults need to properly respond to any disputes.
High quality instruction begins with the standards, the curriculum, and the behavioral expectations within a school.
Review the curriculum maps, unit plans and curricular materials, especially (but not limited for the subjects you will be serving in. Review school policies, practices, systems, and structures for behavior support and discipline. Review school structures to support struggling students and the resources provided to meet specific needs of students and families. Review the school schedule to understand how resources are organized.
It is critical for special educators to have a solid base of understanding of the content areas of the general curricula. This knowledge base must be sufficient for collaborating with general educators, for teaching or co-teaching the content of the general curriculum to individuals with special needs across a wide range of levels, and for designing specialized instruction. This is necessary for students with disabilities to effectively access and master the subject matter content of the general curriculum.
There is never a homogeneous group of learners in every class - each student has a unique set of strengths, challenges, and interests.
The connective tissue between curriculum and instruction and specially designed instruction is the IEP. It should ensure high expectations for special ed students, ensure max access to the gen-ed curriculum, ensure special ed is a service, provide services, aides, and supports in the gen-ed classroom when appropriate, provide high quality research-based instruction and supports to all students who are experiencing learning difficulties to reduce the need to label children as having disabilities in order to address their learning needs, and focusing resources on teaching and learning.
Present Levels of Performance (PLOP) comprehensively describe a student's abilities, performance, and needs. It is the basis for specifically designed instruction. The school-based CSE must ensure that the Present Levels of Performance and individual need statements are developed in consideration of individual evaluation results, student's strengths, their results on exams, classroom assessments, and work samples, parents' concerns for their education, special factors related to the disability, and the results of age-appropriate transition assessments and the student's strengths, preferences and interests as they relate to transition from school to post school activities.
PLOP statements are specific and descriptive, written in present tense, summarize information from many sources, are written concisely, use language that allows parents and professionals to clearly understand the unique needs of the student, and the ways in which the IEP addresses the PLOP, avoids clinical language, and provide any instructionally relevant information.
The New York State standards for IEPs specifically call for a special ed student to remain in the general ed curriculum and classroom and call for a survey of their strengths and needs as linked to the curriculum. How specifically, however, will the IEP show how the student will meet the goals the gen-ed curriculum calls for? What will the plan expect of the adults in the room? It is up to us to examine our classrooms and how we are teaching special ed students to make sure that while we do hit on what the IEP calls for, that we are showing they can continue to meet the high standards expected of those involved in the gen-ed curriculum.
There should be a direct relationship between the IEP goals, special education services, and the special education teacher’s instructional plans for the student with a disability. The IEP is not detailed enough to be used as a comprehensive instructional plan; rather, the goals and aligned services 1) set the direction to be taken for those who implement the IEP, and 2) serve as the basis for developing detailed lesson plans to meet student needs.
Standards-based IEPs are developed in this process: Defining the needs of the student and the expectations of their grade level -> determine PLOP -> define skill gaps and create annual goals to close that gap -> determine how progress will be assessed/discussed to parents -> determine necessary accommodations for students to access to instruction and opportunities to express knowledge -> determine continuum of service -> What are benefits of developing standard-based IEPs? -> use of CC and NYS standards to develop IEPs to align with learning expectations for all students.
If the change made to the content or assessment allows a student to demonstrate mastery of what the standard is asking, it is probably an accommodation. If it does not allow a student to demonstrate mastery of what the standard is asking, it is probably a modification.
Accommodations are changes made to instruction and/or assessment intended to help students fully access the general education curriculum without changing the instructional content. Modifications are alterations made to instruction and/or assessment that change, lower, or reduce learning or assessment expectations. Modifications change or reduce the learning expectations in regard to the goal being addressed or assessed.
Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) for children with disabilities is a requirement under IDEA and the federal law governing special education programs. It refers to the teaching strategies and methods used by teachers to instruct students with disabilities. Educators and parents work together to analyze student work,and any other available data to determine the student's strengths and weaknesses. Based on that student's unique learning needs, strategies are developed, and teachers continue to measure students' progress and make changes in instruction as needed.
More specifically, SDI is defined as appropriately adapting to a student's needs which addresses unique needs resulting from a disability, and ensuring their access to the gen-ed curriculum and thus meet its standards.
Adaptations may be made in the content, methodology, and delivery of instruction - the hallmark of special education. SDI is truly individualized is how it is linked to IEP goals and it is an intentional process that address needs as expressed by the IEP. In general, adaptations are made to make sure the student still works within the gen-ed curriculum with the necessary accommodations. Supplemental instruction works to address special needs related to the disability, that is different from that of same-age, nondisabled peers. A small portion of students (1%) may require modified curricula.
Consider these questions:
Is the special education teacher or related service specialist teaching something that requires specialized training? Is the instruction meaningful and linked to an external indicator (e.g., New York State Standards, Common Core State Standards, etc.) that provides the underlying curriculum for this instruction? Is the instruction intentional and specifically related to the development of skills needed for the achievement of IEP goals? Is the content, methodology or delivery of instruction different than what is provided to general education peers?
If the answer to all these questions are "yes", this is a case of SDI.
Behavioral supports will also need to be applied for special ed students. There's a high correlation between inadequate instruction and challenging student behavior - often is a sign that a student is struggling and it is important to consider adjustments that might be needed as part of the picture of supporting positive student behavior. Despite this foundation, there are students who may need intensive behavioral supports in order to be successful in school. Behavior assessment, plans, and positive supports
Interacting with adults is just as important as working with your students. You will find yourself working with paraprofessionals, co-teachers, related service professionals, and parents.
Working with these stakeholders can be challenging, but the onus is on you to make the best of difficult situations for the sake of student achievement. You will need the right attitude going into collaboration. Share ownership, be prepared and organized, and be flexible and ready to compromise.
Collaboration is voluntary, based on parity, requires a mutual goal, involves shared responsibility for key decisions, includes shared accountability for outcomes, requires sharing resources, and is emergent. Collaboration is rarely perfect and you will likely experience challenges. Ultimately, it will be your responsibility to manage challenges while maintaining a focus on raising your students' achievement.
Paraprofessionals serve a number of different roles in a special ed setting. They usually act as a teacher's assistant in organizing and maintaining classroom operations. In other special ed settings, they may work 1-on-1 with the student and serve a number of functions, such as monitoring behavior or writing for them. They can be assigned to specific students or an entire class.
You are responsible for providing guidance to a para - including assigning appropriate work, discussing plans and problems, and receive input from others who observe them with other students. The onus is on you to communicate expectations. You should maximize their time, such as having them help operate the class smoothly - be specific for how you want them to do this. Be clear as to the what and why of expectations, especially at the beginning of the year. Communicating clearly with paras about their work, inviting their feedback and insights, and resolving differences as soon as they arise will result in the balance of appropriate supervision and collaboration being easily achieved.
ICT is like a professional marriage. You will need to attend to details, ensure clear and direct communication, address problems before they become significant, and maximize both pros' talents. Take into account the level of experience of your co-professional. Choose an approach that maximizes the talents of both teachers, communicate, and work as a team.
You will need to collaborate with related service providers to maximize the impact of services. In some cases, related service providers will deliver services directly to students either in or out of your classroom. In other cases, they will consult with you about a specific student, and you will implement their plan of action. Be prepared/organized, and schedule and plan.
It is essential to communicate well with parents and guardians. Make sure you meet with them at the start of the year and begin on a positive note. You will find parents who are either heavily involved with the school community or minimally so, but still are invested in their students' education. Others may not be very communicative at all. Roadblocks to parental communication include busy schedules, previous negative interactions with schools/teachers, a language barrier, and a different perspective on a parent-teacher relationship. No matter what, you will need to be open-minded, avoid assumptions, and persistent in efforts to communicate. You are responsible for keeping parents updated on their student's success. Involve them not just in an IEP process, but what is happening in the classroom.
Families play a strong influence in a student's achievement in school and life. When families are engaged as equal partners in schooling, students are more likely to succeed academically, including in rigorous programs, be promoted year-to-year based on test scores and credits, have high rates of attendance, have better social/behavioral skills, and graduate/go on to secondary education. It is important to take advantage of school-wide efforts to engage families - it creates opportunities to build trusting and collaborative relationships, recognize/respect/address the diversity of family needs, and provide information on curriculum, instruction, and how to help their children at home.
Reporting student progress on IEP goals is required at regular intervals so that parents are informed of the child’s progress toward the annual goals AND whether this progress is sufficient in order for the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year. When a child does not make the progress expected, then it is essential to determine why and take corrective action.
Communication of a child's progress toward IEP goals is in addition to a report card - reporting to parents may be more frequent than the report cards' distribution. Ongoing reports about status toward curriculum goals and progress toward IEP goals helps engage families and establish a shared commitment to student achievement. The IEP must outline when these reports will take place, which is at the school's discretion. Communication should be objective, provided in measurable terms, avoid jargon, and be family-friendly. Opportunities to share progress include parent-teacher conferences, through written progress reports, at student-parent-teacher conferences, and via communication logs.
Examples of communicating with families: Letter (first week of school), phone calls (first weeks and regularly throughout the year), family newsletter (once a month), and individual progress reports (weekly).
As a new teacher, you can expect that things will go wrong, despite your hard work and good intentions. However, the key to your success in raising your students' achievement will be how you address these challenges, learn from them and work to develop solutions. This process of identifying that something is going wrong, reflecting on why and how, gathering additional information and then creating a deliberate and purposeful solution is at the core of being a deliberate practitioner. This value or habit of mind is essential to being a successful teacher - it embodies learning from challenges and mistakes and purposefully using that knowledge to create a better solution.
You will likely make mistakes as a first-year teacher. Sometimes, you will need to reach out to others to find solutions to problems. The first solution may not always be the final - adjustments will need to be made to solve problems. Focus on student achievement, not trying to change the "system". Learn from mistakes and make purposeful choices.
Be a constant learner. Stay abreast of the field of special ed by keeping informed of changes to laws and regulations, attending professional development, and learning about new strategies/practices to implement.
The field is complex and constantly changing, which can feel daunting especially to a first-year teacher. You will learn a lot about the field and its components.
IDEIA drives the entire special ed system. You will need to understand the law and how it affects students in the referral process, IEP development, and distribution of services. You will be better prepared to ensure that your students are receiving appropriate services and to advocate for your students when necessary. School districts as a whole also need to be responsible for understanding IDEIA. The NYCDOE has developed a manual outlining the procedures and guidelines for the implementation of special education programs in New York City in a document called the Standard Operating Procedure Manual, or SOPM. You will refer to this regularly; it is an overview of procedure and guidelines for the implementation of special ed programs in NYC. For a first-year teacher, it will be especially useful as you get familiar with these procedures and guidelines.
You will need to develop an understanding of disability characteristics and their effect on learning. This will help you design the instructional and management strategies that are successful in addressing students' needs.
You are never done learning - good educators constantly refine their craft. Reading news and research, observing other teachers, asking questions, seeking out workshops, and other professional development opportunities, and asking other teachers to observe you and provide feedback are all examples of how you can continue to develop yourself professionally. All of this work will ensure that you are as prepared as possible to improve student achievement.
What may your role look like on a daily or weekly basis?
Each special educator's experience is different, but they all have a wide and sometimes overwhelming range of responsibilities. Successful educators manage their time effectively and stay focused on student achievement.
The job can be demanding and overwhelming. Special educators have many responsibilities and work at a swift pace. They teach students, work with other stakeholders, and must still find time to plan, grade, and meet with these stakeholders. They also need to be organized and aware of any developments in the field. Student achievement is the most important goal and they are purposeful about how they approach their work.