An Advocate’s Guide to Transforming Special Education
Creating Schools Where All Students Can Thrive
This is an excerpt from the full chapter in An Advocate’s Guide to Transforming Special Education. To read the whole chapter, download it using the link at the bottom of this page.
In order for me to thrive, my school must…
Believe in Me
Leaders at every level of the system and the school team believe in the potential of all students, including those with disabilities.
> Does everyone in the school system believe students with disabilities can learn at a high level?
> Do they show it in their interactions with students, families, and each other?
> Do they make these goals and intentions clear in the plans to which they hold themselves accountable?
DISTRICT / CHARTER SCHOOL NETWORK
> District or charter network leaders express their belief that all students can achieve at high levels and act on that by making sure everyone shares responsibility for the success of students with disabilities.
> The school board and district leaders have publicly stated that the success of students with disabilities is a priority. They publicly present data at least twice a year on how students are doing, and assess whether it’s effective.
> District-level or network-level strategic plans include specific measurable goals about improving the performance of students with disabilities and these are updated on an annual basis.
> The district/charter network surveys students to understand their experience and sets targets for improving on issues that surface in the survey results that relate to students with disabilities.
SCHOOL / CLASSROOM
> All teachers take responsibility for all students. Teacher teams regularly review and discuss data and progress of students with disabilities during common planning time.
> Students with disabilities are enrolled in all levels and types of courses including advanced classes, AP/IB classes, and college-track courses, as well as participate in enrichment and extracurricular activities. Schools track how many students with disabilities are in these classes and activities, and set goals accordingly.
> Students with disabilities are among the students highlighted and celebrated for their strengths in school assemblies, awards ceremonies, newsletters, programs, etc.
> All school staff use language that demonstrates their deep and unwavering belief in the potential of all students to achieve significant academic gains and find success in college and life. This belief is expressed clearly throughout classes and during school events. Instead of hearing, “Of course she’s behind, she has a disability,” you hear, “What can we do to make sure she doesn’t fall behind?”
> The superintendent/CEO, principal, special education and general education teachers, staff, and student families believe all students can graduate prepared for college and/or career.
> The superintendent/CEO and principal set an educational vision that addresses how to use school money, staff, space, and time to support students with disabilities, and makes this a priority for everyone — not just special education specialists.
> Leaders hold all staff accountable for having high expectations for students with disabilities and proactively include these students in the classroom. The school team — including teachers, administrators, and instructional support staff — takes responsibility for the success of every student. They make sure all students receive appropriate support to engage in challenging work, and they regularly discuss each student’s progress.
HOW CAN PARENTS KNOW WHETHER THEIR SCHOOL IS A PLACE WHERE THEIR CHILD WITH A DISABILITY WILL THRIVE?
At the end of each chapter in this guide, advocates will find this two-page summary that describes the observable actions that parent advocates should “look for” in a school, organization, or district that is truly doing what it takes to help students with disabilities succeed. Parents can use this tool to advocate not only for their child, but also to push for reforms that are necessary at a broader level.
Download and print the full report or individual chapters
Click on the “English” or “Spanish” link to download a PDF.
Full report English | Spanish
Believe in me English | Spanish
Include me English | Spanish
Find me English | Spanish
Catch me when (or before) I fall English | Spanish
Meet me where I am and challenge me English | Spanish
Know me English | Spanish
Involve me and my family English | Spanish
Stick with me English | Spanish