An Advocate’s Guide to Transforming Special Education


Creating Schools Where All Students Can Thrive

May 2018

In order for me to thrive, my school must…
Catch Me When (or Before) I Fall

The school team regularly tracks every student’s behavioral, social-emotional and academic progress to ensure they don’t fall behind.

> Do school staff consistently use a shared school-wide system to monitor and provide support to all students, both with and without disabilities?

> Are all students assessed for strengths and needs, and is student data driving decisions about instruction, behavior, interventions, and resource allocation?

> Do school team members consistently provide accommodations and modifications that enable students to access the curriculum?

DISTRICT / CHARTER SCHOOL NETWORK

> The district/charter network holds each school accountable for monitoring data to detect trends in student performance at the individual, classroom, and school level and adjusts instruction accordingly. Principals are evaluated based on their ability to do this, and whether their managers intervene and support if they struggle.

> The district/charter network ensures that all teachers are trained in the best ways to support students with disabilities by allocating funding for both general education and special education teachers to participate in professional development focused on supporting students with disabilities.

> The district/charter network provides funding for teams of teachers from the same school (not just individual representative teachers) to attend professional development together and collaboratively adjust school-wide practices to better support students with disabilities.

> The district fully funds intervention programs so programs can succeed at the school level.

SCHOOL / CLASSROOM

> Teachers consistently use a shared school-wide system to monitor student data and provide support to both students with and without disabilities. A multidisciplinary team of teachers and staff is responsible for looking at school-wide data and designing interventions to address academic, behavioral, and socio-emotional needs of all students.

> Teachers can explain and share documented evidence of the steps they have taken to support specific students, how the students responded, and then how they adjusted.

> The school’s professional development calendar includes specific sessions on supporting students with disabilities or integrates special education topics into general training sessions.

> The school reserves time each week for collaboration between special education teachers and the general education teachers. Teams use this time to discuss student academic and behavioral progress. Both special education and general education teachers can readily discuss the progress and growth areas of students with disabilities. Other paraprofessionals, aides, and support staff are included in these meetings whenever possible.

> All students receive some small-group or individualized instruction every day.

> The school team provides a wide range of increasingly intensive supports to meet the needs of all learners, including those who are struggling and those who are advanced, and proactively works to prevent academic and behavioral challenges. This includes universal screening, early intervention and frequent progress monitoring, all while supporting students to learn and grow independently.

> Comprehensive, research-based intervention processes – like multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) and Response to Intervention (RTI) – help schools identify students with disabilities earlier and more accurately.

> Both general and special education teachers at the school have strong training in special education interventions, particularly for the most common disabilities among their students.

YOU ARE VIEWING AN EXCERPT FROM THE FULL CHAPTER IN AN ADVOCATE’S GUIDE TO TRANSFORMING SPECIAL EDUCATION.

The excerpt shows 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 these “look fors” not only to advocate for their child, but also to push for reforms that are necessary at a broader level.

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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

See what it looks like in action.

KIPP Raíces
Academy

A low-income school in Los Angeles where students with disabilities excel.
Read more

Lafayette
Elementary

This San Francisco Unified school shows what great special education can look like.
Read more