Don't forget about students with disabilities when COVID-19 closes our schools.
Teachers all over are scrambling to transition from delivering instruction in their classroom to delivering it online. But is this equitable for ALL students?
The U.S. Department of Education gave some guidance to K-12 districts about closing for COVID-19. They told districts that if they close due to COVID-19 AND continue to offer instruction remotely, they MUST make that learning accessible to ALL students. This includes students with disabilities. And for students with disabilities, this means that services outlined in IEPs must be offered “to the greatest extent possible.” When schools re-open, Special Education teams will need to meet to determine if students with disabilities who missed services are entitled to make them up.
Are schools ready for this? Are us teachers ready for this? Are our students with disabilities ready for this? And more importantly, is remote learning beneficial for our students with disabilities?
If we cancel school and implement distance learning that can be accessed by some, but not all, of our students, it's unethical.
On the other hand, if schools close and do not move to distance learning, the federal education department stated that schools are then NOT required to provide services to students with disabilities during that time.
I know what you are all thinking... 'We have to continue teaching. Students have to keep learning. What about the regression they will show when schools re-open?'
We can offer suggested activities for ALL students.
These activities should not be graded or required!
We can offer summer school for our students. We can extend our learning time when we return. We can offer extra instruction or after school tutoring.
We are stressed right now. And our students are smart. They can read us. They can read the world. They are feeling the stress of the world too - no matter how much we protect them. It's most important for our students to stay healthy and safe.
By Miss Rae
So what really is the difference between an ACCOMMODATION and a MODIFICATION? Aren't they the same thing?
No. Accommodations and modifications are different from each other!
An accommodation is a way to help students learn the same material or take the same test in a different way.
A modification is a change to what the student is expected to learn.
By: Miss Rae
Here’s a secret that we don’t tell our students. Ready? Lean in close… All of the BEST teachers have tools in their toolboxes that make them the best!
So now that you know the secret, don’t tell the kiddos! Let them continue to think you have eyes in the back of your head and all of those other superhuman powers you possess.
But read on to gain a few more powers to support your DiVerSe learners!
Special Education Policies and Laws
A wealth of accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities.
This site is full of information on the different disabilities from 15 different nonprofit organizations. It offers resources and research-based practical strategies!
Special Education Lesson Plan Ideas
This is one of my favorite sites! Resources to help struggling readers build phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. Plus +++ research on all things reading!
Find resources, research AND lesson plans! This site provides educators and students access to the highest quality practices and resources in reading and language arts instruction.
I would be the president of the Teaching Channel fan club if one existed! Launched in 2011, the Teaching Channel site is a multi-platform service delivering professional development videos for teachers, showcasing inspiring teachers, ideas, best practices and instructional resources to enhance our teaching knowledge.
Special Education Interventions and Assessments
The Lite version is a free, simple way to progress monitor student achievement in reading and math.
PBISWorld.com is a comprehensive and easy to use tier 1 through tier 3 PBIS (positive interventions and supports) tool and resource that includes data tracking on almost every behavior that exists in the classroom.
Intervention Central is a leading resource for Response to Intervention (RTI) tools and resources, including academic and behavior interventions for classroom plus progress monitoring tools.
Special Education Student Learning Tools
This webiste is an online resource of reading passages and lesson plans for students of all levels K-12. Texts include pre-made worksheets, quizzes, and other printable materials to enhance the lesson. Students can highlight, annotate, and complete assignments online. ReadWorks is free for teachers to use. Find differentiated texts for your special ed students, and some have a text to speech option!
Newsela is a data base of current events stories tailor-made for classroom use. Indexed by broad theme (e.g. War and Peace, Arts, Science, Health, Law, Money), stories are both student-friendly and can be accessed in different formats by reading level. Use Newsela to differentiate nonfiction reading.
CommonLit is a free collection of fiction and nonfiction for 3rd-12th grade classrooms, organized by lexile levels. Passages have a text to speech option PLUS comprehension checks and discussion questions!
A free website filled with courses, lessons, and practice on a variety of topics from the 1st grade level to the AP level. The site offers short lessons in the form of videos and includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators.
Ted Ed andTed Talks
Discover hundreds of animated lessons, create customized lessons, and share your big ideas with other educators. The site is an excellent tool for visual learners Ted Talks also offers many videos on SEL topics for middle and high schoolers!
My students were obsessed with this site! Teachers are able to make their own trivia games (AKA quizzes for students) to play in the classroom. Your students will love to learn and play at the same time. And the best part is that you can download results into a spreadsheet at the end of the game for progress monitoring!
Find engaging math games and more on problem solving, logic, number sense, and the list goes on!
This site specializes in reading, phonics & math, offering educational games, movies, books, songs, and more for children k-3/beginning readers! This is also a great tool for ESL students and families as the stories and be read aloud!
Special Education Teacher Blogs
Miss Rae’s Room
Okay, so this is a shameless plug, but…. check out my blog to improve your teaching knowledge and gain some resources and strategies for your DiVerSe learner population
Mrs. D’s Corner
Check out this blog for life skills ideas for your kiddos and a TON of resources!
Pathway 2 Success
A blog on strategies and ideas for social emotional learning.
Special Education Teacher Professional Development Courses
The Learning Tree Professional Development Network, LLC
An online professional development network created by teachers, for teachers. TLTPDN offers provide high quality, responsive courses for educators!
Do you have a favorite website? Share below so we can empower our teaching community!
By Miss Rae
A learning disability does NOT mean a student can’t learn. And it does not mean that a student will not be successful in life.
A learning disability is a neurologically-based processing problem - which is just a fancy way of saying a student learns differently.
While we can all identify our struggling learners, how do we know if a student has a learning disability?
THE DISCREPANCY MODEL
One way to determine if a student has a specific learning disability is to utilize THE DISCREPANCY MODEL. This is the old school method, but as of today, it still holds true.
Here’s how it works!
A SEVERE discrepancy must exist between ability and achievement. In other words, a severe discrepancy between cognitive development usually measured by some IQ test such as the WISC and academic achievement testing using something like the WIAT-III, Woodcock Johnson, or KTEA, MUST be present when using the discrepancy model.
But what constitutes a “SEVERE” discrepancy?
Typically, a good rule of thumb is to use a -1.5 standard deviation as your definition of severe.
A student scoring within the first or second standard deviation above average in IQ (i.e. 118) and achieving low to below average in academic areas (standard score of 84) would be considered to have a severe discrepancy.
A student’s IQ MUST fall into the average or above range in order to qualify for special education services under a specific learning disability. A discrepancy would be noted if the academic percentiles or stanines fell into the below average ranges.
If there is a significant discrepancy between a students IQ and a student’s achievement/academic testing scores, it indicates the presence of a learning disability. The area of the discrepancy indicates the area of the learning disability.
For example, if a student’s IQ is 90, and his/her Reading achievement tests’ standardized scores fell at 75 or under, it can be concluded that a disability in reading is present.
However, if a student’s IQ is 85, which is low average, and all of his/her academic testing is right around the low average range, they are not learning disabled. Rather, they are functioning at his/her cognitive level.
Here are some more examples:
IQ - 90 (average)
Academic Achievement in Reading Composite - 78 (below average)
Finding: Specific Learning Disability in Reading
IQ - 100 (average)
Academic Achievement in Mathematics Composite - 82 (below average)
Finding: Specific Learning Disability in Mathematics
IQ - 100 (average)
Academic Achievement in Reading Composite - 87 (average)
Finding: non-finding as Specific Learning Disability
A severe discrepancy can also be viewed within subtests on cognitive testing as well. For example, if using the WISC IQ test and a student scores reveal a ten point or higher discrepancy between verbal and performance IQ scores and a fairly decent variation among the various subtests, it could also be indicative of a specific learning disability.
THE RTI MODEL
The Response to Intervention (RTI) Model is the second path leading to Special Education eligibility of services under a specific learning disability.
Here’s how it works!
An educator has an area of concern about a student. For example, the student is reading 2 years below grade level and is making minimal progress in the classroom.
First, the educator should meet with the family to discuss concerns, obtain any additional background information, and explain the student referral process to the family.
Second, the educator meets with the school’s student support team. This team can include the family. At the first meeting, the educator should present concerns and share relevant information as well as interventions trialed and their results.
Using this information, the team should identify appropriate AND research-based interventions, develop an action plan for the student, and set a date to meet in 3 weeks.
Third, the second meeting takes place. At this meeting, the team should compare the baseline data obtained from the first meeting to the current performance data gathered after the 3 weeks of intervention.
If the student has made progress, the difficulty has been solved!
If the difficulty persists and minimal progress has been made, the team may increase the intervention and/or identify additional interventions. The action plan is revised and the team should set a date to meet in 3 weeks.
If the difficulty persists and no progress has been made, the team may suspect a disability. As a result, the team should refer the student to special education. In this case, the special education team may choose to do further testing to either support or rule out a learning disability.
Fourth, if a third meeting has been set, the team should meet and review the student’s progress with the intervention(s).
If the student has made progress, the difficulty has been solved!
If the difficulty persists, or rather, the student has made minimal to no progress with the intervention(s), the student should be referred to special education. In this case, the special education team can find a student eligible for special education services under a specific learning disability without further evaluations.
An important facet of the special education team’s determination is to rule out exclusionary factors that could be mimicking the presence of a disability. So even if a severe discrepancy is present and/or the RTI model has concluded a referral to special education, the team must determine that the lack of achievement in the area of concern is not a result of cultural factors, environmental or economic disadvantage, limited English proficiency, visual, hearing, or motor disability, or an emotional disturbance.
While we never want to label a student, we most certainly do not want to mis-label a student!
By: Miss Rae
So you finished testing a student. Now what?
Most testing programs have taken some of the workload off of your shoulders! The majority of achievement tests have moved to web-based scoring. Testers are able to plug in raw scores, click a button or two, and get furnished with standard scores and various reports able to do some of the analysis for you.
Writing testing reports can feel overwhelming. The information shared within a testing report is conveyed to families and educators working with the student. The data should be utilized during the educational planning process.
Every testing report should begin by stating the reason for testing. Has the student been referred for testing due to a recent diagnosis? Has the student been struggling in the area of reading? Is the referral the result of a student/teacher assistance team meeting? Is the testing the result of a three-year re-evaluation per a student’s IEP?
Next, the tests administered should be listed.
A student’s background information should be summarized as well. What information is relevant for this evaluation? Did a student repeat a grade? Has the student had extended absences from school? Is the student a second-language learner?
Evaluations should include an observation of the student. A student should be observed for about a fifteen minute time period. Observations should be performed during the content that is the area of the disability.
Evaluators should also observe student behavior during testing. For example, did the student appear anxious during reading subtests? Did the student use strategy for solving difficult problems, or did s/he not employ any strategies for solutions? Did the student wear glasses?
Next, provide a brief blurb that summarizes the standardized academic achievement test used to measure previously learned skills. For example, common tests are the WIAT-III, Woodcock Johnson IV Tests of Achievement, KTEA-3, etc.
After the blurb, testers should include the standard score range along with the test’s classification. For example…
The next step is to look at each academic cluster that was tested. The tester should summarize the facilitation and purpose of each subtest. For example, the student was given two minutes to solve single-digit multiplication problems to measure fluency of basic math facts.
After an evaluator summarizes a student’s performance on each subtest in a skill area, strengths and weaknesses within the cluster should be discussed.
Begin with areas of strength in a student’s cluster area profile. Analyze all subtests in the skill area in order to identify strengths. Cite specific examples within the report as well to support the claims.
Next, address a student’s areas of need, and use this terminology. Lagging skills should not be termed weaknesses for the word’s connotations. Again, cite specific examples to support analysis claims.
Include each cluster area evaluated in the same manner.
Then, an evaluator should include additional academic testing areas. Report about these in the same manner as well, addressing areas of strength and need.
Curriculum-based measures and progress monitoring results should be reported next.
Academic evaluation reports should conclude with a summary and recommendations based upon the summary. An evaluator will want to summarize the results…
STUDENT has learned a strategy of using context clues in order to make meaning within a text. This was seen in the Quick Phonics Screener as well as the Reading Comprehension subtest on the WIAT-III. He has a good grasp on short vowels and consonant letter sounds and is able to apply these skills when decoding. Noted areas of need for STUDENT were long vowel words, R-controlled vowels, and consonant digraphs (i.e. wr, sl). This was seen both in the Quick Phonics Screener, WIAT-III reading subtests, as well as the Ekwall Shanker Phonics subtest. STUDENT scored in the below average range on each reading subtest in the WIAT-III. This appears to be the result of a weakness in phonological awareness. These findings were further supported by the subtests of the CTOPP. STUDENT exhibited an area of need when asked to omit a part of a given word. This shows a weakness in an awareness of and access of oral language, which is represented in written language. A deficit in phonological awareness would indicate a reading disability.
Recommendations should be listed based upon the results of the testing (i.e. the summary!). Eligibility and additional recommendations will be discussed at the student’s upcoming Team meeting when all evaluation results are reviewed. A similar statement should be included on the report.
1. Continue to teach STUDENT decoding skills/strategies in order to increase his independent application of these learned skills.
2. STUDENT should receive direct instruction in decoding long vowel words as well as words including consonant digraphs. This should be taught first in isolation, and then, STUDENT should be given the chance to apply learned skills in the context of text at his instructional level.
3. STUDENT should be explicitly taught how to establish sound/symbol relationships of all phonemes in order to improve his phonological awareness skills.
4. Additional recommendations will be made at team meeting.
Testing reports should contain a statement on validity of testing. For example, an evaluator may state, “It is felt that the results of the testing are an accurate measure of current level of academic achievement” if the evaluator believes this test to be a valid measure of performance.
And finally, give yourself some credit! Put your name, qualification(s), and job title on the report along with the date. Evaluation reports should include a tester’s signature.
Oh, and you can breathe now! :)
Testing templates can be very useful as well, and they definitely help.
Use my WIAT-III Template and a YCAT Template from my TPT store!
~ By Miss Rae
Being a Special Educator is similar to choreographing a three-ring circus! The art of juggling should be a required course in Special Education educator prep programs.
From IEP writing to teaching to presenting at IEP meetings to many, many more important tasks, Special Educators must be skilled at varying and many areas of expertise; however, one aspect can be the most difficult to manage: PROGRESS MONITORING
The data is one of the single most paramount competencies of the field of Special Education; thus, data collection is one of the most critical skills a Special Education teacher can possess.
Without evidence, we just have beliefs, and beliefs do not hold up in court (remember IEPs are legal documents).
Data collection, on the other hand, can be annoying and cumbersome. Who wants to interrupt teaching to assess? And don’t we assess these poor kids enough?
As a result, then, assessment should be seamlessly integrated into teaching (and/or daily routines); but how do you do this when your “small groups” have varying IEP goals and objectives?
However, even if I have 10 students with 3 working on comprehension, 3 working on phonics, 2 working on vocabulary, and 2 working on fluency, they are at least all working on the subject area of reading.
So no problem!
There are five facets of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, and word study, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
As a result, all of the students in your reading groups will have IEP goals that fall within one of the subcategories of reading.
The first step, then, is to identify one assessment tool that can evaluate ALL students in ALL areas of reading.
The solution to all of these issues is employing what I call Reading Rubrics!
You can check them out HERE!
Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Word Study
Reading Rubrics expand on the tool of a running record.
As students are reading aloud, collect data on the section they read.
Write down the student’s errors AND mark the section the student read. But, first, record the text level of the passage being read aloud.
This will not interrupt the flow of the lesson or the teaching AND it can be done for each student in the reading group without pause.
Later, convert the number of words a student read correctly into a percentage for word reading accuracy. For example, if you wrote down 10 words that were read incorrectly and 30 words were read in total, subtract the total number of words read incorrectly (errors) from the number of running words in the text. So, 30 - 10 = 20. Then, divide the answer (words read correctly) by the total number of running words or words read. So, 20 divided by 30 equals 67 percent.
Word accuracy can help determine a student’s reading level:
Easy Text: 96-100% accuracy
Instructional Text: 90-95% accuracy
Hard Text: below 90% accuracy
Running records, not only provide educators with word reading accuracy, they are also a tool for identifying error patterns. Therefore, take time to analyze the errors a student made when reading words. For example, did a student read the words with /ed/ endings incorrectly?
Analyze a student’s reading thoughts on what sources s/he is utilizing for word reading accuracy.
Is the reader using meaning cues, structural cues, or visual cues?
While a student is reading, use a timer to gain a fluency score for a student. How many words does the student read accurately in one minute?
The Hasbrouck-Tindal oral reading fluency chart is a good tool for grade level fluency standards. The chart correlates oral reading fluency rates of students in grades 1 through 8, as determined by data collected by Jan Hasbrouck and Gerald Tindal to grade level expectations.
Vocabulary and Comprehension
When a student has finished reading a text aloud, quickly assess his/her oral reading comprehension.
Tell me about what you read. What was the setting? Who are the characters? What does this word mean in the text? What is the problem? Why was this a problem for the character? Did the characters try to solve the problem? How?
Note the level of prompting that the teacher provided.
Record the students level of comprehension on both literal and inferential questions.
The answers will enable the teacher to subjectively assess a student’s general understanding of the text.
Here's a quick video on how I use RUNNING RECORDS with my students!
While all of this data will not provide enough for evaluation purposes, Reading Rubrics will act as instructional tools AND data collection tools for progress reporting toward IEP goals!
~ By Miss Rae
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