Showing posts with label special education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label special education. Show all posts

Part 2: Planning a Comprehensive Special Education Evaluation

I work on a HUGE special education team. This year it is 15 members. Getting everyone on the same page for a student evaluation is hard. It's hard on a good day but out of everything, I deal with as a special education teacher, case manager, and one who completes 98% of all academic testing for students starting their special education journey. This post will walk you through what IDEA tells us what we have to do.

In case you missed the first post in this series here's a quick snippet.  Comprehensive special education evaluations are crucial for accurately identifying a child’s unique needs and ensuring they receive the appropriate support. These evaluations go beyond academics to assess cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development. They involve multiple methods and sources, such as observations, standardized tests, and input from parents and teachers. A thorough evaluation provides a detailed understanding of a child's strengths and weaknesses, which is essential for creating an effective Individualized Education Program (IEP).  Read it here.

What does IDEA say?


IEP teams follow these steps when conducting comprehensive special education evaluations. The Evaluation Process Chart outlines required IDEA timeline procedures and describes recommended actions for each step. These procedures fall within the needed timeline for evaluation. 

According to IDEA, evaluations must be conducted within 60 calendar days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation. This timeline can vary if the state has established its own timeframe, but the federal requirement is 60 days.
The relevant section of IDEA is found in 34 CFR § 300.301(c), which states:

(a) General. A public agency must ensure that a reevaluation of each child with a disability is conducted

  • (1) If the public agency determines that the educational or related services needs, including improved academic achievement and functional performance, of the child warrant a reevaluation; or
  • (2) If the child’s parent or teacher requests a reevaluation.

(b) Limitation. A reevaluation conducted under paragraph (a) of this section—

  • (1) May occur not more than once a year, unless the parent and the public agency agree otherwise; and
  • (2) Must occur at least once every 3 years, unless the parent and the public agency agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary.

Start the Evaluation: Initial or Reevaluation

Initial Evaluation: A special education referral starts the initial special education evaluation process. The referral describes why the person making the referral believes the student is a “child with a disability” who needs special education.


Reevaluation: A reevaluation is started when the LEA (Local Educational Agency–most of the time will be the school your child attends) decides a student’s disability-related needs, including improved academic achievement and functional performance, warrant a reevaluation; or if the student’s parent or teacher requests a reevaluation.


The relevant sections from IDEA are 34 CFR § 300.303 and 34 CFR § 300.305.

Definition and Timing of Reevaluations from 34 CFR § 300.303 Reevaluations:

  • (a) General. A public agency must ensure that a reevaluation of each child with a disability is conducted—
    • (1) If the public agency determines that the educational or related services needs, including improved academic achievement and functional performance, of the child warrant a reevaluation; or
    • (2) If the child’s parent or teacher requests a reevaluation.
  • (b) Limitation. A reevaluation conducted under paragraph (a) of this section—
    • (1) May occur not more than once a year, unless the parent and the public agency agree otherwise; and
    • (2) Must occur at least once every 3 years, unless the parent and the public agency agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary.

Evaluation Procedures

34 CFR § 300.305 Additional requirements for evaluations and reevaluations:

  • (a) Review of existing evaluation data. As part of an initial evaluation (if appropriate) and as part of any reevaluation under this part, the IEP Team and other qualified professionals, as appropriate, must—
    • (1) Review existing evaluation data on the child, including—
      • (i) Evaluations and information provided by the parents of the child;
      • (ii) Current classroom-based, local, or State assessments, and classroom-based observations; and
      • (iii) Observations by teachers and related service providers; and
  • (2) On the basis of that review, and input from the child’s parents, identify what additional data, if any, are needed to determine—
      • (i) Whether the child is a child with a disability, as defined in §300.8, and the educational needs of the child; or, in case of a reevaluation of a child, whether the child continues to have such a disability, and the educational needs of the child;
      • (ii) The present levels of academic achievement and related developmental needs of the child;
      • (iii) Whether the child needs special education and related services; or, in the case of a reevaluation of a child, whether the child continues to need special education and related services; and
      • (iv) Whether any additions or modifications to the special education and related services are needed to enable the child to meet the measurable annual goals set out in the IEP of the child and to participate, as appropriate, in the general education curriculum.
Coming soon more on parent input and implementing the IEP. This process is hard. It takes time and team communication with each other. The Law is here to help us with what we need to so we do our jobs right and not miss students who need the support but also make sure that those who don't need us get the correct support.

Chat Soon-





References:

About idea. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (2024, March 27). https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/

Statute and regulations. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (2024b, January 26). https://sites.ed.gov/idea/statuteregulations/ https://sites.ed.gov/idea/statuteregulations/ 



PS: Introducing "A Guide to Special Education for Parents and Teachers," a comprehensive resource
available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. This guide provides valuable insights and practical strategies for navigating the special education process. Designed for both parents and educators, it covers essential topics such as the Individualized Education Program (IEP), legal rights, assessment procedures, and effective communication techniques. With clear explanations and actionable advice, this guide empowers stakeholders to collaborate effectively, ensuring that students with special needs receive the support and services they deserve. Ideal for those seeking to enhance their understanding and advocacy in the realm of special education.





Why a Comprehensive Special Education Evaluation?

The Framework

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that special education evaluations be sufficiently comprehensive to make eligibility decisions and identify the student’s educational needs, whether or not commonly linked to the disability category in which the student has been classified (34 CFR 300.304). Comprehensive evaluations are conducted in a culturally and linguistically responsive manner; non-discriminatory for students of all cultural, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other backgrounds. When conducting special education evaluations, IEP teams must follow all procedural and substantive evaluation requirements specified in IDEA. 

The BIG Ideas

  • Special education evaluations must be sufficiently comprehensive for IEP teams to determine special education eligibility or continuing eligibility and to identify the educational needs of the student, whether or not commonly linked to the student’s identified disability category(ies).
  • A comprehensive evaluation is a process, not an event. IEP team participants work together to explore, problem-solve, and make decisions about eligibility for special education services. If found eligible, the IEP team uses information gathered during the evaluation to collectively develop the content of the student’s IEP.
  • A comprehensive special education evaluation actively engages the family throughout the evaluation process.
  • Comprehensive evaluations are first and foremost “needs focused” on identifying academic and functional skill areas affected by the student’s disability, rather than “label focused” on identifying a disability category label which may or may not, accurately infer student need.
  • Developmentally and educationally relevant questions about instruction, curriculum, environment, as well as the student, guide the evaluation. Such questions are especially helpful during the review of existing data to determine what if any, additional information is needed. 
  • Asking clarifying questions throughout the evaluation helps the team explore educational concerns as well as student strengths and needs such as barriers to and conditions that support student learning, and important skills the student needs to develop or improve.
  • Culturally responsive problem-solving and data-based decision-making using current, valid, and reliable (i.e. accurate) assessment data and information is critical to conducting a comprehensive evaluation.
  • Assessment tools and strategies used to collect additional information must be linguistically and culturally sensitive and must provide accurate and useful data about the student’s academic, developmental, and functional skills.
  • Data and other information used during the evaluation process is collected through multiple means including review, interview, observation, and testing; as well as across domains of learning including instruction, curriculum, environment, and learner.
  • Individuals who collect and interpret assessment data and other information during an evaluation must be appropriately skilled in test administration and other data collection methods. This includes understanding how systemic, racial, and other types of bias may influence data collection and interpretation, and how individual student characteristics may influence results.
  • Assessment data and other information gathered over time and across environments help the team understand and make evaluation decisions about the nature and effects of a student’s disability on their education.
  • Comprehensive evaluations must provide information relevant to making decisions about how to educate the student. A comprehensive evaluation provides the foundation for developing an IEP that promotes student access, engagement, and progress in age or grade-level general education curriculum, instruction, and other activities, and environments.

The Balcony View

Comprehensive evaluations must provide information relevant to making decisions about how to educate the student so they can access, engage, and make meaningful progress toward meeting age and grade level standards. Assessment and collection of additional information play a central role during the evaluation and subsequently in IEP development and reviewing student progress. 

A comprehensive evaluation takes into account Career Readiness, a growing awareness of the relationship between evaluation and IEP development, and the need for information about how special education evaluations and reevaluations can be made more useful for IEP development.

The 2017 US Supreme Court Endrew F. case also brought renewed attention to the importance of knowing whether a student's IEP is sufficient to enable a student with a disability to make progress “appropriate in light of their circumstances.” Finally, updated guidance, including results of statewide procedural compliance self-assessment, IDEA complaints addressing whether evaluations are sufficiently comprehensive, and continuing disproportionate disability identification, placement, and discipline in student groups who traditionally are not equitably served.

A comprehensive evaluation responds to stakeholders’ requests for more information and reinforces that every public school student graduates ready for further education, the workplace, and the community.

It seeks to ensure a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for every student protected under IDEA. It guides IEP teams in planning and conducting special education evaluations that explicitly address state and federal requirements to conduct comprehensive evaluations that help IEP teams to determine eligibility, and thoroughly and clearly identify student needs. 

Planning and Conducting a Comprehensive Special Education Evaluation

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the key to addressing a student’s disability-related needs.
It describes annual goals and the supports and services a student must receive so they can access, engage, and make progress in general education. 

A well-developed IEP is a vehicle to ensure that a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is provided to students protected under IDEA. A comprehensive special education evaluation provides the foundation for effective IEP development. 

A comprehensive special education evaluation is conducted by a student’s IEP team appointed by the district. The IEP team must include the parent as a required participant and essential partner in decision-making. Special Education evaluation is a collaborative IEP team responsibility. During the evaluation process, the team collectively gathers relevant information and uses it to make accurate and individualized decisions about a student’s eligibility or continuing eligibility, effects of disability, areas of strength, and academic and functional needs.

Data and other information used to make evaluation decisions come from a variety of sources and environments, often extending beyond the IEP team. Guided by educationally relevant questions, both existing and new information is compiled or collected, analyzed, integrated, and summarized by the IEP team to provide a comprehensive picture of the student’s educational strengths and needs.

A comprehensive special education evaluation is grounded in a culturally responsive problem-solving model in which potential systemic, racial, and other bias is addressed, and hypotheses about the nature and extent of the student’s disability are generated and explored.

Conducting a comprehensive special education evaluation requires planning. Each team has its own methods for planning and conducting comprehensive special education evaluations with guidance from the state and district.

Why RIOT/ICEL Matrix?

The RIOT/ICEL model comes from Jim Wright and is one way to look at RTI/MTSS.  RIOT is the top horizontal row of the table and includes four potential sources of student information: Review, Interview, Observation, and Test. Teams should attempt to collect information from a range of sources.

ICEL is the left column of the table that includes key areas of learning to be assessed: Instruction, Curriuclum, Environment, and Learner. A common mistake that teams often make is to assume that student learning problems exist in the learner and underestimate the degree to which what the classroom teacher is providing in class ie., accommodations, curriculum, and environmental influences that impact the student's academic performance. The model ensures no rock is left unturned. 

The matrix is an assessment guide to help teams efficiently to decide what relevant information to collect on student academic performance and behavior and also how to organize that information to identify probable reasons why the student is not experiencing academic or behavioral success.  

The matrix is not itself a data collection instrument. Instead, it is an organizing framework that increases teams' confidence both in the quality of the data that they collect and the findings that emerge from the data. 

An editable RIOT/ICEL form is below for you--just click the picture. Be on the lookout for a blog post sharing how I use this model with grade-level teams. The object of this model is to remove bias, it is a good way to look at multi-lingual students (ELL or ESL). It can be a great way to have collegial conversations about students.


Chat Soon-



Wait...Orton...What????

I came across Orton-Gillingham during a field placement as an undergrad. The special education teacher was using Wilson with her small groups to help them build reading skills. Mind you--this was not something taught in my program but she opened my eyes to something I would keep in my teaching bag. 

The Orton-Gillingham approach is a multi-sensory way of teaching reading, spelling, and writing skills to students who struggle with language-based learning difficulties, including dyslexia. Lessons focus on mastery of the smallest units of language first, including phonemes and graphemes, and then build to whole word, phrase and sentence level instruction. 

Important to note: Orton-Gillingham refers to an instructional approach, not any particular program or curriculum.

A Quick History Lesson

The term “dyslexia” first appeared in texts in the early 1870s. The Orton-Gillingham approach has been in use for the past 80 years and is the oldest dyslexia-specific approach to remedial reading instruction. It was developed in the 1930s by neuro-psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Orton based on his work with children who struggled with language processing issues but were of normal intelligence.

Dr. Orton proposed a neurological basis for the problem and developed a series of activities that combined right and left brain functions, predicting it would positively impact the ability to read and spell.

Dr. Anna Gillingham focused her efforts on training teachers in the approach, creating materials and expanding the instruction to include essential features of the English language, such as prefixes, suffixes, and even spelling rules.

Encouraged by Dr. Orton, she compiled and published instructional materials as early as the 1930s which provided the foundation for student instruction and teacher training. This collaboration became known as the Orton-Gillingham Approach.


What is Orton Gillingham?

This is where there seems to be a communication gap between parents and schools. OG is not a program, course or curriculum. There is no official “Orton Gillingham certification” for teachers. Your child does not get pulled out of their classroom an hour a day and taken someplace else to learn OG.

So what is OG then? First, it’s usually called the Orton Gillingham Approach.

And that’s what it is–an approach or way of teaching.

Orton-Gillingham places an important emphasis on multi-sensory approaches to learning. But it is more than that.

Orton-Gillingham is a highly structured approach, that breaks down reading and spelling into letters and sounds, and then building on these skills over time. OG was the first approach to use multi-sensory teaching strategies to teach reading.

This means that educators use sight, sound, touch, and motor movement to help students connect and learn the concepts being taught.

This multi-sensory approach helps students understand the relationship between letters, sounds, and words.

For example, an OG teacher a student to learn a letter by:

  • seeing it
  • saying it out loud
  • sounding it out
  • singing it
  • writing it with pen or pencil
  • writing it with fingers in shaving cream or sand
  • forming it with clay or play-doh
  • making the letter with your body or blocks

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is the most commonly diagnosed reading disorder. Dyslexia is also found on a continuum of severity, ranging from mild characteristics of dyslexia to profound difficulty with reading and writing. In its most severe forms, it is a learning disability. In its mildest form, it may be a source of puzzlement, frustration or mild inconvenience. 

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

As a result of this span of difficulty, the exact prevalence of dyslexia has yet to be definitively determined. It has been suggested that perhaps as many as 15% to 20% of the population as a whole have some of the symptoms of dyslexia (IDA, 2017).

Orton-Gillingham works because it enhances phonemic awareness in dyslexic individuals by examining common language patterns. Learners experiment with blending sounds, looking at letters and word parts in isolation and in various configurations, and studying language features, including diphthongs and silent letters.

The goal of Orton-Gillingham based instruction is to enable learners to decode words on their own and improve literacy skills in order to achieve their full potential at school.

Every state has its own special education legislation for the identification and special education support for students with a specific learning disability.

In Colorado, during the special education evaluation process, the team must document any characteristics of dyslexia. Be sure to look at your Department of Education--Special Education for what the team must do.

What the Orton-Gillingham Approach Can Teach Reading

The OG Approach can teach:

  • Decoding: break words into their syllables and phonemes (the smallest unit of sound) to be able to read the word. Develops automaticity and fluency at the word level.
  • Encoding: break down words orally into their syllables and phonemes to be able to spell the word.

However, an OG program requires supplemental programming to teach fluency and composition.

Can a Parent Teach Orton Gillingham?

Well, in the loosest form of OG, anyone can teach OG. All you need is a multi-sensory approach and you can say you’re OG. But just like too many behaviorists say they are using ABA (when they’re really not), OG is not for everyone either. This is where you have to be careful.

I’m not a BCBA, but I can reinforce ABA principles and activities at home with my son. I would say for most parents, you can reinforce tasks and lessons from school or at private tutoring. But unless you are a teacher or reading specialist, I would leave it to the experts.

Getting Orton Gillingham on your IEP

Want OG added to your IEP??? Ask the Team. 

Ok, here’s where the troubles are, right? You asked for OG on your IEP, because it helps kids with dyslexia learn to read.

They said no. Ask for the progress monitoring data. So, what about trialing a change and getting back together in 30 days with data? 

Have data??

Questions to ask:

  • What is the data looking at? spelling (Encoding), reading (decoding)
  • Is there improvement? How big?
  • Ask the classroom teacher, what do they see? 
  • Ask the team, who is trained in which program? (Programs Accredited by IDA)

Fact is, many reading programs designed for students with dyslexia are based on the Orton Gillingham Approach. But the OG approach alone may not be enough to get them there.

Learning OG has been a wonderful and overwhelming journey but I have had students who are very successful with this approach and others who need a different approach to help them learn to read. It always comes back to the data. 

Parents, always ask for it if the team doesn't bring it! Don't be afraid to push back on the team if they don't have it and ask questions about it and what it means for your child.


Chat soon,





PSSS.... Parents here's a freebie for your next IEP meeting. Need IEP Help CLICK HERE!!






101: MTSS & RTI

What is MTSS?

A Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a framework of team-driven data-based problem solving for improving the outcomes of every student through family, school, and community partnering and a layered continuum of evidence-based practices applied at the classroom, school, district, region, and state level. MTSS is a coherent continuum of evidence-based, system-wide practices to support a rapid response to academic and behavioral needs, with frequent data-based monitoring for instructional decision-making to empower each student to achieve high standards.MTSS models rely on data to assess student needs and help teachers understand which kinds of intervention they need within each tier.

What is Response to Intervention?

Response to Intervention, or RTI, is an educational approach designed to help all learners to succeed, through a combination of high-quality instruction, early identification of struggling students, and responsive, targeted evidence-based interventions to address specific learning needs. RTI uses ongoing progress monitoring and data collection to facilitate data-based decision-making. In addition, the implementation of RTI will assist in the correct identification of learning or other disorders.

In my building, MTSS is the umbrella and RTI falls under it. All students are active participants in MTSS but not all students will be active participants in RTI. 

how the RTI tiers look with MTSS

How does RTI work?

It operates on a 3-tiered framework of interventions at increasing levels of intensity. The process begins with high-quality core instruction in the general education classroom. Teachers use a variety of instructional methods to maximize student engagement and learning: modeling of skills, small group instruction, guided practice, independent practice, to name a few.

Through universal screening methods, struggling learners are identified and are given more intense instruction and interventions that are more targeted to individual needs. By giving frequent assessments and analyzing data, teachers make decisions about what levels of intervention will best support student achievement.

What are the Tiers?

Tier I: This is the guaranteed and viable curriculum that all students receive each day within their general education classrooms. It is High quality, research-based core instruction in the general education classroom. All students are given universal screening assessments to ensure that they are progressing and are learning essential skills. {Sidenote: A guaranteed and viable curriculum is one that guarantees equal opportunity for learning for all students. Similarly, it guarantees adequate time for teachers to teach content and for students to learn it. A guaranteed and viable curriculum is one that guarantees that the curriculum being taught is the curriculum being assessed. It is viable when adequate time is ensured to teach all determined essential content.}

Within Tier 1, all students receive high-quality, scientifically based instruction provided by qualified personnel to ensure that their difficulties are not due to inadequate instruction. All students are screened on a periodic basis to establish an academic and behavioral baseline and to identify struggling learners who need additional support. Students identified as being “at-risk” through universal screenings and/or results on state- or district-wide tests receive supplemental instruction during the school day in the regular classroom. The length of time for this step can vary, but it generally should not exceed 8 weeks. During that time, student progress is closely monitored using a validated screening system and documentation method.

Tier II: More intensive, targeted instruction, matched to student needs, is delivered to students who are not making adequate progress in Tier I; they often receive instruction in small groups. They receive progress monitoring weekly, and teachers regularly evaluate data to assess whether students are making progress or need different or more intense intervention.

Targeted Interventions are a part of Tier 2 for students not making adequate progress in the regular classroom in Tier 1 are provided with increasingly intensive instruction matched to their needs on the basis of levels of performance and rates of progress. Intensity varies across group size, frequency and duration of intervention, and level of training of the professionals providing instruction or intervention. These services and interventions are provided in small-group settings in addition to instruction in the general curriculum. In the early grades (kindergarten through 3rd grade), interventions are usually in the areas of reading and math. A longer period of time may be required for this tier, but it should generally not exceed a grading period. Tier II interventions serve approximately 15% of the student population. Students who continue to show too little progress at this level of intervention are then considered for more intensive interventions as part of Tier 3.

Tier III: The most intensive, individualized level of intervention. Students who have not responded to Tier II intervention receive daily, small group or one-on-one instruction. Students in this level often are already receiving special education services, or are referred for further evaluation for special education.

Here students receive individualized, intensive interventions that target the students’ skill deficits. Students who do not achieve the desired level of progress in response to these targeted interventions are then referred for a comprehensive evaluation and considered for eligibility for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004). The data collected during Tiers 1, 2, and 3 are included and used to make the eligibility decision. This is typically about 5% of your student population. 


How the levels of support look across all 3 tiers in MTSS and RTI


So what does all of this mean???

What that means is this. A teacher or parent identifies a student’s needs, and they try some interventions. Sounds simple enough, right? 

So what’s the problem?

I have a family member who was struggling in reading. Mom talked to the teacher. The Teacher put the child in the RTI reading program. And she made progress and caught up with her peers. 

That is the main benefit of RTI. For the right kid, with the right intervention, that’s all they need. 

It can also look like a gifted student receiving enrichment in an area of strength like math. 

MTSS diamond of supports for remedial and enrichment for students
The downside to RTI, it can feel like the school or district is stalling to identify special education needs. Remember, students are general education students first. 

RTI is a general education progress. It's open to all students who fall below a benchmark. In Colorado, we look at iReady cut scores. Interventions need to be evidenced-based (which doesn’t always happen). This means teachers have to progress monitor students to ensure they are making progress within the selected intervention and if they are not bring them to the building RTI team. 

Every building works this process differently. In my building, we ask all teachers who have concerns about students to bring them to the RTI team. This ensures that teachers feel supported, the correct interventions are in place and should the student need to move forward with a special education evaluation the data the team needs is there. We also encourage parents to join the meetings. There is always a follow-up meeting scheduled 6 to 8 weeks out.

IDEA specifically addresses RTI and evaluations.

The 2004 reauthorization of IDEA makes mention of RTI as a method of part of the process of identifying SLD:

  • In diagnosing learning disabilities, schools are no longer required to use the discrepancy model. The act states that “a local educational agency shall not be required to take into consideration whether a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability[…]”
  • Response to intervention is specifically mentioned in the regulations in conjunction with the identification of a specific learning disability. IDEA 2004 states, “a local educational agency may use a process that determines if the child responds to scientific, research-based intervention as a part of the evaluation procedures.”
  • Early Intervening Services (EIS) are prominently mentioned in IDEA for the first time. These services are directed at interventions for students prior to referral in an attempt to avoid inappropriate classification, which proponents claim an RTI model does. IDEA now authorizes the use of up to 15% of IDEA allocated funds for EIS.

So this is the part where I expect to get pushback. But RTI has been overused and abused. Used to delay Special Education Evaluations and Services. Often.

So much so that the OSEP has put out multiple guidance letters about this.

If your child is in RTI and is doing well, great! I mean it! I am always happy to see a child’s needs being met. However, just have it on your radar that RTI is sometimes used to delay evaluations or IEPs. The old “Let’s try RTI and ‘wait and see.‘ ” Go with your gut. If you believe your child needs an IEP, request IEP evaluations.

Bonus tip: Your child can be going through the IEP evaluation process and receive RTI interventions at the same time!

Parents, how do you know if their children are making progress?

An essential element of RTI is ongoing communication between teachers and parents. As parents, you are kept involved and informed of the process every step of the way, beginning with notification that your child has been identified as struggling in one or more areas and will receive more intensive intervention. If your child receives more targeted instruction in Tier II or Tier III, he or she will be progress monitored frequently. Teachers will share progress monitoring data with you regularly through meetings, phone calls, or emails, as well as progress reports sent home showing assessment data. 

When in doubt, ask the teacher for the data. 

This is one way the process can look. The big piece for RTI to work is having the process monitoring data so decisions can be made timely. 

RTI Process Flow Chart

Parents, what are your questions about this process? I'd love to hear them. Teacher's what supports do you need to make this process work within your classrooms? Share your thoughts below. 


Be sure to check out how Shelia from Dualatiedu (a Bilingual Teacher) implements RTI with her teachers.



Chat Soon,





PS: Teachers are you looking for a document that has it all in one place. This doc has student strengths, and needs, you can list interventions with goals and progress monitoring, and a place a parent communication.  Click on the FREEBIE Alert to get yours
















What is Mastery Learning?

Each fall, there is always some new demand I have to make sure is part of my instruction. Moving three years ago to a new district is was innovation and tieing everything to the real world. It really wasn’t about moving students but what they would face in the real world. Well, after a year, I found you can have both.

Many innovations include elements of more established strategies for which do move students--like Master Learning.

So what is it??

The concept is simple: Students master concepts and skills before going onto other learning. How do you know they mastered it? You give them tests. If they do not reach mastery, then they go back and study and take the test again until they pass it. Benjamin Bloom, of Bloom's Taxonomy fame, came up with mastery learning in 1971.

I had noticed that because of the limited time I had with my groups, I always had a couple who need way more time than the everyone else. I also discovered that some of the basic skills had not been taught as I had been told. (You know how some IEPs are written.) I realize that part of the difficulty is that I am required to move these guys, no matter how big the gap.

What it looks like in my room?

Most mastery learning models stress the importance of giving quick and targeted pre-assessment to all students before beginning instruction to determine whether they have the prerequisite knowledge and skills for success in the upcoming learning sequence.  I do monthly progress monitoring and I give them the grade level assessment but also the grade under. I’m looking for the skills they don’t have. I’m also looking for data to support they have mastered the previously taught skill. I don’t have time to get both pre and post assessments. (EasyCBM.com has reading and math K-6. It’s free, has norms, and students can take it online.)

For students whose pre-assessment results suggest deficiencies, mastery learning teachers take time to directly teach them the needed concepts and skills. In other words, I break the skills down and teach just that subskill. When they have that one I move on to the next. In math, skill accuracy is king. With my reading groups, if my group of 10s is working on picture clues--I’ll use two or three-word books to focus on picture clues or reading what is written. When that skill is mastered go back to 10s and move to the next skill they need to work on. (When working on skills go back to an easier level. This is important when working on comprehension skills, so they are using all their energy on decoding the text.)

To help students out, I rely on learning targets. I post them and they always reference the bog outcome. We talk about what it looks like and in some cases what it sounds like. I find this helps everyone get real clear about what their job is.This has saved me more than a couple times when an administrator pops in.

As a teacher, I’m not going to tell you this makes planning an easier for me and I find I have to be very clear about the steps needed to do a task. Backwards planning has become key when I’m planning. Backwards planning also helps make sure I’m hitting IEP goals.

Mastery Learning helps me balance focusing on students’ strengths and interests. Together, IEPs and mastery learning helps students to work on weaknesses and a customized path that engages their interests and helps them “own” their learning.

Mastery Learning can also give students the chance to build self-advocacy skills. I encourage students when they don’t understand a step or are lost “where are you confused?” If they everything, I try to get them to be more specific. This helps them focus on their own learning but also helps guide my own instruction to fill in that hole before moving on. We all think primary students are too young to self-advocate but how many times are will serious thinking about adding it to an IEP.? (stepping stones now)

The Hard Part?

The extra planning and comes with analyzing data. Some days I feel I’m drowning in data. But I have found if I’m truly teaching to IEP goals, then I’m progress monitoring IEP goals too. I don’t teach random stuff that has nothing to do with IEP goals. I only teach the IEP goals. The 30 minutes that student is out of his classroom, he is working on his IEP goals. Backwards planning and data dialogues help to ensure I’m hitting that target.

The key is to make sure that mastery learning is targeting the small skills needed to meet a larger target. By doing this, I can innovate how they demonstrate mastery--sometimes this is with technology and sometimes it's with STEM tasks.

At the end of the day is student growth. My goal is to work myself out of a job.

Until Next Time,


How to Tame your IEP Data Mess!

If you walked into my office and looked at my desk you would fall over. My desk by day 5 of the school year--OMG! I know I'm not alone. With all the paperwork, files, reports, and student data well--it's a wonder that any of us are organized. #amIright?


After 14 years of trying everything from one binder for all my students, (mind you that 1 large binder with 40 students) to buckets to file folders. Nothing worked to keep each students data, work, progress monitoring, teacher conference notes. So last summer, I decided to try student data binders and make my students responsible for everything. My students LOVED them. FYI: It was these binders moved my students more than a year. #SWEET #studentmotivation


Why keep a Student data binder?

Well… the answer to this is different for everyone, so I will just share why I keep one… and it’s a super simple reason: It keeps me organized. In this data obsessed age (ahh me), there is so much to keep track of. Compiling it all into a portable binder makes my life easier. No more running around to three or four different files to find current information on my seconds! I can just grab and go at a moments notice! (Who can remember all those student meetings, anyway?!) I love having my data in one place to show teachers and parents. #perfect

My idea Teacher and Student Data binders hold all things IEP in 1 place. All the IEP goal data and progress monitoring together, organized that IEP writing is a grab and write. Grade Level meeting grab and go!

Data binders are an essential component of a strong classroom learning community. Every student has their own binder.

We set goals for everything and so far it has changed the look of my classroom. We use a data binder to keep track of all the goals (think SLO or Student Learning Objectives).
Students keep guided reading books, attendance, work samples, IEP snapshot and more in their binders. 

Data binders can take many forms, but the goal is the same: to drive student performance, improvement, and self-awareness. Students can document their learning and growth over time which increases their growth by years end. #morethanayearsgrowth

Students tracking goals and their data building more intrinsically motivated students who track and met their goals.


My Teacher and Student Data Binders include:
  • Binder labels
  • Sounds/Letters both upper & lower case
  • Number Identification 0-30
  • Fry Sight Words
  • Oral Counting
  • Letter writing
  • Basic Shapes
  • Phonics Survey
  • I Can Early Math Statements
  • Graphs for all assessments included
  • Marzano’s Student Self-Assessment Rubric & Poster Set (Robots)
  • 2 different Phonics Surveys 
  • Weekly Self-Assessment
  • Reading level/Running Record Trackers
  • 2017-2018 Calendar
Other Ideas: 
  • IEP snapshots (for easy access for goal setting sessions)
  • Student/Teacher Created Rubrics
  • Anchor Charts
  • Goal Setting and Conference Sessions
  • SMART Goals
You can add what you need and make it your own.  I use my Student Data Binders to push students to challenge themselves and grow.

My Teachers Binder has ALL the formative assessments I use to track IEP growth or progress monitor. I add assessments as IEP goals change.  I don't have time to look for it. Grab and go. The best when you're being pulled in 100 different directions.   #Iknow

This system has been extremely intrinsically motivating for all my students.

Until Next Time,



Thank you for your interest-this offer has expired. 
You can find my Student & Teacher Data Binder HERE.








June Show & Tell Linky

Good Morning, today I'm linking up with Stephanie at "Forever in 5th Grade," to bring you a glimpse into my end of summer planning for my Special Education Resource Room. This year I'll be working with 2nd and 3rd grades. Many of these guys were with me last year. Most of my thinking has been around how I want to strength or change systems I had in place last year like communicating with parents and making it authentic for students.
I have an crazy teacher rubric, this year I'm going to swing to the fences. I have in the past talked about Personalized Learning and how I'm working to use the thinking in s Resource Special Education room. I'm adding a Data Binder this year. 


Each student will have a binder where they will keep their data, Personalized Learning Plan, rubrics, and week reflection plans. This information will be used to info IEP meetings and make it easier for students to crate a video of presentation for their IEP meetings. I also hope I can give students more responsibly like their books, progress monitoring materials, attendance, behavior, and what ever else I want them to hold on to. I chose to make the paper pieces match the divider tabs in the hopes it would help with organization and I could spend less time with missing pieces. 


I was cornered about Spring Break by my wonderful 1st grade team. They wanted dibs on having me at their Summer PD, co-planning, co-teaching--well co--anything!! How could I say no! This is new territory for them as the school is becoming a EL school and they wanted to create a team to move and grow students.  I should mention I love running with them as well. We did the Colfax Relay in May. Yes, all 26 miles.




I send home a monthly newsletter. This idea will help with two things--increase parent communication and two help students to write to an authentic audience.  I'm looking forward to see what they do. They will also be contributing authors on the classroom website. I'm hoping since we use Google Sites this idea will not be all drama and something everyone will see of high value. My team has been talking about creating 1 site and working with grade levels to have a column on their newsletters as well.





One thing that I added to my Data binders was a way for my students' for reflect on and take control of their learning and a perfect way to use it as a Formative Assessment. Last year to used Robert Marzano's Checking for Understanding. This is one of three versions I have in my Teachers pay Teacher store. Even though I'm keeping the same students just a grade older than last year--this version was perfect for them as first and second graders. This is perfect for students to self-assess and reflect on their learning, you can target specific skills they say they are missing or confused or speed up you instruction because they've got it. You can buy it from my store-click on the picture.









What is Effective Comprehension Instruction?

It is Explicit, Intensive, persistent instruction. I do mine in small and large groups.  Small groups allow me to focus in on the specific skill the groups needs. I find this is a great easy way to differenate students because each student does not need to be in the same reading material--they are grouuped to practice the specific comprehension skill. 

To become good readers, most students require explicit, intensive, and persistent instruction. In explicit comprehension strategy instruction, the teacher chooses strategies that are closely aligned with the text students are reading. The teacher models and "thinks aloud" about what a given strategy is and why it is important, helps students learn how, when, and where to use the strategy, and gives students opportunities to apply the strategy on their own.

Modeling is followed by practice, guided by the teacher, who works with students to help them figure out how and when to use the strategy themselves. As students read, the teacher provides feedback and engages them in discussion. In subsequent lessons, the teacher asks students to apply the strategy on their own to other texts.

Students are encouraged to plan before reading so that reading has a clear goal or purpose, to continually monitor their understanding during reading, and to apply repair strategies when breakdowns in understanding occur. To improve self-monitoring, the teacher may model for students how to do one or all of the following:

·         think about what they already know before they start reading and during reading;
·         be aware of whether they understand what they are reading;
·         employ strategies to identify difficult words, concepts, and ideas;
·         ask themselves: "Does this make sense?"; and
·         be aware of how a particular text is organized.

One of the most important features of explicit instruction is the teacher's gradual release to students of responsibility for strategy use, with the goal that students apply strategies independently. However, teachers do not ask students to work on their own until the students have demonstrated that they understand a strategy and how and when to use it.

The Primary Comprehension Toolkit from Heinemann (grade K-2) allows me to teach specific comprehension skills in a sequence that makes sense to the reader.  The student does the work--I have to listen to how they are applying the strategies to text.

My students LOVE expository text (non-fiction). Most of the reading students do throughout their schooling — indeed, throughout their lives — will involve expository text. Without an understanding of the organization of such text, students often have difficulty understanding what they read. Unlike a narrative, an expository text has no familiar story line to guide students' reading. To read expository texts successfully, students must learn that authors may use a variety of structures to organize their ideas, including cause-and-effect or compare and contrast relationships, time-and-order sequences, and problem-solution patterns. Indeed, students need to know that authors may use some or all of these structures in any given chapter or section of a text.

They need to learn that expository text can differ from narrative text in the way it is presented on a page. For example, expository text may be organized by means of text headings and subheadings, and may contain extensive graphics, such as tables, charts, diagrams, and illustrations. Instructional practices that facilitate students' understanding of expository text include helping them learn how to:

·         chunk information in a text by grouping related ideas and concepts;
·         summarize important information in a text by grouping related ideas and concepts;
·         integrate information in a text with existing knowledge;
·         apply information in a text to real-world situations;
·         interpret and construct graphics such as charts, tables, and figures;
·         synthesize information from different texts; and
·         develop presentations about the text

We have been working monitoring comprehension and knowing when you have fallin' off the road. When reading this lesson in the Primary Comprehension Toolkit, I was thinking no big deal, they've got it. Well for students how have never been asked to really think about what they are reading this was a huge shock. I found that sentence stems and tons modeling and shared reading was needed to move them on. 

and this one show two examples of the sentence stems.


My hope in using the Primary Comprehension Toolkit is to have student's think more critically about what they have read to in turn create new works that show how they created meaning strategically in reading and writing. This set of strategies being tied to their Personalized Learning Plans. I hoping to see great products but I'll have to wait until next week to see what students do.





Classroom Accommodations Ideas

For me-its that time of year again where I have to get ready for the DREADED state testing. Ugg! I'm a big fan of easy--that's the way I roll when it come to classroom accommodations.  Here are some ideas to help my classroom teacher friends.

If the student has difficulty learning by listening, then try…

Before the lesson:

  • Pre-teach difficult vocabulary and concepts
  • State the objective, providing a reason for listening
  • Teach the mental activities involved in listening — mental note-taking, questioning, reviewing
  • Provide study guides/worksheets
  • Provide script of film
  • Provide lecture outlines

During the lesson:

  • Provide visuals via the board or overhead
  • Use flash cards
  • Have the student close his eyes and try to visualize the information
  • Have the student take notes and use colored markers to highlight
  • Teach the use of acronyms to help visualize lists (Roy G. Biv for the colors of the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet)
  • Give explanations in small, distinct steps
  • Provide written as well as oral directions
  • Have the student repeat directions
  • When giving directions to the class, leave a pause between each step so student can carry out the process in his mind
  • Shorten the listening time required
  • Provide written and manipulative tasks
  • Be concise with verbal information: "Jane, please sit." instead of "Jane, would you please sit down in your chair."
  • If the student has difficulty expressing himself verbally, then try…

To accept an alternate form of information sharing, such as the following:

  • Written report
  • Artistic creation
  • Exhibit or showcase
  • Chart, graph, or table
  • Photo essay
  • Map
  • Review of films
  • Charade or pantomime
  • Demonstration
  • Taped report
  • Ask questions requiring short answers
  • Provide a prompt, such as beginning the sentence for the student or giving a picture cue
  • Give the rules for class discussion (e.g., hand raising)
  • Give points for oral contributions and preparing the student individually
  • Teach the student to ask questions in class
  • Specifically teach body and language expression
  • Wait for students to respond — don't call on the first student to raise his hand
  • First ask questions at the information level — giving facts and asking for facts back; then have the student break in gradually by speaking in smaller groups and then in larger groups
If the student has difficulty reading written material, then try…

  • Find a text written at lower level
  • Provide highlighted material
  • Rewrite the student's text
  • Tape the student's text
  • Allow a peer or parent to read text aloud to student
  • Shorten the amount of required reading
  • Look for same content in another medium (movie, filmstrip, tape)
  • Provide alternative methods for student to contribute to the group, such as role playing or dramatizing (oral reading should be optional)
  • Allow extra time for reading
  • Omit or shortening the reading required
  • Substitute one-page summaries or study guides which identify key ideas and terms as the reading assignment
  • Motivate the student, interesting him
  • Provide questions before student reads a selection (include page and paragraph numbers)
  • Put the main ideas of the text on index cards which can easily be organized in a file box and divided by chapters; pre-teaching vocabulary
  • Type material for easier reading
  • Use larger type
  • Be more concrete-using pictures and manipulatives
  • Reduce the amount of new ideas
  • Provide experience before and after reading as a frame of reference for new concepts
  • State the objective and relating it to previous experiences
  • Help the student visualize what is read

If the student has difficulty writing legibly, then try…

  • Use a format requiring little writing
  • Multiple-choice
  • Programmed material
  • True/false
  • Matching
  • Use manipulatives such as letters from a Scrabble™ game or writing letters on small ceramic tiles
  • Reduce or omit assignments requiring copying
  • Encourage shared note-taking
  • Allow the use of a tape recorder, a typewriter, or a computer
  • Teach writing directly
  • Trace letters or writing in clay
  • Verbalize strokes on tape recorder
  • Use a marker to space between words
  • Tape the alphabet to student's desk
  • Provide a wallet-size alphabet card
  • Provide courses in graph analysis or calligraphy as a motivator
  • Use graph paper to help space letters and numbers in math
  • Use manuscript or lined ditto paper as a motivation technique (brainstorm the advantages of legibility with the class)

If the student has difficulty expressing himself in writing, then try…

Accepting alternate forms of reports:

  • Oral reports
  • Tape-recorded report
  • Tape of an interview
  • Collage, cartoon, or other art
  • Maps
  • Diorama, 3-D materials, showcase exhibits
  • Photographic essay
  • Panel discussion
  • Mock debate
  • Review of films and presentation of an appropriate one to the class
  • Have the student dictate work to someone else (an older student, aide, or friend) and then copy it himself
  • Allow more time
  • Shorten the written assignment (preparing an outline or summary)
  • Provide a sample of what the finished paper should look like to help him organize the parts of the assignment
  • Provide practice using:
  • Story starters
  • Open-ended stories
  • Oral responses (try some oral spelling tests)


If the student has difficulty spelling, then try…

  • Dictate the work and then asking the student to repeat it (saying it in sequence may eliminate errors of omitted syllables)
  • Avoid traditional spelling lists (determine lists from social needs and school area needs)
  • Use mnemonic devices ("A is the first capital letter," "The capitol building has a dome")
  • Teach short, easy words in context:
  • On and on
  • Right on!
  • On account of
  • Have students make flashcards and highlight the difficult spots on the word
  • Give a recognition level spelling test (asking the student to circle correct word from three or four choices)
  • Teach words by spelling patterns (teach "cake," "bake," "take," etc. in one lesson)
  • Use the Language Master for drill
  • Avoid penalizing for spelling errors
  • Hang words from the ceiling during study time or posting them on the board or wall as constant visual cues
  • Provide a tactile/kinesthetic aid for spelling (sandpaper letters to trace or a box filled with salt or cereal to write in)
This is just the tip of the iceberg of ideas to use in the classroom. What are your favorites?

About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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