March: A Good Time to Review Skill Development

 Special Needs Topics with Don Peek
This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.






Though it’s somewhat hard to believe, we are already into March and nearing spring.  That means that summer is just around the corner and, as always, many special education students will not take part in any special summer program.  It seems to me that this is an excellent time for both teachers and parents to review the skills that their children have developed or should have developed by this stage of the year.

For most of these students, these skills should be listed in their IEP’s.  Not only should the skill be listed, but also the approximate level the student was to attain during the year.  Let’s take for instance the skill of reading.  You should never find in students’ IEP’s that they will simply be able to read at the end of the school year.  Rather, you will find that a particular student should be able to read at a given grade level (i.e. 2.5, 3.8, 7.2) with a certain degree of comprehension (i.e. 75%, 85%, 90%).  These skill levels are rather easily tested.  In fact, if this were a goal set in a student’s IEP, it should have been tested or growth documented in some way several times during the year.

It’s simply not enough that certain skills are listed in an IEP.  They must have activities that promote the growth of each skill and in some way monitor that growth.  Thus, when a student reaches mid-March, it should be fairly easy to determine whether that student will actually reach a skill goal listed in an IEP or not.  The student might be a little ahead of schedule or a little behind, but if the building of the skill has been sufficiently monitored, adjustments can be made for an increase in skill-building activities toward the end of the school year so that the goal can be reached or surpassed.

Why am I so concerned about the skills being mastered that are listed in each student’s IEP?  For one thing, any individual skill that students develop may be very important to them during the summer break.  Mastering a certain level in reading may help a special education student profitably occupy his/her time during the summer when not receiving direct instruction.

The same could be said of research skills developed on the computer during the school year.  Students might use those computer skills during the summer to learn any number of things without direct instruction if they are able to read adequately and know how to research their favorite topics on the Internet.

One other skill that all students should possess is that of reading and understanding warning signs.  Many special education students will not be supervised as closely as they should during summer break.  Their ability to understand dangerous warning signs when they encounter poisons or other toxins, or understanding the warning signs around power stations, construction sites, wells, caves, highways, etc. may save them from serious injury or even death.

I strongly believe in teaching students skills.  The skills that they truly master will remain with them for the rest of their lives.  Now is a good time to review the skills of every special education student as we move toward summer vacation.   Those skills my help to further educate them, keep them positively occupied, or even save their lives.

Teachers and parents, review those skills listed in each student’s IEP and make sure they are performing where you agreed they would be by the time school is out in May or June.


Grant Name:   Monell Foundation Educational Grants

Funded By:  The Ambrose Monell Foundation

Description:  Giving on a national basis to improve the physical, mental, and moral condition of humanity throughout the world. Giving largely for hospitals and health services, scientific research, museums, performing arts, and other cultural activities, and higher and secondary education; support also for social services, research in political science, mental health, and aid to the handicapped. No grants to individuals.

Program Areas:  Adult Literacy, Disabilities, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Social Studies

Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline:  4/30/13

Contact Person:  George Rowe, Jr., President

Telephone:  212-245-1863

Average Amount:  $5,000.00 to $1 million



Availability:  All States


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