Pre-Referral Strategies for Special Education

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

girls sassy

When I was in graduate school for learning disabilities XYZ years ago (years disguised to protect my vanity), I wrote a paper with the title “Overrepresentation of Minorities in Special Education.” It was a huge undertaking and the paper ended up asking more questions than it answered. The gist of my thesis was that behavior issues unfamiliar to the average middle class teacher were causing more SPED referrals for minority students than for others.

The professor took pity on me and gave me an A probably because I had the temerity to tackle the subject in the first place. As I was researching the topic, I realized one of the keys to success is to give teachers the support they need to identify and remediate difficult behaviors before the referral process is under way.

Since then, much has been written about the pre-referral process for students with behavior disorders. Teachers become frustrated with kids who are acting out. They have no way to mitigate behaviors before they escalate. In many cases, they don’t know how to set limits and provide options to students who are frustrated in their own right. Students have a way of behaving themselves into a corner from which there is no escape. Both teacher and student need strategies to de-escalate situations that can get out of control.

Many years after the ambitious paper was written, I have experienced difficult kids and have found ways to work with them to find viable solutions to problems. There are some wonderful resources available for teachers now, especially since the advent of the Internet (see the end of this article to find some of them). My favorite is a big red book called “Pre-Referral Intervention Strategies” by Stephen B. McCarney, Ed.D. There are hundreds of forms and checklists for teachers to use. The resources establish step-by-step behavior interventions that work.

Schools are developing a team approach to work through problems to prevent referral.

Team members:

  • Work together to identify a child’s learning strengths and needs,
  • put strategies into action, and
  • evaluate the impact of the interventions so the child can succeed in the general education classroom.

Since public law 94-142 was implemented, the goal has been to mainstream children into the least restrictive environment, ideally the regular grade level classroom.

A team should include parents, psychologists, and other teachers who meet with the child in other classrooms, a special education administrator or behavior specialist. It’s not always possible to bring parents to meetings, but an interview with them is essential so you can know how they deal with behaviors at home. When strategies are finally developed, they work much better if they are delivered in a coordinated fashion at school and at home.

At a team meeting:

  • A child’s strengths, interests, and talents are described.
  • Reasons for referral are listed, including behavior and academic achievement.
  • Interventions previously tried are discussed and if any success has been achieved. (Interventions may include accommodations, modifications, and behavior plans to try at home and in classrooms.)
  • Interventions are shared to address immediate concerns.
  • Interventions are carried out.
  • Strategies are evaluated to see what works.

Here are some resources to help with developing a pre-referral team approach in your school.

Pre-Referral Intervention Manual
Strategies
RTI – Response to Intervention
Parents in the referral process
Other resources

As always, keep in touch and let me know how your school works with pre-referral teams.


Grant Name: Family Service Community Grants

Funded By: Autism Speaks

Description: Autism Speaks seeks to directly support the innovative work of autism service providers in local communities across the United States. The focus of our Family Services Community Grants is three-fold: to promote autism services that enhance the lives of those affected by autism; to expand the capacity to effectively serve this growing community; and to enhance the field of service providers.

Program Areas:   After-School, Arts, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Disabilities, Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Health/PE, Library, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Technology, Vocational

Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other

Proposal Deadline: 3/25/2015

Average Amount: $5,000.00 – $25,000.00

Telephone: 917-475-5059

E-mail: sselkin@autismspeaks.org

Website: Autism Speaks

Availability: All States

Becoming a Better Teacher

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

teacher little girl

They say that experience is the best teacher of a teacher. That is certainly true in my case. When I first started teaching in a special education classroom, I was kind, giving, quite frankly, a sucker. Kids manipulated me into a corner every single day. So, over time, I learned to be less of a friend and much more of a guiding hand, sometimes a shoving hand.

There are some things that teachers can do though, above and beyond waiting for time to pass, and letting experiences teach lessons the hard way. One thing I have done religiously every year is to make home visits. It is the single most important thing I do – I set the end of October as my deadline to make sure I visit every student’s home (unless the family expressly forbids it – and that has happened.)

I learn so much about my students this way. I can observe family dynamics, see where my student fits in the family order, see how parents interact with their kids. Are they warm and loving and supportive? Are they stern, controlling? Are they protective (or over-protective) of their special education child? These characteristics and family interactions give me ways to approach the child in the classroom, I understand them better.

I can observe the home itself and I don’t mean for House Beautiful comparisons. For many years I worked in urban schools in inner cities. I saw poverty first hand, and also saw how tempting the street can be for students. When you don’t have much, it makes sense to join with a group of kids who also have very little. These bands of poor kids can, if guided by a mentor, do wonderful things. I have the utmost regard for organizations like the “Y”, Girl’s Clubs and Scouts, etc. If students have a sense of purpose, and a responsible adult to guide them, the negative effects of a gang mentality can be avoided. I also work closely with the police. The schools I have worked in were lucky to have community officers. They helped to prevent many bad decisions kids choose to make on any given day.

Another must for me has been taking advantage of every possible opportunity for professional development. Lately it has been attending workshops on Common Core State Standards curriculum integration for Special Education, and on technology. I haven’t decided yet exactly how I feel about distance learning; this is true of professional development as well as some of the new “courses” online for schools. For classrooms, asynchronous learning by itself is not sufficient. You need a teacher and interaction of some sort with other students. Some of the credit-granting schools for students who need more classes to graduate from high school may be helpful to some, but I worry about academic rigor. With SPED kids, there are many other factors to consider that an online solution may ignore.

Not all distance learning is suspect. I’ve discovered a website called Lynda.com. There are a slew of video based tutorials here on computer software programs like Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat. These lessons are very helpful in bringing me up to speed on new products, too. There are other examples of this for teachers. This kind of online learning, no stakes informational presentations, will flourish and do well. I worry though about online degrees and online high schools.

There are so many new software products for managing the day to day operation of your classroom, including the automation of IEPs that I can’t list them all. I found an article that shows you how to choose an effective system.

And, hold on to your hats, I still grab a good book to stay up to date on what teachers are reading. A list here stays on the topic of becoming a better teacher.

So, out of the box, you are no doubt a great SPED teacher (or “regular” teacher). Just remind yourself that there are some specific steps you can take to brush up on new skills, and improve the ones you have.

Let us know some of your tips and tricks to be a great SPED teacher. I learn from my readers all the time.


Grant Name: Lawrence Scadden Teacher of the Year Award in Science Education for Students with Disabilities

Funded By: Science Education for Students with Disabilities

Description: The recipient will be recognized at the annual National Science Teachers Association Convention, at the Science-Abled Breakfast, sponsored by SESD and Reaching the Pinnacle for Students with Disabilities. The winner of the Scadden award is expected to attend the NSTA conference to accept the award and a check for $1,000.00. The $1,000.00 stipend associated with the Scadden Award is provided to offset travel expenses to NSTA.

Program Areas:   Disabilities, Science/Environmental, Special Education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)

Eligibility: Public School, Private School

Proposal Deadline: 1/20/2015

Average Amount: $1,000.00

E-mail: pverones@brockport.edu

Website: Science Education for Students with Disabilities

Availability: All States

When is a Behavior Problem a SPED Referral?

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

principal sign

One of the many challenges a classroom teacher faces in her daily classroom routine is the presence of one (or two or three) students with challenging behaviors. They take so much time from instruction for “regular” students that it has become a real problem for many teachers. They did not learn in their degree program how to deal with Joey who is throwing books out the window, or Freddy who trips little Miranda every time she walks by.

This may bring a smile to your face, but you know what I’m talking about. You’ve practiced techniques for classroom management that work 90% of the time, but those students are still a real issue for you. You’ve read books, you’ve reported it all to your principal and school counselor and at the end of each meeting, you still leave scratching your head.

There is a moment in many behavior problem situations, where a teacher reaches critical mass and sits down to refer the child for a special education evaluation. When does a behavior become so troubling that it qualifies for special education services? The behavior that is bugging you may be completely under control in other classrooms, what is the chemistry that exists between a teacher and students that reaches stalemate?

This is a tough question. In general, any behavior that gets under your skin is worthy of correction and intervention within your own domain. Something you notice and become concerned about may go right over another teacher’s head and radar but if it’s interfering with your routine, you need to address it.

I used a word above that can help you develop an accurate barometer, “troubling”. Like so many things in education, it is not black and white. However, if a child’s behavior is troubling you and it is pretty clear that unless there is resolution, this child will continue to use the behavior to manipulate his environment and you, it’s time for an intervention. In the lower grades, he/she is doing these things because he is afraid, afraid of being noticed as the failure he thinks he is, afraid of being called on and showing his ignorance. This is usually corrected by providing him with a way to be successful, give him a task at which he will shine and the behavior may disappear.

But as he grows, and the behavior escalates to include things that are hurtful to others or himself, it is definitely time for an evaluation. Your principal and special education coordinator will discourage you from filing, they are buried in referrals for similar problems and the system simply cannot absorb all these kids.

Your job is to document everything the child does, and document your interventions. It must be clear that you have “tried everything” and yet the situation has grown and become more troubling. The child is actively making everyone miserable, not just you. It’s not about your threshold of pain; it has more to do with the rest of your students. His behavior may be pulling so much of your attention that the rest of your students are questioning your authority or ability to cope. Time to bring in the troops and don’t be shy. There are intractable problems and you should not feel guilty or wimpy about bringing them to the attention of people who can help.

I also used the word “chemistry”. Sometimes there is a dynamic between a teacher and student that is simply toxic. There is no mutual respect to build on and it’s clear that another placement would benefit both student, teacher, and class. Be sure you completely and thoroughly understand the special education referral process and that your documentation is impeccable and thorough. Where possible, make sure you’ve brought the parents in for multiple conferences to try to organize a concerted effort at both school and home to alter the behavior. Sometimes in those meetings an explanation will emerge and a solution may become evident. There are students however, who do not have a supportive environment at home from which to draw solutions. These are the cases that will sap the strength of the system, this child is really in trouble and you will all need to work together to help him out. There may be a contract you can draw up with the child and other teachers that he will sign and live up to. The other teachers (and physical education teachers are especially helpful here), who can monitor behavior when you’re not there, and come up with a plan of intervention.

Books have been written about this subject, this blog is just a sample of impressions I have made over the years. I hope something has resonated with you, and don’t hesitate to comment on this blog and add to the discussion. My sense is this won’t be my last article on this subject, I know you have much to add to the conversation.

A couple of resources for you:

Seven Rules

Dealing with Difficult Students

Management Techniques – Relationship Building

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Grant Name: Teacher Grants

Funded By: The Kids In Need Foundation

Description: Kids In Need Teacher Grants provide K-12 educators with funding to provide innovative learning opportunities for their students. The Kids In Need Foundation helps to engage students in the learning process by supporting our most creative and important educational resource our nation’s teachers. All certified K-12 teachers in the U.S. are eligible.

Program Areas: Arts, ESL/Bilingual/Foreign Language, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Technology

Eligibility: Public School, Private School

Proposal Deadline: 9/30/2014

Average Amount: $100.00 – $500.00

Address: 3055 Kettering Boulevard, Suite 119, Dayton, OH 45439

Telephone: 877-296-1231

E-mail: pennyh@kinf.org

Website: The Kids in Need Foundation

Availability: All States

IEP’s, Tools and Timesavers

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

It’s impossible to believe we are approaching mid-school year, a time of assessment, review and renewal. If you’ve made any resolutions, and are the type of person that keeps them, please comment on this blog with tips for the hopelessly resolution-challenged. I make really great ones. Keeping them?? Not so much.

hands filing

In my last blog, I touched on IEP (Individual Education Plan) management as it relates to parents and their wishes. There’s a fine line between being helpful and caving in to unrealistic demands in the form of additions to the legal document we know and love, called “The IEP”.

The IEP (Individual Education Plan) is a critical part of a special student’s dossier. It was introduced during the implementation of Public Law 94-142 many years ago. I have seen IEP’s that are so badly written that they only muddy the waters for the student, and are used as a device to placate over-involved parents.

There are some tips and tricks to writing a good IEP. Keep in mind that a good IEP is crafted by many people, all of whom are involved in the academic life of a special needs child. Ultimately though, it is a legal contract, a binding agreement between a special needs child’s parents and family, and the school district.

Lately, there has been a great deal of interest in using RTI (Response to Intervention) strategies to help prevent premature referrals to the Special Education bureaucracy in any given school district. I agree that a good program can help to bring everyone together in a tiered instruction model, and that it is in the best interest of students to provide interventions, especially for behavior management- the root of all evil in the classroom. Teachers need special training to become masters of behavior management. The single best resource to help teachers in that area is:

                “Pre-Referral Intervention Manual”, Hawthorne Educational Resources, Third Edition, Stephen B. McCarney, Ed.D

This manual provides teachers with strategies and checklists to help manage the most troublesome behaviors that are present in the classroom; the activities some students invent to make us all crazy. You need to be armed and ready.

I have brought together some resources in this blog that can help save you time and aggravation as you prepare IEP’s for review in 2014.

  • Wrightslaw: the best one stop website for the development of IEP’s. It reminds teachers of the legal aspects of the document, its history, and its use as a tool in a well-defined plan for managing the education of a special needs child?
  • IEP Direct: reviews and guides to state-specific IEP regulations, what happens in New Jersey may not apply in New York.
  • SPEDAssist: a review of IEP preparation software programs, comparison of commercial products. These products have come a long way, and you would be wise to work with your district leaders to invest in one of them. It will help you develop consistent goals and objects.
  • For Parents: A guide to working through the SPED IEP process.
  • For Teachers: Writing great IEP goals that are clear and enforceable. National Association of Special Education Teachers.
  • Administrators: Managing the IEP process.
  • Annotated bibliography of SPED resources.

In the end, like anything else in education, managing your paperwork for your special education students is about building relationships with concerned parties, all of them. It can’t be done in isolation; many schools develop pre-meeting focus groups so that consistent policies and procedures can be implemented.

Add to this list, we all work best when we work together.

Don’t be silent, comment on this post, what do you think, do you have tips for teachers when it comes time to reveiw IEP’s? Let us know.

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Grant Name: Foundation Grants

Funded By: Flextronics Foundation

Description:  The Flextronics Foundation sponsors educational programs and other charitable activities where Flextronics employees volunteer their time. We focus our efforts on those organizations distributing funds toward programs that benefit students with socioeconomic issues, learning disabilities or handicaps. We support academic programs in areas related to electronics manufacturing, and the betterment of disadvantaged students.

Program Areas:   After-School, At-Risk/Character, Disabilities, Early Childhood, General Education, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)

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

Proposal Deadline:  3/1/2014

Annual Total Amount: $100,000.00 – $900,000.00

Average Amount:  $2,000.00 – $50,000.00

Address: 847 Gibraltar Drive, Milpitas, CA 95035

Telephone: 408-576-7528

Website: Flextronics Foundation

Availability:  All States

UDL: Universal Design for Learning

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

UDL or Universal Design for Learning has become a buzz concept in recent years. I used to be skeptical of jumping on bandwagons and endorsing new ways to look at old problems. The new ideas usually come with expensive professional development and school supplies, books, software, you name it. One of the things I like about the UDL buzz, it is really a useful concept and way of looking at schools and curriculum development without spending much money to make learning available to all students.

UDL comes to us from the CAST organization.

From their website I pulled this nice concise definition: www.cast.org

“What is Universal Design for Learning?

Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.

UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone–not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.”

This is the idea of least restrictive learning environment taken to a whole new level. If you think about accommodations schools have made over the years at the behest of federal law such as architectural changes for wheelchairs, etc. it really just makes sense. It is time now to move the accommodation focus to curriculum development.

If you have children in your classroom that are hard of hearing, doesn’t it make sense to look at your room and work to maximize your acoustics? This would benefit all children not just the ones with the disability. Partially because of UDL, the notion of outfitting classrooms with sound systems has taken off. A minor investment in speakers and projection equipment will open up that 25% of what you say that never gets heard to the ears of all.

A new thrust in the teaching of reading is developing leveled reading libraries (read Fountas and Pinnell) for school and classroom libraries, it has become standard procedure. In the old days we’d take students to the library and let them loose among the shelves to pick out a book. Now, we can quickly assess student reading levels (lexiles), share this level information with students so they will know which books in the library are the most appropriate for them. It sounds pretty basic, but UDL has caused us all to step back and take a closer look at the way we communicate this information to children.

Within the resources defined by CAST for developing UDL classrooms, you will want to offer ways of customizing the display of information in the classroom.

Within this consideration:

  • How does this help learners meet the goal?
  • How does this account for the variability of all learners?
  • Can learners customize the display?

We concentrate on goals and objectives, really stop and think about learning styles and empower students to customize the learning environment for themselves, to make learning more accessible.

Then, on the CAST site, teachers write and talk about ways they have altered displays in their schools with UDL in mind.

Other considerations might be:

1.3: Offer alternatives for visual information

2.3: Support decoding of text, mathematical notation, and symbols

4.1: Vary the methods for response and navigation

4.2: Optimize access to tools and assistive technologies

With the Internet as our best tool, we can all share ways we do things every day that help us integrate all students within a single learning environment. We’ll really provide the least restrictive learning situation in our own classrooms.

Don’t be silent, comment on this blog, what do you think, does your district embrace the ideas of UDL?

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Grant Name:  USGA Alliance Grants

Funded By:  National Alliance for Accessible Golf

Description:  Grants support organizations which provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to learn and enjoy the game of golf and its inherent values. The Alliance and the USGA share the belief that the game of golf is exceptionally well-suited to allow individuals with disabilities to participate in a recreational or competitive activity with participants who have various types of disabilities as well as those who do not have disabilities. We encourage inclusive programming – opportunities that allow participants with disabilities and participants without disabilities to learn and play the game side by side.

Program Areas:   Disabilities, Health/PE

Eligibility:  Public School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  Ongoing

Average Amount:  $1,000.00 – $20,000.00

Teacher Evaluation, Should SPED Teachers be Held to a Different Standard?

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

Last time we talked about summative assessment, the cumulative, usually annual, measures of student achievement. The annual part of the bargain seems to be changing, there may now be semi-annual online exams in some states, but the focus of this blog has been student evaluation over the past few weeks.

A larger issue, still evolving at the state and district levels, is teacher evaluation. The climate of paranoia over how we will all be evaluated as teachers has risen to a fever pitch. The main scary point has been the drive by education reformers to tie teacher evaluations to student achievement test scores. We all know the picture has only started to become clear for the assessment of special education teachers and students. Some of the biggest questions like “how can we hold special education students to the same standards as ‘regular'” kids are being asked and debated nationally.

We have learned to write specific IEP’s to try to use existing laws to our advantage while protecting our students from unreasonable testing requirements. We are actively aligning our curricula to Common Core State Standards and hope the process will be informative.

But what about the teachers? If we haven’t really ironed out student evaluation issues for special education, how are we going to fairly evaluate teachers? We all want to know how we are doing as we are compared to our peers in SPED classrooms.

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has written some guiding essays to help us understand these complex questions. CEC’s ESEA (NCLB) Reauthorization Recommendations document has been crafted over the past 4-5 years by committees and focus groups entrusted with the task of sorting it all out. It does an excellent job of reminding us that it is possible to reconcile the missions of ESEA and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). CEC believes that blending the strengths of both IDEA and ESEA will result in policies that directly address the challenges confronting the education community. They stress everyone’s desire to create and nurture a highly qualified teaching staff to manage increasingly complex student needs.

What about our teachers? How can we measure their effectiveness in the classroom? Teaching is part science mixed with a big dash of art. The older I get, and the more truly gifted teachers I observe, the more the art part comes into focus. You know a good teacher when you see one; you feel it in the electricity in the classroom and the bright eyes of the students. Really great teachers manage their classrooms brilliantly and effortlessly to manage challenging behaviors so learning can occur uninterrupted. With a flick of a wrist and a raised index finger, you can watch 25 students suddenly shush and sit up straight with hands folded on the desks (how the heck did she do that?) It’s all about expectations, and consistent messaging from day one of each school year. The children eat it up, and prefer an organized classroom to “creative chaos.”

To address questions being asked by educators the CEC drafted “CEC Position Statement on Special Education Teacher Evaluation” I urge you to read it thoroughly because it is a sensitive approach to all teacher evaluation.

They took another step and crafted “CEC’s Special Education Teacher Evaluation Toolkit“. It helps us understand some of the more practical aspects of the process. Basically their message is that all teachers must participate in the planning process for implementing teacher evaluation systems. All evaluation systems must occur as a system, over time, with scheduled monitoring and a diverse collection of tools, not relying on any one measure to judge the merit of a teacher’s efforts.

Other discussions to get you started on the road to understanding directions we will all take in the years to come:

Huffington Post article

ERIC National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality”

“Gotham Schools.org”

“Education Week Blog”

Don’t be silent, comment on this blog, what do you think, how will your district approach evaluations for special education teachers?

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Grant Name:  Foundation Grant

Funded By:  Patterson Foundation

Description: The foundation provides resources to programs and to nonprofit organizations in the areas of oral health, animal health, and occupational and physical rehabilitation. Funds are granted for: Health and Human Services programs related to the focus areas that benefit economically disadvantaged people or youth with special needs; and education as it relates to the focus areas, especially programs that increase the number of underrepresented people in the dental, veterinary, occupational health and physical health fields.

Program Areas:   At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Disabilities, Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Health/PE

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

Proposal Deadline:  Ongoing

Annual Total Amount: $500,000.00 – $800,000.00

Average Amount:  $5,000.00 – $75,000.00

Telephone:  651-686-1929

E-mail: information@pattersonfoundation.net

Website:  Patterson Foundation

Availability:  All States

Summative Assessment, an Unfair Imposition on Special Ed Kids?

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

Last time we talked about formative assessment, the daily measures of student
understanding we all use to stay on track. But what about summative assessment,
the (usually) annual state academic achievement tests imposed on all students?
The annual part of the bargain seems to be changing, there may now be
semi-annual online exams in some states. We can only hope school districts are
up to speed with their computer networks. There are alternative ways for
students to take exams if computers are outmoded but it’s just one more thing
for teachers to worry about.

question mark

In general, are the accommodations we write into our students’ IEPs sufficient in providing fair assessment to measure how we are progressing with students with disabilities? When IEPs are written in the fall, do we know enough about our students to include the right assists for exams being administered in the spring? Fairness for our kids is a complex and thorny issue. Lynn and Douglas Fuchs have written a thoughtful article on the subject of fair and unfair accommodations for testing.

In Massachusetts, there is an MCAS-Alt exam.

“MCAS is designed to measure a student’s knowledge of key concepts and skills outlined in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. A small number of students with the most significant disabilities who are unable to take the standard MCAS tests even with accommodations participate in the MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt). MCAS-Alt consists of a portfolio of specific materials collected annually by the teacher and student. Evidence for the portfolio may include work samples, instructional data, videotapes, and other supporting information.” Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 10/18/2013.

All states have devised similar systems for assessing our kids each year. Many resources have been devoted to solving system challenges and as far as it goes the alternative assessments provide useful information. But, shouldn’t there be a point at which severely disabled students are released from having to take these exams, a “test-free zone”?  How and where do you draw the line? Many minds sharper than mine have struggled with these questions for many years.

Resources for portfolio assessment.  ~  Authentic Assessment

This is not all academic; teachers should be involved in the politics of measuring student achievement. It’s fair to say that you, the classroom practitioner, should be involved at the highest levels in making decisions about who should be tested.

A school district (or teacher) could write and apply for a grant to bring in staff development specialists to assist a school assessment committee. It all becomes more complicated as we migrate to new Common Core State Standards. How do we align our curricula in resource rooms and substantially separate classrooms? We’ve got work to do. You can search for grants that are available to schools for this purpose at the Grants Database.

In a blog like this, I have the luxury of just tossing the questions out there. It’s up to governments and state leaders to come up with the answers. Get involved though, start with your own building, pull together some teachers with similar questions, do some research on who provides quality staff development in assessment and come up with ways to bring these folks to your school. Develop a grant funded long range plan to work through your district policies on assessment for special ed kids.

Stay abreast of the issues and become part of the solution in solving the thornier issues you find.

Comment on this blog, what do you think, how does your district approach testing for students with disabilities?

Grant Name: Foundation Grants

Funded By:  Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

Description:  Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) supports innovative projects that help youth with disabilities develop the leadership and employment skills they need to succeed, particularly for careers in science, technology and the environment. MEAF will also consider projects to create tools that help break down barriers to employment and increase job opportunities for young people with disabilities entering the workforce, including returning veterans with disabilities.

Program Areas:   Disabilities, General Education, Professional Development, Science/Environmental, Special Education, Technology, Vocational

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

Proposal Deadline:  6/1/2014

Annual Total Amount: $400,000.00

Average Amount:  $1,000.00 – $10,000.00

Telephone:  703-276-8240

Website:  Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

Availability:  All States