For the past 12 years, I’ve been an educator in a variety of settings. Before being employed in a charter school, I spent time in a variety of educational settings such as public school, private school, virtual school and now charter, all at the high school level. Within these environments, the special education services were very similar. Although each student produced uniquely different finished work products, many of the accommodations were cookie cutter. In many cases, I was given the accommodations needed but often wondered if this Individualized Education Program was truly individualized. In some cases, students seemed to be over accommodated which can, at times, provide a crutch for the student instead of providing an equitable means to the curriculum.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of gaining charter school experience with a school designed to reengage students who have dropped out or those on the verge of dropping out. As students enrolled, I began to see the common elements used on IEP’s seen in previous educational settings. However, as the special education director, I had an opportunity to create a truly student-centered program of services.
Students who have difficulty responding to effective instruction or having adequate self-management skills often have these barriers when:
Over 85% of students entering with accommodations were receiving the following accommodations:
Here I was, surrounded by unique and capable students who seemed to be accustomed to a cookie cutter educational system. When taking in the barriers to learning, we, as the educational team had to focus on accountability and inclusion of all students. The teams goal became working toward grade level standards by using a range of instructional strategies based on varied strengths but ensured equal access to grade-level content.
According to SCASS (State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards and ASES (Assessing Special Education Students), students with disabilities can work toward grade-level academic content standards and most will be able to achieve these standards when the following three conditions are met:
A question recently proposed to me brings me to the point of this article. A fellow educator was interested in visiting my school. On our tour, she noticed several of her former special education students who transferred to our school. She asked me “what can we do to help our special education population of students?” Although there are many strategies which may be used, I offered these to start:
These are just a few of the many suggestion I would give to an educator seeking to truly create an inclusive environment. Leveling the educational playing feel is not a one size fits all measure. It is of great importance that accommodations do not reduce expectations for learning. Accommodations should only reduce the effects of a specified disability, not the quality of learning. The individual should always be the focus of individualized education.
By Guest Blogger: Wendylin Bryant
LEA Special Education Coordinator
SIATech Little Rock
Little Rock, AR
Author -- Teacher Practice Network
We are a cadre of teachers from Arkansas and Oklahoma brought together through APSRC and a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to empower teachers to find their own voice both in and out of the classroom.