Friday, November 13, 2020

Hello again!

 Well, it's been a while! I have recently started reading High-Leverage Practices in Special Education. This is a book that has both confirmed many of my beliefs as a special educator and created lots of new room in my practice for growth, so I am doing a deep dive into this over my next few blog posts to really examine how these HLPs can impact our teaching and student achievement. 

High Leverage practices are those practices that we can't live without. The ones that truly create a difference in our students. They are essential to learning! There are 22 of these practices for Special Educators, and every special educator should have these 22 practices mastered. 

These practices fall within four main categories: Collaboration, Assessment, Social/Emotional/Behavioral Practices and Instruction. 

I look forward to examining these practices in depth with you all. Please contact me if you have feedback or questions we can pull apart together!

More to come!

Monday, July 3, 2017


Happy Summer everyone!!! I hope you are enjoying the best, sun-filled days!

Lots of interesting stuff happening in Special Education these days. If you haven't, you need to check out the Endrew case and really start thinking about how this impacts our profession.

Since we are right in the middle of everything, I'd like to take a minute and talk about ESY...what is it really??

ESY is the extension of special education and related services beyond the school year. There are 13 reasons the school looks at to determine the necessity of these services. None of these factors carry more weight than any of the others. Regression is not a required factor, although if a student does show regression, the team should seriously consider ESY.

ESY is utilized mainly to maintain skills learned throughout the school year.

If you have any questions regarding Endrew or ESY, please contact me. Have a great summer!

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Hello everyone! So sorry it's been so long since I posted. We have all been busy.

I wanted to take some time to talk with you abut FBAs and BIPs.

Behavior is something we deal with regularly. Sometimes it is more challenging than others, but we always keep our eyes on the prize. Appropriate behavior creates a positive learning environment in which each student can learn. Inappropriate behaviors create chaotic learning environments, suspensions and time away from teaching/learning.

Recently, a colleague and I sat with a team from another school and discussed behavior interventions. When she and I left the meeting, we agreed there are some quick interventions everyone should be aware of and try. Visuals, token systems, cool-down areas, and social stories are all easy interventions any teacher in any environment can try and they usually (after the initial investment of time and training) make everyone's life more pleasant.

So, I started looking! and thinking!

When there is behavioral trouble in the classroom, I believe teachers do the very best they can. Then they go to the principal or come to the special educator for help. We need to create a tool box so when we are needed, we have answers we can give.

Think of behavior in the same 3 tiered approach we view for RTi. The first Tier is Universal. All students receive these positive support systems and follow classroom rules that may be posted.

Tier 2 involves increased support, social skills training and parent/teacher collaboration. It can also include strategies such as check-in/check-out for some students.

Tier 3 is intensive behavioral support. These supports may include, intensive social skills training, individual behavior plans, multi-agency collaboration and any other alternatives to suspension and expulsion.

As students move into Tier 3 and we are preparing to write an Behavior Plan, please involve me. I would love to sit with you to do an FBA prior to creating the plan. Together we can judge what the function of the behavior may be and therefore pinpoint an appropriate replacement behavior.

I look so forward to working with you guys so that we can get ahead of these behavioral problems.

Remember: If a child has difficulty reading, we teach them. If a child has trouble with math, we teach them. If someone can't drive, we teach them! If someone doesn't know how to behave--we teach them!!! Punishment is not always the answer!

Information included from: RTI and Behavior: A Guide to Integrating Behavioral and Academic Supports, by Sprague, J., et al (2008). 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

PARCC, NCSC etc...

PARCC and NCSC are just around the corner from us and it seems it will still be a while before we have the accommodations straightened out! This is stressing a lot of people  and I thought I would address it with the most current information we have received from the state department.

The following is part of an email that was received from Robin Stripling attempting to provide insight into the ELA text to speech accommodation which seems to be at root of most of the confusion:

"  Lisa Haley asked that I share my understanding of the text-to-speech accommodation on the PARCC assessment.  Jennifer Gonzales and I do trainings at co-ops on this topic, so I try to stay as up-to-date with PARCC as possible.  When I refer to text-to-speech, please know that the information also refers to screen reader, ASL video, or human reader/human signer.

Appendix D has been very helpful to me in understanding which students would qualify for this accommodation.  I know that

  *   The student must have a disability that severely limits or prevents him or her from decoding text.

  *   The student uses the accommodation in routine instruction.

  *   The student’s inability to decode printed text is documented using locally-administered diagnostic assessments.

  *   The student receives ongoing, intensive instruction and/or interventions in the foundational reading skills.

My understanding is that this accommodation is for students with a specific deficit in reading; one that severely limits or prevents him or her from decoding text.  This isn’t intended for students who can’t comprehend well; this is for students who can’t decode words.  The majority of the students I taught in resource could decode fairly well; they struggled with comprehension.  Those students would not qualify for this accommodation.  I have worked with a few students who could not decode words but had high listening comprehension skills.  Those students would benefit greatly from this accommodation.

IEP teams should, however, keep the other criteria in mind when considering this accommodation.  Is the student using text-to-speech or human reader in everyday classroom settings?  Is the child receiving intensive instruction in foundational reading skills?  This is a hard one for middle school or high school students because our secondary schools rarely offer foundational reading (decoding and fluency) instruction in secondary settings.  Few resource rooms that I have observed offer systematic decoding instruction. Also, are the secondary teachers using diagnostic assessments to measure students’ decoding abilities?  Again, few secondary schools use the same literacy assessments that elementary schools use to measure decoding.

When taking Benchmark assessments, no students were allowed to have the reading portion of the test read to them.  The math section could be read aloud as an accommodation so that only the student’s math skills were being assessed and not whether the student could read the math test.  The writing section could be read aloud as an accommodation so that only the student’s writing skills were being assessed and not whether the student could read the writing test.  The reading test could not be read aloud because the test measured how well the student could decode and comprehend.  On the PARCC assessment, the literacy (reading and writing combined) may be read aloud, but a notation will be reported to the school and to the parents stating that “No claims should be inferred regarding the student’s ability to demonstrate foundational reading skills (i.e., decoding and fluency).”  When the literacy portion is read aloud, the assessment then measures the student’s level of listening comprehension. Any student may have the text-to-speech accommodation on the math test so that only the student’s ability to complete math tasks will be assessed, not whether the student could read the math portion.

As for how many students could receive this accommodation, your IEP teams will need to make individual decisions based on student needs using Appendix D for guidance. The ADE Assessment Unit’s FAQ document states, “PARCC-state reading access specialists recommended limiting the accommodation to 1-1 1Ž2% of the student population being assessed in a given district. IEP teams and 504 coordinators determine who receives the accommodation based on students’ individual needs and documents it in the IEP/504.”  "

My advice to you is to review the current modifications section of your IEPs and make sure students who are receiving the text to speech modification qualify under Appendix D. As I stated in a previous email, I'd like to sit down with each of you to be sure you are comfortable with how your IEPs are worded, and I ask that you be sure that you can defend the use of each accommodation.

The above referenced document has a lot of really good information in the form of FAQs. Read over this and if we can't come to a conclusion we are comfortable with, we will call the state department and ask questions ourselves.

I know this new process is exhausting! Believe me I feel your pain.

Also, the NEA cooperative is having a PARCC and NCSC training on Feb. 17. The session id for this training is 240365. I have not seen a similar session offered at CRESC, but if you can't get in to the NEA session and are interested, you may want to call the teacher education department at CRESC and see if they will be offering something similar.

Have a great day! I can't believe it's almost February!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

RTI seems like this year just started and here we are 2 days before our Christmas Break! It's moving right along!

In my readings I recently came across a VERY interesting and important case that has worked it's way through the 9th Circuit dealing with RTI. 

M.M. v. Lafayette School Dist, 767 F.3d 842 (9th Cir. 2014) addressed the omission of RTI graphs in review of records when determining a child's need for special education. In this instance, the court held that even though the child's initial evaluation had used RTI data, there was a violation of IDEA due to the failure of the District to provide RTI information (including test results) to the parents. 

The court stated the District should have informed the parents of the assessments that were being performed for their child during the RTI process whether or not these instruments were used in making the determination of eligibility. This error was viewed as having prevented the parents the opportunity to provide meaningful participation in due process (including IEP development) and therefore was a denial of FAPE.

 "Failure to Share RTI Data With Parents Is Held an IDEA Procedural Violation." Special Education Law Update (Jan. 2015): 1, 11. Print

I know that many times RTI has been in process for many months prior to reaching the level of special education referral. Please share this information with your RTI teams. The issues of consent and disclosure of information are highly litigated areas of special education. We want to be sure our parents are 100% aware of every decision that is made regarding their child so that they can make informed decisions regarding education.

Lack of communication between RTI and Special Education teams and between the school and parents can create difficult situations and mistrust. The decision making process should always be transparent with collaboration from all stakeholders (including parents).

If you have any questions regarding this or any other issue, please give me a shout.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a restful break.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What not to say...

Today I'd like to talk with you about what not to say to parents. Occasionally I come across a significant misunderstanding and hurt feelings/upset parents because a teacher may have said something off hand with no ill intent that just struck the parent wrong. This can be a hard thing and a long road to overcome. Just keep these tips in mind when talking to parents and I think a lot of these misunderstandings can be avoided.

1. "I/we don't have time to do ____". Parents are not interested in excuses. Not having time is never going to be an acceptable reason to not perform a modification or intervention. If this is something you think the child truly needs and you really feel you do not have time, approach your direct supervisor and ask how to handle the situation. Perhaps an extra planning period here or there, or the help of a colleague will be available to ease the time constraint. Whatever is needed, I feel we can work it out, but don't dismiss a helpful suggestion based strictly on perceived time constraints. 

2. "We don't make that modification in that way in this District." -Oh but we do! We are required under the law to perform modifications exactly as they are written. We do not make blanket determinations about how to implement a modification based on the preferences or conveniences of our staff. Modifications, as the rest of the IEP, are INDIVIDUALIZED to meet the specific needs of the student. 

3. "Your child CAN do the work, they just WON'T." -We always need to make the assumption that the student is providing us with their best effort. We know from the research that some disabilities present in such a manner that work habits may appear inconsistent. Parents are already upset and frustrated. Playing the blame game will not build the necessary bridges so that we can work together. Ask the parents what they feel the problem is, then listen...Parents are a great resource.

4. "If we reduce time/don't place, your child is going to sink like a rock." Yikes! We have to stay positive. These are huge decisions that can not be undertaken lightly. Put yourself in the parent's position. They are doing what they feel is right for their child. We don't ever need to use scare tactics to coerce parents into making the decisions we want. Stay supportive and let the parents know we are ready to jump back in whenever they give us the word. 

5. "We have already written the IEP, all you have to do is sign." When we enter the committee meeting with a pre-written IEP, everyone needs to know it is just a draft. I usually write DRAFT in huge letters across the top. Let the parents know their input is VITAL in the process. Make sure the input they have is meaningful. Again, parents are a great resource!!!

6. "We already tried that. It didn't work." -If you are shooting down a parent's idea, be sure to back it up with data. Show the amount of time you tried the modification/intervention and give good hard numbers to demonstrate your reasoning. Most parents are reasonable, but "because we say so" is not a good enough answer...tell the parents WHY.

7. "I don't know what's on the IEP.", "We put this on all the IEP's", "The IEP is the same as last year." All these statements lead to the same place...the IEP isn't important. Nothing could be further from the truth. The creation of the IEP is an intense process which should involve all members of the committee. The IEP which results is the document that drives the student's education program. Therefore there is nothing routine about this process or the end result. Always let the parents know in precise language the IEP is vitally important and unique to their child.  

Most of all-stay positive. The number one complaint I hear from parents is that we appear to be blaming their child. Make sure parents know we are a team and that we will continue to work with them until we figure it out (whatever it is). I always tell parents-special education is a PROCESS. We know it won't be perfect the first go around. Our commitment is to keep trying and never give up until we get it right. 

You are all doing such important work! Keep it up! Let me know if you need me!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

New school year!

Well, I must say this has been one of the busiest starts to a school year I have seen yet! I hope everyone is settling in and having a great first 9 weeks!

I have been checking folders, and am available for any due process questions you may have. I have noticed our goals and objectives on the standards based IEP's still need some work (generally). 

Remember these points when writing goals and PLOPs:
1.  Each goal, PLOP and impact statement is linked to a Common Core Standard. The exclusions to this rule would be functional goals and articulation goals. They are the only ones that do not have to be tied to a standard.
2. Each PLOP is written specifically for the individual standard. For example, if your goal is for reading fluency, there should be no information in the PLOP or impact statement that does not deal directly with the child's performance in fluency. Sometimes I see the PLOP and impact copied and pasted from one goal to the next. This is not appropriate. 
3. The impact statement is not a restatement of the disability. Please be sure to share with the reader HOW the disability impacts the specific goal. If the child is OHI for ADHD, discuss how the executive functioning deficit impacts the child's fluency. Check the evaluation report for information that may be helpful.
4. Be sure that you have done pre and post-testing. This information is invaluable when creating goals and discussing growth/weaknesses.

I'd also like to make sure each of you has reviewed the state department's revised policy on restraint/seclusion. I sent this to you in an email a couple of weeks ago. If you don't have this information, please let me know and I will get it to you again. Review the information and get back to me with any questions you may have. 

Thanks! Have a great weekend.