Special Education and the Achievement Gap
Students with disabilities, special education students, students with IEPs; there is a broad array of monikers for children who struggle with learning in one way or another. But rather than lump these children into a single category, students with IEPs must be viewed as individuals with varying needs. On this page you will find an ever-growing archive of articles, tools, and resources focused on effectively teaching these students.
“One day my parents took me to the doctor. I heard them saying things like ‘Autism’ and ‘Sensory Integration Disorder.’ To me it sounded like BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! I hate when the adults talk like I’m not even there. It makes me feel invisible.1”
This is a powerful message to all of us! This young author (see footnote) brings intimate perspective to a world of adult-driven settings and events (his book is an insightful read, I highly recommend it). We should think of student voice as that communication which resonates the deepest emotions, experiences, realities and perceptions belonging to the student. Active learning demands that we listen.
To MOVE your NUMBERS, you first need to KNOW your NUMBERS
This past summer I had opportunities to talk to a number of school district leaders. One of the inquiries I made was “what are your Individualized Education Program (IEP) demographics?” While some were able to cite the percent of students served through special education programs and services in their districts or buildings, fewer were able to retrieve more descriptive data and trends that should be part of every data dialogue when addressing the achievement gaps. This is important because your NUMBERS tell a story.
Tackling the challenge of achievement gaps is daunting. And then throw in the variables of differing sets of terms, requirements and regulations that drive both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This challenge plays out at the district level where students with Individual Education Programs (IEPs) are for the most part, taught and supported by both general and special educators. Both sets of educators bring various attributes to the table: training, expertise, instructional tools and data sets, mindsets and experience, among others. In the midst of this sits the individual student, with attributes that must be understood and built upon to assure his/her learning.
Sharratt and Fullan (Putting Faces on the Data, 2012) describe the meaningful use of student data with the mantra “data today is instruction tomorrow.” Knowing each child as a learner requires pertinent data to facilitate targeted and relevant instruction and individual supports and services. With this in mind, a focus on students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) and subgroup gaps in achievement begins with deliberate attention to meaningful development of individual assessment and instructional planning.