Since this is a blog, I personally think it is good for folks to get a grasp of my assignment’s instructions, so here you go: Create a blog that includes a summary of the answers to your interview questions and a comparative analysis of what you learned about the referral process and the role of special education in tomorrow’s learning world.
I used this assignment as an excuse to reach out to my friends on Facebook. Initially, I thought it would be hard to get responses out of people. However, after posting a quick plea for help, I had six different teachers and three administrators reply with an interest to help. Within twelve hours, I had responses from three of the teachers and one administrator. Below is a summary of what I collected.
Question #1: How is a student identified for special education referral?
All of the responses that I received focused on all students being regularly tested (in a variety of different ways) by the classroom teacher. If the teacher noticed that students consistently were not meeting a standard, my interviewees suggested that the next step was to have a meeting with parents, administrators, and other necessary professionals. Then, if the problem was unable to be properly addressed in the classroom, the student would be referred for special education.
As compared to what I learned in Activity 1 about Finland’s Formula for Success and the New York School of One, the referral process I collected from my interviewees seems very similar to what I can relate to back in the states (Texas, in particular, as this is where I and my interviewees hail from). It is a very routine process that calls for steps to be followed carefully and regimentally.
Question #2: Who takes responsibility for the progress of the child before and after the referral?
All of the responses that I collected definitely put the classroom teacher as the most responsible individual both before and after a referral – making sure that the special education student was receiving the necessary education and modifications. However, it was noted by my interviewees that after a referral takes place, the Special Education teacher is involved in the process to assure that the teacher is assisting the student in the correct manner.
This referral process is similar to what I witnessed when watching the video clip about Finland’s Formula for Success. In Finland however, it seems there are probably more Special Education teachers and they are more involved in daily classes as the video mentioned that they come into class for two hour blocks just to observe students (Edutopia, 2016). For my interviewees, it seems this initial observation is done by the classroom teacher. Both systems work, but I would prefer to be in a school where a specialist is more involved initially in referring students for special education instead of putting the added pressure on a general content teacher.
Question #3: What is the school administration’s directive for special education?
While these responses were short and sweet, the overall response that I received was that administrators insist that state and federal laws are closely followed and each step is properly documented to insure the success of the student.
One classroom teacher mentioned that it was important to his administration that special education students are in the least restrictive environment. This is exactly the idea of 21st century special education that I witnessed when watching the videos on Finland’s Formula for Success and the New York School of One – focus on making sure that the student is in a comfortable environment that is suitable for their learning (Social, 2010 & Edutopia, 2016).
Question #4: What provisions are made for students identified for special education?
The general answer I received is that provisions are not specific for any individual student. For the most part, special education students are kept in the classroom during instructional and directional times, and then some are released to a special education teacher to complete their assignments. Additionally, a couple of teachers noted that modifications are typically made to an assignment where extra time is given for completion and certain grammatical and/or spelling errors are graded easier at times.
Although obvious, it is nice to have the reaffirmation that special education in Texas is not a “cookie cutter” system where each student is placed into the same mold regardless of their needs. In Finland, this is definitely the case as well. The Formula for Success video noted that a massive amount of their students received special education for some part of their learning, and it would be impossible for all students to receive the same type of help! (Edutopia, 2016).
Question #5: What is the level of parent involvement in the referral process and special education?
Two of my interviewees specifically mentioned that parents must sign off on the referral before student are sent for testing. Their comments on the importance of this focused on the emphasis of parents being involved from the start. As testing is one of the initial pieces to the puzzle, parents must be involved throughout the entire process. After testing, the response I received was that parents were regularly involved in meetings with teachers, administrators, and special education teachers that allowed for dialogue about the student’s progress in class.
While the videos from the previous activity did not focus entirely too much on parent involvement, it is clearly a very necessary part of the overall special education process. Parent involvement is crucial in the continued refinement of special education.
Question #6: What are the signs of a struggling student?
The consensus amongst my interviewees was that a struggling student is first identified by a failure to meet the standard on multiple assignments. Additionally, behavioral issues were another highlighted point that was mentioned by a few of the teachers that I interviewed.
Both of these struggles were addressed in each of the videos from the first activity. In particular, I have an appreciation for how the New York School of One deals with struggling students. Initially, the system recalibrates itself to reteach the student the same lesson. Then, if the material is still not comprehended, the algorithm again recalculates and tries a different method (Social, 2010). This is a high-tech example of what we should be doing in the classroom – if a student doesn’t “get it” one way, try different approaches until they finally figure it out.
Question #7: Are there alternate methods of instruction tried out before referring the student for special education? If yes, what are they?
Each response I got for this question was unique. One teacher mentioned a “Learning Lab” where students are integrated into an additional class of the same subject. Another teacher mentioned a “Behavior Intervention Plan” for students with behavioral issues. The third teacher mentioned reteaching and reassessment to check for a chronic disorder. The administrator I interviewed mentioned a tier system where different approaches are taken to understand where a student is.
Overall, the responses had one thing in common – special education is a last resort. This is quite different than the approach used in Finland where students are almost encouraged to get involved with a Special Education teacher very early on (Edutopia, 2016). Both systems are obviously working, but it would be interesting to see which system works best in different situations.
Edutopia. [Video file]. (2012, January 25). In Finland’s Formula for School Success. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsdFi8zMrYI
Social Butterfly LA. [Video file]. (2010, November 30). In SCHOOL OF ONE. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSTrI6nj5xU