Results-driven Accountabilty

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ed-news-colorThe U.S. Office of Special Education Programs recently announced a major shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs. Under this new framework, known as Results-Driven Accountability, the federal office has tilted the balance from a system focused primarily on procedural compliance to one that emphasizes improved educational results for students with disabilities.

The following are nine strategies that schools can employ to shift to this new accountability and improve outcomes for students. These were strategies that appeared in an article by Will J. Gordillo who is an educational consultant and the founder/president of WJG & Associates.

  1. Remember the individual

Most students with disabilities receive instruction in the standard curriculum and follow a standard diploma pathway toward graduation. Yet it’s important to remember that the I in IEP stands for Individualized. So we should stop expecting students to deliver the same results at the same pace and in the same ways that their non-disabled peers do. Special education students may have a way and rate of learning that’s different, but “different” doesn’t mean “less.” They may simply need more time and multiple means and opportunities for learning to demonstrate growth and master concepts.

  1. Schedule SWDs first

Students need to be provided equal instructional time in core content areas and additional time to minimize the effect of their disability and maximize their opportunities for learning. To find time to provide additional opportunities for learning and mastering concepts, schedule SWDs first. Design the master schedule to accommodate tiered intervention and foster ongoing team collaboration. This will ensure specially designed instruction can be provided in accordance with their IEPs, regardless of the educational environment.

  1. Efficiently allocate personnel

One way to find more time in the schedule for tiered intervention and collaboration is to allocate personnel based on student needs. Group students with similar needs in clusters to provide specially designed instruction and evidenced-based interventions in both general and special education classroom settings.

  1. Align to the State Standards

Since the majority of SWDs are served in general education classrooms, their IEPs should be aligned to the state standards. Give students full and meaningful access to the curriculum, including a high-rigor Tier 1 level of reading instruction.

  1. Provide early intervention in language and literacy

Focus on early intervention to ensure all students are competent readers by third grade to reduce referrals to special education and reduce future learning gaps.

  1. Match evidence-based practices and interventions to individualized needs

Use evidence-based interventions that are proven to deliver educational outcomes for SWDs. If an evidence-based practice or intervention isn’t working, try another one that’s more individualized and addresses the presenting needs of the student while considering the context of his or her disability.

  1. Build foundational cognitive skills

When students struggle in general or special education classroom settings, they don’t need more good content and instruction; they need improved cognitive skills to process the curriculum, and then a way to repeatedly practice those skills with feedback and support. One intervention that has been proven to deliver results for SWDs is the Fast ForWord language and reading intervention. Unlike traditional reading interventions, it uses the principles of neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to rewire and reorganize itself—to treat the underlying cause of language and reading difficulties.

  1. Measure progress individually

The I in IEP should apply not only to the individualized ways in which students are instructed but also to how their progress is measured. Further, we should not only be concerned about performance on standardized tests but about measuring a student’s progress against his or her own baseline and individual history.

  1. Build a data-driven culture

Give educators and service providers access to the data, data analysis, and support they need to engage in effective planning and problem solving. Use this data to ensure that instructional teams understand student needs and can monitor their progress with confidence.

SWDs often need more time to master concepts and specialized approaches that are proven to be effective based on their instructional needs, measured performance, and recognized disability.

Rosemary Manges

Rosemary Manges, Program Coordinator for Inclusive Services, has over 39 years of educational experience ranging from the public school classroom, administration, preparing pre-service teachers at the college level to development of policy at TEA. She is in her 10th year at Region 10.

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