On Sep 22, 2021
Many students with IEPs missed valuable instruction time during the 2020-2021 school year, and educators are wondering how to make up for inevitable learning loss. Between IEP goals and state standards, we are forced to face the question of whether specific aspects of the content should be skipped, repeated, OR whether intervention might help make up the gaps. What are some considerations for the learning team to keep in mind as they think through how to help our students in Special Education programs “catch up?”
1. What are the goals outlined in the student’s IEP?
The first step will be to remind yourself of the student’s goals. Yearly goals are written based on the team’s assessment and the student’s present levels. Goals and accommodations are written based on individual student need. Once the goals have been reviewed, it is time to collect some data. Consider what assessment tools and qualitative information you will need to review a student’s profile – academically, cognitively, social-emotionally, physically, etc.
2. How can you get your benchmark?
Every fall begins with reminders about student expectations and this fall will need an extra emphasis on the social and emotional status of each of our students as well. As educators spend time at the beginning of every year determining the impact of the typical “summer slide” determining the level of regression in skills is even more important in Fall 2021 as many of our students in special education were not able to access instruction consistently during the previous school year.
Whether you are utilizing your district’s universal screening and diagnostic tools or finding assessment tools that are specific for your student’s individual needs, the first step in this process is collecting data and information. To help determine what decisions to make about gaps in knowledge, educators need to know how the student is currently functioning.
3. What does the data tell us? Can IEP goals be reasonably met within the given time frame?
As the data is being analyzed towards individual student goals, special educators will need to determine whether the students are “on track” toward meeting those goals. As the fall lesson plans are being written, a question in the back of some educators’ minds is, “should I repeat content, skip content to catch up or does this student require more intensive intervention?”
Many students require repetition of content and instruction from the previous school year. However, repetition assumes that the student has already been taught that information previously. Was this content previously taught? Does the student just need reminders or prompts to remember the sequence of steps or how to blend the sounds?
There may be instances when a special educator may wonder if content can be skipped? Instructional time may have been limited since March 2020 and few school districts across the nation are adding instructional minutes to the school day this fall. Many skills are built upon one another. Questions to ask yourself:
- Is this an essential standard?
- Can my student meet their goal without learning this step?
- Does the curriculum spiral and will this concept be introduced at another time?
When is more intensive intervention needed? If your student has been exposed, taught, and reminded of essential standards or steps along the process, then intervention may be the appropriate next step. Access evidence-based intervention programs and effective strategies to explicitly teach needed skills. Collect data and determine what changes may be needed if your student is not making the expected growth for that program.
Let’s put the word “unprecedented” aside. It has been used quite frequently over the last 18 months. Let’s be clear and say that we need to stick to what we know. Informed decision making and problem solving by a group of educators needs to be based in data. This was our process before COVID. This is our best process to support our students catch up today.