Your principal has come to you as a member of the Child Study Team and asked you to present an inservice to the classroom teachers of your building about their role in the IEP process. Provide detailed information about your presentation, helping teachers to understand how important their input and collaborative efforts will be to the Team process. Classroom teachers need to do a number of things as participants in the IEP process. It is, after all, a process that is ongoing from the time a child’s problem is observed until the child is identified as a special education student.
Even after that, the classroom teacher, as part of the Team, is a valuable participant in the success of the child. First, teachers need to be observant and cognizant of the abilities and inabilities of his/her students as compared to the age and grade level of the rest of the students in his/her classroom. In this way, he/she can determine whether the differences noted are obvious enough to result in a discrepancy between achievement and ability and detrimental enough to the child’s success to warrant a comprehensive evaluation.
Next, he/she needs to document, document, document—document behaviors, document strategies attempted, and document the results of those strategies—did they work or didn’t they? All classroom teachers should be trained and involved in the GEST (General Education Support Team) process. This process looks at regular education students and determines whether the performance the classroom teacher noted is poor enough to justify referral to the Child Study Team.
Some teachers are trained better than others in the IEP and GEST process and some teachers, especially those new to the system or new to the profession are so overwhelmed that they see referral as just another thing added to their “already too full plate. ” The Child Study Team, comprised of the school principal, psychologist, nurse, social worker, speech language pathologist, and other specialists as needed (occupational therapist, physical therapists, parent advocates, anyone who plays a part in seeing that the child’s needs are met), are involved in this identification process and it must include the classroom teacher.
Sometimes, depending upon the school, members of the Child Study Team, take on the responsibility of giving more in-depth training to classroom teachers. Then when the GEST team meets (again, depending on the school, members may set regular meetings to discuss problems and share strategies) they lend support to those teachers whose students are struggling. Strategy intervention is extremely important because whether or not these strategies work may be the deciding factor between whether the student is referred. During this time, teachers share strategies for the purpose of helping the student to succeed.
Many teachers have wonderful ideas to help students without actually realizing they are using a strategy, but this collaboration of ideas and personalities is very important to the success of students. Sometimes collaboration is difficult for teachers so the following role requirements are considered very important: • Listen to different or opposing views • Give up your own “turf” • Share ideas and responsibilities • Solve interpersonal problems outside the Team meeting • Show respect for colleagues and their opinions • Resolve conflicts as soon as possible.
• Manage resistance to new and different ideas • Reflect on current practices Strengths of the collaboration include being able to bring individual skills, training, and perspectives to the table, and these individual resources combine to strengthen teaching and learning opportunities, methods, and effectiveness. Combining these skills and expertise will help everyone to meet the needs of all students. Collaboration also allows for an increase in instructional options; improves educational programs; reduces stigmatization for students; and provides support for the professionals involved.
Challenges of collaboration, however, indicate that only a few educators are truly prepared for collaborative roles and responsibilities since little, if any training is provided as a course of study. Although part of this is a result of training, part of it is also a result of being open-minded enough to accept another’s opinions and ideas. Another challenge is that teachers need to consider standards-based education, standards within the district, state and federal guidelines.
Since today’s teachers are expected to be more accountable than ever, many of them are resistant to special education students being involved in assessment programs because it means their classroom averages and therefore their school’s averages will be lower. Finally, another problem teachers see with collaboration is being able to “let go. ” Many teachers feel protective of their turf, occasionally because they are concerned that they are doing the wrong thing and don’t want anyone to “find them out” or sometimes because they feel their ideas are so precious, they don’t want to share them!
Collaboration, then, helps to meld the IEP as it unfolds and organize it into a meaningful document providing the structure for student success. Once the identification process is complete, however, the classroom teacher is still a valued contributor in that he/she is often encouraged to carry through on strategies provided by the special educator, observe the student to recognize whether the strategies are generalizing to other academic areas, and be ready to provide updated information when the IEP is reviewed at least annually.
As you can see, classroom teachers have a big responsibility in the IEP process and some feel very intimidated by it, but if they can realize that their input is valued as well as unique, they may become more willing contributors. References Friend, M. (2003). Interaction Collaboration Skills for School Professionals. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Hewit, J. S. & Whittier, K. S. (1997). Teaching Methods for Today’s Schools Collaboration and Inclusion.
Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Kansas State Department of Education. (2005). Conditional Teaching License. Retrieved on February 28, 2006 from: http://www. ksde. org/cert/conditional. htm Kansas Department of Education. (2001)Effective practices for gifted education in Kansas. Retrieved on March 2, 2006 from: http://www. kansped. org/ksde/resources/effpract. pdf#search= Ryan, K. , Cooper, J. M. , (1998). Those who can, teach (8th ed). Boston: MA Houghton Mifflin Co.