Special Education - Challenge Map
Challenge Map

Equity

Special Education

The Challenge

In their work to meet the needs of all learners, districts are striving to support their special education students in two key ways. First, they want to have strong structures in place to best support these students, from equitable diagnosis processes, to schedules that allow the students to be in core classes with heterogeneous groups, as well as receive their targeted accommodations. Second, they want to ensure that special education students are integrated members of the school community, though it can be challenging to guarantee that all students embrace the understanding that everyone has learning gifts and needs.

Challenge Stats

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Educators responded they experience this challenge often

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Educators responded this challenge is urgent

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Educators their schools have made progress on this challenge

Ideas from the Field

  • In one school, mainstream students can sign up to assist a classroom of students with autism to unpack their bags and get set up for the day. This morning experience allows the different types of students to interact, as well as providing a leadership experience for the mainstream students without missing instructional time.
  • One district is using a new MTSS effort to address disproportionate identification of students for special education. Now teachers are simply identifying students that need any kind of support, and the new systems offer a variety of interventions for teachers to use so that students are not inappropriately identified for special education services.

In the Words of District Staff

I'm always looking to make accommodations that match any IEP or 504 plan, and I try to work in the students’ best interest. But sometimes that can be a challenge as well, because the needs and supports are different for everybody.

“We’re really focusing on making sure that we're using high-leverage practices and high-leverage concepts for all of our students. We have a big gap in achievement between our special education students and the majority of our population; this effort is really focused around closing the achievement gap for those groups that are not on par with where the other folks are at this point.”

“So when you have students who have multiple needs and you think of their school day, a huge challenge that we constantly face every day is that scheduling piece to make sure that they get all of their core subjects on top of the extra pieces that they need. And I have to be a stickler on scheduling because students can't miss core to go to their tutoring, but they need their tutoring, or they need their IEP goals worked on...a lot of times, students who have multiple needs miss out on something to get a need met.”

Resources

Forward Together: Helping Educators Unlock the Power of Students Who Learn Differently - From NCLD, this report examined the challenges that students with learning disabilities face, along with identifying critical mindsets and essential practices to map a way forward in partnership with teachers.

Life in Inclusive Classrooms: Storytelling with Disability Studies in Education - From the Bank Street Occasional Paper Series, this issue highlights the use of storytelling as a medium for sparking dialogue about inclusive classrooms and school communities and stories that offer insights into the lives of children with disabilities, their families, and teachers.

A Teacher’s Guide to Special Education Resources - From the University of Kansas School of Education, this guide provides many resources for parents and educators to better understand strategies to help students with special needs.

Inclusive Classrooms: Looking at Special Education Today - From the ACSD, this blog post discusses the benefits of integration for students with disabilities and strategies for inclusion.

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