When students with special needs face challenges, it is crucial that schools know how to respond.

In our Advocate’s Guide to Transforming Special Education, we outline the type of support a student with special needs should receive — both when they are on track and when they might be falling behind. As students grow and their needs change, it’s important that schools can adjust to their services. Below are some guidelines for what to look for in your school and district to determine if they are providing sufficient interventions and support.

What to Look For

District / Charter Network

  • The district / charter school network holds each school accountable for monitoring data on student performance at the individual, classroom, and school level. They detect trends in and adjust instruction accordingly. Principals are evaluated based on their ability to do this, and their managers intervene and support if they struggle.
  • The district / charter school network ensures that all teachers are trained in the best ways to support students with special needs. They allocate funding for both general education and special education teachers to participate in professional development focused on supporting students with students with special needs.
  • The district / charter school network provides funding for teams of teachers from the same school (not just individual representative teachers) to attend professional development together.They collaboratively adjust school-wide practices to better support students with special needs.
  • The district fully funds intervention programs so programs can succeed at the school level.

School / Classroom

  • Teachers consistently use a shared school-wide system to monitor student data and provide support to both students with and without special needs. A multidisciplinary team of teachers and staff is responsible for looking at schoolwide data and designing interventions to address academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs of all students.
  • Teachers can explain and share documented evidence of the steps they have taken to support specific students, how the students responded, and then how they adjusted.
  • The school’s professional development calendar includes specific sessions on supporting students with special needs or integrates special education topics into general training sessions.
  • The school reserves time each week for collaboration between special education teachers and the general education teachers.
  • All students receive some small-group or individualized instruction every day.

What to Ask

When visiting a school or speaking with a district/charter school network administrator, ask:

  • Do school staff consistently use a shared schoolwide system to monitor and provide support to all students, both with and without special needs?
  • Are all students assessed for strengths and needs, and is student data driving decisions about instruction, behavior, interventions, and resource allocation?
  • Do school team members consistently provide accommodations and modifications that enable students to access the curriculum?

Adapted from An Advocate’s Guide to Transforming Special Education.