We have a third grader who we have been helping a lot with tutoring? How do I ensure a better school year?
Third grade is a big year where children begin the transition from learning to read (decode) to reading to learn (more comprehension and more content areas). I would recommend looking at these two options to ensure that your child gets additional support within general education if she doesn’t meet the criteria for a Section 504 Plan or an IEP.
Option1 Every public school in the US is beginning to implement a framework that provides support for all students using three tiers of support. The framework is called a Multi-Tiered System of Support or MTSS. In MTSS, the school guarantees that all students received access to the general education curriculum or Tier1, and then identifies ways to preventively identify students who will need additional instructional support. They often identify the students who need additional support by giving quick assessments called curriculum-based measurements (CBMs) in reading and math to identify which students are at-risk for not performing at grade level. These assessments are given to all students, in the beginning, middle, and end of the year to know if students are at grade-level or at-risk for not being at grade level. When a student is flagged for being at-risk like your third grader, the school provides ADDITIONAL, also known as Tier 2 strategic support in the area of need (e.g., reading or math or both). Tier 2 intervention has to be done outside of the general instruction in reading and math since it has to be additional. This additional intervention is provided in a small group of 4-6 students at least 3-times a week generally. The teacher must measure progress monthly and decide whether the students stay in the same level of support, no longer needs the support or need more intensive supports. If the student is not responding to both the general education and additional Tier 2 support, the school would provide Tier 3 support which again would be additional to the general curriculum, or Tier 1, PLUS Tier 2 small group instruction AND now Tier 3 individual or one teacher to three students intensive support. The teachers providing the Tier 3 support ensures that progress is measured weekly. If the child is still not making progress, the teacher may decide to refer the student for special education evaluation to see if the student meets the criteria for special education services including an IEP.
Knowing this; I recommend that you meet with the school principal and teachers and ask the following questions:
1. Does your school implement MTSS?
2. How did my child do at the beginning of the year universal screening in reading and math? Is he/she at-risk for not being at-grade level? Can you share the results with me?
3. If my child came out at-risk for not being at grade level, is my child receiving Tier 2 intervention?
4. Is the Tier 2 intervention in addition to their participation in the general education classrooms, in other words, is my child taken out for Tier 2 during reading and math or is it additional time where he/she gets support in a small group? How often and for how long is each section?
a. Can I see the progress my child is made since you have been doing Tier 2 additional support? Is it working?
5. If my child is taken out during the general education instruction how are you ensuring that my child gets access to the general curriculum and not just supplementary or additional help learning to do math or reading?
6. How can we change his/her schedule so that this support is outside of this time? Perhaps during another period?
7. If the support/intervention is not working is my child not also receiving Tier 3 support in groups of 1 to 1 or 1 to 3 with a teachers specialized in teaching reading or math?
a. Is his/her progress measured weekly?
b. Can I see how he/she is making progress towards grade level?
c. When and for how long is this happening during the week?
8. If your school is not doing MTSS, how do you provide additional help for students? How do you select students? Do you know or need support for doing MTSS in your school? Please visits Understood.org (provide a link)
Option 2. If you are concerned that the school is not doing MTSS or that the support won’t help your child, ask the principal or guidance counselor to get your child evaluated for special education needs again; you can do this at any time even yearly. You can also choose to have your child evaluated by a neuroeducational psychologist for a comprehensive educational evaluation. This evaluation will be much more in-depth than what the school process for special education evaluation includes. When the evaluation is completed, bring the results and recommendations from the professional to the school. It would be ideal if that professional can come with you to a meeting at the school to explain and advocate for you and your child’s behalf. The best way to get a recommendation for a neuroeducation psychologist is to consult with your pediatrician or family physician. If they don’t know of anyone, contact your nearest university or hospital and ask for a referral.
I hope these two options provide a place to start during this academic year. Please keep in place the current support for your child if you can until other supports are in place.
Professor Claudia Rinaldi is the Chair of the Education Program at Lasell University. Her areas of research are the implementation of the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) framework in urban settings with English learners, teacher education in bilingual special education, and diversifying the teacher pipeline. Claudia has authored peer-reviewed publications and a book for educators called Practical Ways to Engage All Struggling Readers. She lead and developed a graduate certificate program in Teaching Bilingual Students with Disabilities for general, ESL and special education teachers geared towards applying research-informed practices to the questions and processes of identifying whether it is a language difference or a learning disability. Claudia developed a college mentoring program called Pathways to Teacher Diversity for districts and teacher education programs to partner in identifying and supporting underrepresented high school students interested in teaching careers to successfully access and persist in college. She serves in various boards including the National Center for Learning Disabilities and serves as an expert for Understood.org and the National Center for Intensive Interventions.
Professor Claudia Rinaldi believes that it is critical to prepare teacher leaders who may serve as advocates and allies and who will respond to the belief that all students can learn and succeed beyond barriers like culture, language, disability poverty, and marginalization in our country and globally.