How can school administrators support implementation of high-quality IEPs?
Page 7: Promoting Student Success
In addition to adhering to the IEP legal requirements of the IEP process, school administrators should create a vision in which all students are accepted and valued for their unique abilities and included as integral members of the school. When this vision is embraced, the entire school community assumes a shared responsibility for their success. To support this shared responsibility and the success of all students, school administrators can:
- Establish frameworks of academic and social supports and services
- Promote strong school-parent relationships
Schoolwide Academic and Behavioral Frameworks
Did You Know?
When they talk about academic and behavioral frameworks, educators frequently use terms interchangeably. For example, RTI is often referred to as MTSS.
To create an environment where all students can be successful, school administrators should implement frameworks to address the academic and behavioral needs of all students, including struggling learners and those with disabilities. Most students will succeed with minimal supports, while others will require more intensive ones. One way to meet students’ varying needs is to employ a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) This approach provides interventions of increasing levels of intensity matched to students’ needs and based on data. MTSS emphasizes the selection and use of evidence-based prevention and intervention practices. Two examples of multi-tiered systems of supports are response to intervention (RTI) and positive behavioral intervention and supports (PBIS). To learn more about each framework, click below.
RTI is a multi-tiered system of support that promotes the academic success of all learners. Within this framework, all students receive high-quality instruction in the general education classroom. Students who struggle in academic content areas are provided additional supports in the form of targeted instruction. Students who do not respond adequately to targeted instruction receive intensive intervention. Students with disabilities may receive instruction in any or all of these tiers depending on their individual needs.
Primary instruction (also referred to as Tier 1 instruction) is high-quality instruction, aligned to grade-level standards, provided in the general education classroom.
Targeted instruction (also referred to as secondary or Tier 2 instruction or intervention) offers a validated standard instructional approach or program to students in a small-group setting of three to five students; it is provided in addition to primary instruction.
Intensive intervention (also referred to as tertiary or Tier 3 instruction or intervention) is provided in a smaller-group setting of one to three students or more frequently than in targeted instruction to meet the individualized needs of students. Depending on the way in which a school or district conceptualizes RTI, Tier 3 may be implemented using services in general education or special education.
For Your Information
RTI cannot be used to delay or deny a timely initial evaluation for students suspected of having a disability. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs released a memo (OSEP Memo 11-07) to further clarify this issue.
As the illustration above depicts, intensive intervention (Tier 3) is intended to meet the needs of a relatively small number of students (i.e., 5–10%). These students include:
- Those, both with and without disabilities, who are not responding adequately to targeted instruction (Tier 2)
- Those with disabilities who are consistently not meeting IEP goals
For more information about RTI and how school administrators can effectively implement this framework, visit the following IRIS Modules:
For Your Information
One process school personnel can use to intensify Tier 3 instruction is data-based individualization (DBI)—a research-based process for gradually individualizing and intensifying interventions through the systematic use of assessment data, validated interventions, and research-based adaptation strategies. To learn more about DBI, view the following IRIS modules:
- Intensive Intervention (Part 1): Using Data-Based Individualization To Intensify Instruction
- Intensive Intervention (Part 2): Collecting and Analyzing Data for Data-Based Individualization
Additionally, the federally funded technical assistance center The National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) has a wealth of information on DBI and how to intensify intervention for literacy, mathematics, and behavior.
Implemented and proven effective in over 19,000 schools, PBIS is a school-wide system of supports that includes proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create positive school environments. PBIS relies on positive behavioral strategies to teach students appropriate expected behaviors and provides increasingly intensive levels of behavioral supports to those who need them. Teaching expected behaviors and rewarding students who engage in them leads to a decrease in disruptions, an increase in instructional time, and improvements to both social and academic outcomes. Like RTI, PBIS uses a three-tiered framework.
Tier 1: (also referred to as universal or primary prevention): Contextually appropriate social expectations and behaviors are identified and explicitly taught to ALL students. Additionally, a continuum of fair and consistent consequences is used to respond to appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
Tier 2: (also referred to as targeted or secondary prevention): Targeted group supports are provided for SOME students who are not responsive to primary prevention. Tier 2 is implemented in a small-group setting to prevent or reduce the re-occurrence of undesirable behaviors. This support is provided in addition to primary prevention.
Tier 3: (also referred to as intensive or tertiary intervention): Intensive, individualized intervention strategies are implemented with a FEW students who are not responsive to Tier 2 supports. This support may be provided in addition to primary and secondary prevention. Students receiving this level of support include:
- Those, both with and without disabilities, who are not responding adequately to secondary prevention (Tier 2)
- Those with disabilities who are consistently not meeting their behavioral IEP goals
For Your Information
The federally funded technical assistance center, Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS), supports schools, districts, and states to build systems capacity for implementing a multi-tiered approach to social, emotional, and behavioral support. Visit the PBIS Website to learn more.
David Bateman, PhD
Professor, Department of Educational Leadership
and Special Education
Strong Parent-School Relationships
To create an environment where all students can succeed, school leaders should also promote strong school-parent relationships. These relationships are essential to improving educational outcomes for all students. One way to accomplish this is to encourage and support the active involvement of parents, including those of students with disabilities and those from diverse backgrounds, in all school activities. School leaders and educators can build positive relationships through the following activities.
In addition to the use of evidence-based practices, family involvement is one of the most important—if not the most important—factors in helping to ensure a child’s success in school. Family involvement increases academic achievement, as reflected in higher test scores and graduation rates, and further improves the likelihood that students will go on to pursue higher education. Educators can employ the following strategies to encourage involvement of families in their child’s education.
Communicate in as many ways as possible (e.g., emails, notes home, bulletin boards) regarding the child’s performance, school policies, and programs and create opportunities for two-way communication. This can include meeting with parents at least once a year for parent conferences, but it can also include informal opportunities (e.g., monthly coffees, fall festival, family reading night). When communicating, consider the following tips.
Tips for written communication:
- Provide information in the parents’ native language, when possible.
- Use lay language instead of professional jargon.
- Use an appropriate reading level.
- Attend promptly to parental requests or responses.
Tips for in-person communication:
- Allow time for a response.
- Be aware of personal space, touching, and eye contact.
- Be sensitive to different communication styles.
- Describe the child’s strengths and weaknesses in a nonjudgmental fashion.
- Express optimism about the child’s potential for improvement.
- Be understanding about parents’ reactions to information presented about their child.
- Offer translators for verbal communication, as needed.
Involve families in their child’s learning at home. To do this, educators can:
- Share ideas about the ways families can support learning at home (e.g., employing strategies for completing homework, reading to child at home, talking to child about school).
- Provide families with information about the skills being addressed in classrooms.
- Involve families with setting goals for their child and planning for their transitions.
- Inform families about the ways to link the learning in the classroom to community activities.
- Inform families of after school activities and how to involve their children.
School Decision Making
Include families in school-related decision making. To do this, educators can:
- Encourage families to participate in PTA/ PTO meetings.
- Inform families about the school board, its members, voting opportunities, and other related issues.
- Invite family members to be active participants on school improvement committees and advisory boards.
Parents often report that they do not feel respected by school personnel. To avoid this potential pitfall, educators can show respect by recognizing parents as decision makers and by respecting their points of view. Respecting parents means acknowledging them as the ultimate decision-makers on behalf of their child. Generally, parents are the one constant influence and presence in their child’s life. For many children with disabilities, parents are actively involved in their lives well into adulthood, whereas educators influence their lives for only one or two school years. Typically, parents are concerned about all aspects of a child’s life, whereas an educator’s primary focus is on the educational aspects. Additionally, school personnel need to remember the rules of basic courtesy when communicating with all parents, taking into consideration different cultural, linguistic, educational, economic, and racial backgrounds.
For Your Information
Some cultures view disability through a negative lens or in need of remediation, while others have a more positive perspective and regard disability as a personal characteristic and a natural part of life. It is important for school personnel to develop an awareness of how people of different ethnicities and cultures view disabilities. Educators need to respect the fact that parents from some cultures will wish to take on the role of active partners with the school, whereas parents from other cultures might tend to view teachers or schools as experts and assume a more deferential posture.
Another way to build positive relationships with the families of children who have disabilities is to use a strengths-based approach, which acknowledges and builds on what a student does well. When talking about a student who doesn’t have a disability or an identified need, educators often focus on the student’s abilities, talents, and progress. However, when they speak of a student with a disability, educators have a tendency to focus on weaknesses, deficits, or challenges. It is important for educators not only to recognize that both the child and his or her family have abilities and talents but also to make it a practice to communicate that recognition to the families.
For Your Information
It is equally important for educators to have high expectations for the families. Acknowledging the strengths that families have (e.g., knowledge about the child’s disability, experience using strategies that are successful with the child at home) will provide the basis for a more meaningful partnership between schools and families. When educators begin to view children’s learning as a shared responsibility with families, educators are more likely to meet the educational needs of the child.
For Your Information
This module discussed a number of actions that school administrators can take to promote the success of all students, especially those with disabilities. Many of these actions are promoted in the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL 2015), developed by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration. These standards outline foundational leadership principles to help ensure the success of all students. Such actions include, but are not limited to:
- Promoting a shared vision for the academic success of all students
- Providing systems of academic and social supports and services
- Providing opportunities for professional development
- Providing opportunities for collaboration
- Creating positive and collaborative relationships with families
- Using data to monitor student progress
These professional standards are provided in the document below:
To help state education agency personnel facilitate building inclusive school districts and support students with disabilities within the PSEL 2015 framework, the CEEDAR (Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform) Center and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) collaborated to produce the following document.