A reader on my Facebook page asked: "How [do you] ease the anxiety teachers may feel when students are doing well and you are recommending that the student be dismissed from special education?"
Typically, declassification reevaluations in my building are initiated by the teacher or speech/language pathologist (for kiddos who receive speech only). The direct service provider knows best how the student is functioning day-to-day in the classroom and can make the determination better than myself or the team alone. If a case comes up where as a Committee on Special Education (CSE) team we feel that services are no longer warranted, we start gathering oodles of information: standardized assessment data, classroom scores and curriculum based measurement data, attendance and report card grades, state-wide test scores, parent input and concerns, teacher interview and report, etc. We need to cover all bases to see how the student is functioning within the classroom. The key thing for school psychologists to consider when conducting any reevaluation is: does the student continue to meet the criteria that once qualified them under a certain special education classification?
If we make the decision that declassification is appropriate, we can choose a few different final outcomes. (it's important to remember that a kiddo's testing accommodations will follow them throughout their schooling and they can always access them if they choose) Some students we may choose to declassify "with support services" for a given period of time. For instance, if we are reevaluating for declassification mid-year, we can choose to continue to give the kiddo support services for the remainder of that school year, having them terminate for September. This would allow a sort of adjustment period. Another option would be to declassify from special education but refer for a 504 Accommodation Plan, which provides educational supports (program modifications, testing accommodations, formalized Functional Behavioral Assessments/Behavioral Intervention Plans) under general education. These options are both good for teachers and parents who may be unsure or uncomfortable with declassification because they allow the student a transition period.
The team may also recommend that a student no longer needs any services, and thus doesn't receive any further special education supports aside from testing accommodations, as mentioned above. If there is any uneasiness with this, we refer back to the data gathered--we don't make declass decisions lightly and without lots of supporting information. We also may recommend that a student receive tutoring with an adult or staff member in the building to reinforce skills, or suggest other ideas that can be done within the classroom (i.e. peer tutoring, flashcards, small group work, etc). Sometimes it helps assuage any fears when the teacher or parent remembers that the student will still have supports and help available to them, even if it isn't under special education.
How does your building or district handle special education declassifications? Do you have suggestions on how best to support teachers and ease their anxiety about it?
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