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Friday, November 28, 2014

Education Lingo Every Parent Should Know

From EducationandBehavior.com

By Rachel Wise
August 6, 2014

As a parent, you may hear certain unfamiliar terms while attending school meetings or talking to your child’s teacher or principal. Sometimes educators are so used to these words and phrases they forget that you might not know what they mean.

You may also hear your children saying some of these words, but when you ask them to explain further they may have trouble providing an accurate definition.

Below is an alphabetical list to help you out. If your child attends private school or school outside of the U.S., these terms may not be relevant to you.

Educational Terms

Accommodations: Students with disabilities, such as ADHD, a learning disability, an intellectual disability, autism or an emotionally-based disability might be given certain allowances not typically provided to general education students. The purpose of accommodations is to provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to perform as well as their peers.

Examples of accommodations are:
  • allowing the student to take tests in an alternate location (outside of the regular classroom);
  • seating the student away from distractions (e.g., away from the door, window, pencil sharpener, etc.);
  • having test directions read allowed to the student;
  • having an individual behavior support plan;
  • allowing the student extended time to complete assignments and tests
  • providing the student with a copy of class notes, etc.
Students with accommodations generally have legal documents such as a 504 plan or IEP (both of which are discussed below) that outline the accommodations being made for the student.

Chapter 15/504 Plan: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination based upon disability. According to Section 504, the needs of students with disabilities must be met as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities. If your child has a medical diagnosis of a physical or mental condition or disability, but does not meet criteria for special education, he/she may be eligible for a 504 plan.

The disability must “substantially limit one or more major life activity such as: learning, speaking, listening, reading, writing, concentrating, caring for oneself, etc.” in order to be eligible for a 504 plan. The 504 plan, created from input from the parents, teacher(s), school records, and sometimes the student, outlines specific accommodations your child is entitled to to meet his/her needs so she can perform to the best of her ability. For more on accommodations, see our definition above.

Common Core: The Common Core, created in 2009, specifies math and English/language arts/literacy goals for students, such as what they should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. Governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), and Washington D.C. set forth these standards based on the best state standards already in existence, experience from academic experts, and feedback from the general public.

Due Process: When parents disagree with the recommendations of the school district for their child, regarding special education services, they are entitled to attend a due process hearing to resolve the dispute. Before the hearing, school districts offer mediation (discussed below). If the dispute cannot be resolved through mediation or if the parents refuse mediation, a due process hearing is the next step.

At the hearing, the parent and district present evidence through documents and witness testimony to a hearing officer. Attorneys are generally present as well. If the parent or district still does not agree with the outcome, they can appeal the decision and go to the state or federal court.

Educational Advocate: Educational advocates are knowledgeable about special education laws, services schools can provide for children with disabilities, and keep up with changes in regulations. Educational advocates often attend school conferences, review educational records for students, and attend IEP (discussed below) meetings or other school-based meetings related to the welfare of the student.

The main purpose of the advocate is to ensure the school is providing the student with all the possible accommodations, modifications, and services to help the student succeed.

To find an educational advocate for your child, contact your school district or check out Disability Resources: Where to Find Help in Your State.

Educational advocates understand the laws that affect children with disabilities and special needs and keep up with changes in regulations. In addition to knowing the laws, advocates should know about services schools can provide.

Advocates – See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/adhd/c/1443/54835/educational-advocate/#sthash.AaWeD7bm.dpuf

Educational advocates understand the laws that affect children with disabilities and special needs and keep up with changes in regulations. In addition to knowing the laws, advocates should know about services schools can provide. Advocates often attend school conferences, review educational records and meet with the student, parents and school personnel and make suggestions on possible accommodations and modifications to help the child succeed.

Specifically, an educational advocate can help by:
  • Attending meetings at school to represent the student and the parents.
  • Review school records and make sure all records are made available to the parents.
  • Determine problems interfering with the educational needs of the child.
  • Develop and suggest strategies for both school and home to help the child succeed.
  • Become part of your child’s educational team.
  • Develop goals and monitor progress to help ensure the child’s success.
  • Ensure the school is held accountable and follows the laws by providing services for the child.
  • Provide parents with information and options if the school and parents cannot come to an agreement.
See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/adhd/c/1443/54835/educational-advocate/#sthash.AaWeD7bm.dpuf

Evaluation: Different types of evaluations can take place in the school setting. A psycho-educational evaluation, completed by a school psychologist, is used to determine if your child has a disability and if he/she is eligible for special education services.

Psycho-educational evaluations consist of measures such as an IQ test, an academic achievement test, a review of your child’s school records, input from your child’s teacher, input from you (the parent/guardian), classroom observations, and in some cases functional behavior assessment (used to determine what is motivating your child to display certain behaviors at school and what strategies may help), and questionnaires completed by parents and teachers called rating scales (these scales can measure behavior, self-help skills, levels of attention and/or hyperactivity, etc.). The school psychologist will select the rating scale(s) appropriate for your child).

Other types of evaluations that take place in a school are:

Speech evaluations: (completed by speech/language therapists to determine if your child needs help with his pronunciation of words or use and understanding of language)

Occupational therapy evaluations: (completed by occupational therapists to determine if your child needs additional assistance in developing fine-motor skills (hand strength). Occupational therapy is meant to help children in areas such as developing proper pencil grip, legible handwriting or self-help skills that require hand strength (e.g., fastening buttons, connecting zippers, etc.).

Occupational therapists may also work with children to develop visual-perceptual skills-the ability to take in visual information and integrate it with other senses (for example, children with visual-perceptual difficulties may have trouble visualizing how similar letters are rotated different ways (e.g. b, p, d).

Children with sensory needs such as children who need to move their body frequently (bounce, rock back and forth, etc,) chew on things, or those who may need assistance with understanding the position of their own bodies in space may also receive occupational therapy services.

Physical Therapy Evaluations: (completed by physical therapists to determine if your child would benefit from therapy to help him/her get around the school environment more effectively). Examples would include students who have trouble walking, sitting up without support, or propelling themselves in a wheelchair.

Parents can request evaluations by talking to the principal, guidance counselor, teacher, or school district administrators. The school can also recommend to the parent that their child gets an evaluation. In either case, parents must give written permission for an evaluation to take place. The school will provide the permission form for the parent to sign.

Guided Reading: Guided reading is a teaching strategy in which the teacher meets with students in small groups to help them develop their reading skills. The teacher literally guides them as they read a new book together. Students are usually grouped according to their guided reading level.

The teacher helps students become more independent readers by explaining and encouraging the use of context clues, reviewing letter and sound knowledge, and helping students learn how to make sense of what they are reading. The goal is to teach students how to become efficient, independent readers.

Guided Reading Level: A student’s guided reading level tells the teacher what grade level books to use with a student in the guided reading lesson. Students are grouped according to what level they are on. Student’s levels are assessed trough standardized leveled book assessments, such as the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark assessment, the Developmental Reading Assessment, or the Rigby PM Benchmark assessment.

IEP: IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. When a child is found to have a disability (e.g., ADHD, autism, intellectual disability, learning disability, emotional disturbance, speech language impairment, visual impairment, hearing impairment, traumatic brain injury) and the school team determines that the child needs special education services to meet his /her academic, behavioral, and/or social-emotional needs, an IEP is created for the child.

The IEP consists of information such as the child’s current performance; his/her specific academic, behavioral, or social-emotional goals; the level/intensity of services the child will receive; accommodations; the level of participation in state and district-wide tests, how progress will be measured; and transition services (for students 14 and older) such as what are the student’s goals/plans for after high school.

IDEA: IDEA stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The definition directly from idea.ed.gov is as follows:

“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities."

There are 13 disabilities listed under IDEA which include: autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, developmental delay, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment, including blindness.

Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth-2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.

Inclusion: An inclusion classroom is generally the same size as a regular education classroom. The class population is mixed with kids with and without special education services. The children with special education services all have IEP’s; however, the intention of inclusion is that the kids do not know who receives special education services and who does not. There are two teachers in the room co-teaching; a special education teacher and a regular education teacher. In some cases there is a special education assistant or para-professional rather than a special education teacher.

The teachers in the classroom help all the students; however, it is the job of the special education teacher to ensure that the student’s IEP’s are implemented and followed correctly. Students often break into small groups for more intensive instruction.

Intervention: Many times schools will try interventions with students who have more intensive academic or behavioral needs than the average student. The purpose of the interventions is to try to improve the child’s academic performance or behavior without utilizing special education services. Many times a school will try interventions before suggesting that a student receive an evaluation for special education. For students who are already in the process of receiving an evaluation, it is best practice to keep interventions going during the evaluation process.

To illustrate some examples, a child who is having trouble reading may work in a small group with a literacy teacher, using a research based reading program, in addition to receiving reading instruction from the regular classroom teacher. Students with behavioral needs may have an individualized behavior plan to try and improve their behavior in class.

Leveled Literacy Intervention: Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) is a research-based reading intervention. The instructor implements the intervention with students in small groups. LLI is used with students who have the most reading difficulty in their grade. LLI supports reading and writing with engaging books on the students level and systematic lessons. The goal of LLI is to help students achieve reading skills on their grade level.

LRE: IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as discussed above) requires schools to place students in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This means that school districts must educate students with disabilities along with nondisabled peers in the general education classroom, with appropriate supports, in their home school, unless the student’s IEP specifies otherwise.

For some students, the parents and school team determine that more intensive support is required such as a smaller classroom setting with more school staff for all or part of the school day. The placement decision needs to be made based on the students individual needs, but in all cases the school should strive for the least restrictive environment.

When servicing a student with disabilities in the general education classroom, supports can include modification to the general curriculum, assistance of a special education teacher or paraprofessional on a full or part-time basis, special education training for the general education teacher, and other aids such as notetakers and computerized devices.

Mediation: When parents and the school district disagree on the outcome of a school-based evaluation or services/recommendations in the IEP (such as goals, student placement, and accommodations), a mediation meeting can take place. Mediation is voluntary and is facilitated by a neutral mediator. The goal of mediation is to help the parents and district come to an agreed upon decision without having a formal hearing.

Mediation is voluntary. Parents have the right to wave mediation and go straight to due process.

Peer Tutoring: Peer tutoring is a school based intervention to assist students who are struggling academically. Peers performing well academically are chosen to assist the students having difficulty. In some cases similarly performing peers are chosen to tutor each other under the structured guidance of a teacher. Peer tutoring can lead to academic gains for the students involved as well as enhance social relationships. For more on this topic, I recommend reading Using Peer Tutoring to Facilitate Access.

Regrouping: Regrouping is when you ‘carry’ a number in an addition problem or ‘borrow’ a number in a subtraction problem.

Shared Reading: In shared reading, teachers read a book multiple times with the class over several days. A large version of the book is often placed in front of the class so all students can see it at the same time. The purpose of reading the same story several times is to improve comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, and decoding (sounding out) skills.

A common strategy the teacher uses during shared reading is pausing to ask students for predictions such as what they think will happen next. This is done to get students to think about what they are reading, which helps with comprehension and interpretive/higher-level thinking skills (e.g., thinking about what might be implied in the story without having actually read it, reading between the lines, etc.) Children might volunteer or be asked to read parts of the story either individually or with other students.

Specially Designed Instruction: Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) refers to the specific teaching strategies and methods that will be used to implement the goals and accommodations in a child’s IEP (discussed above). IDEA requires that SDI’s be listed in the child’s IEP.

Standardized Testing: Standardized tests have been used in American schools since for over a century. They became even more prevalent after 2002’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) required yearly standardized testing in all 50 states. The definition of a standardized test is a fair and objective measure of students ability or achievement.

Standardized tests that measure academic achievement are generally given to all students when they reach certain grade levels to measure their academic skills against the rest of the nation, in that same grade. Some students with severe disabilities are not required to take standardized tests or take a test more appropriate to their academic level.

Opponents of standardized group testing say that these tests are not truly fair and objective, and force teachers to teach a limited curriculum that coincides with the test questions. Opponents also say that “teaching to the test” gets in the way of guiding students to be innovative and think critically.

Individually administered tests given in school such as IQ tests, achievement tests, some speech/language assessments, etc. are also considered standardized tests and compare students to their peers nationwide. For more on how these might be used see the “evaluation” definition above.

School Psychologist: As a psychologist in the school setting, school psychologists have a variety of responsibilities which can differ depending on the grade level they work with or district they work for.

Examples of duties performed by the school psychologist include:
  • working with a team of other school professionals (e.g., teachers, administrators, instructional support staff, guidance counselors) to design interventions for struggling students;
  • holding social skills or other counseling groups;
  • providing individual counseling to students;
  • holding staff and parents trainings on child development and positive behavior support; and, conducting psycho-educational testing to assist in determining if students meet criteria for specific disabilities (e.g., ADHD, learning disabilities, emotional disturbance, intellectual disabilities, autism) and are eligible for special education.
Tracking: Tracking is a process when students are separated by class based on their academic achievement. Above-average students are placed together, below-average students are placed together, etc. Tracking is also sometimes called streaming or phasing in certain schools.

Many schools have stopped using tracking or have started to phase it out. Opponents of tracking say that students in lower track classes develop negative feelings about themselves, the process for selecting students for tracks is biased and perpetuates socio-economic and racial inequities, and less experienced teachers are often assigned lower track classes.

Those in favor of tracking say that it makes it easier to tailor curriculum and instruction to meet students specific needs.

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