Teaching Students in Special Education 2



1. The placement of a student in a general classroom depends upon the student’s disability. T/F

2. Special education classrooms may not be the best placement option for students with disabilities. T/F

3. With collaboration, a general education and special education teacher teach in the same classroom. T/F

4. Teachers should try to work with families to support students with disabilities. T/F

5. All students with disabilities can take a modified assessment. T/F

Answers can be found at the end of the chapter.

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

1. Define the concept of inclusion.

2. Describe how the IEP team makes placement decisions.

3. Describe ways that general education, special education, and specialists collaborate with one another.

4. Discuss the different models for co-teaching.

5. Explain how teachers can bridge the gap between home and school.

6. Describe the types of accommodations that are common for assessments.


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CHAPTER 2Introduction


Almost all students with disabilities attend their local neighborhood school. And in these local schools, the majority of them will spend at least part of their school day in a general education classroom (see Figure 2.1). Do you plan to be a special education teacher, or do you intend to teach in a “regular” (general education) classroom? Maybe you intend to become a school counselor or speech therapist. You may not be planning to teach or work with students in special education, but in all likelihood, you will be responsible for the education of these students from your very first teaching position.

Figure 2.1: Where do Special Education Students Receive Instruction?

Approximately 95% of students who receive special education services receive all or part of their instruction in their regular neighborhood school. Less than 5% attend a school, institution, or facility that is not their regular school.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Data Analysis System (DANS), OMB #1820-0517: “Part B, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Implementation of FAPE Requirements” 2011. Data updated as of July 15, 2012.

No matter what kind of classroom you teach in, you’ll find that it’s useful to learn about strategies for teaching students with disabilities, and these approaches may help many other students to learn more effectively.

In this chapter, you’ll learn about different placement options for students with disabilities. You’ll learn the difference between accommodations and modifications, and you’ll gain better under- standing of teaching strategies for the instruction of students with disabilities, as well as related classroom management strategies. You’ll also learn about the important role that parents or guardians play in their children’s education.


Separate school

Private school


Regular class (40-70%) 20%

Regular class (<80%) 61%

Correctional facility <1%

Residential facility <1%

Regular class (<40%) 14%


Home/Hospital 1%

60%50%40%30%10% 20%<1%

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

As discussed in Chapter 1, public schools must provide special education services to stu-dents in what the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team determines to be the least restrictive environment (LRE) based on student progress each year. For most students with disabilities, this means receiving instruction in the general education classroom, a practice often referred to as inclusion.

The IEP team has a variety of placement options, and the team makes decisions about placement based on the individual student, not based on the student’s disability. The team considers the student’s strengths and needs and places the student in the settings that can provide the best possible instruction. (See Figure 2.2).

The team may decide to place the student in his or her local public school, where the setting might be a general classroom, resource classroom, or self-contained classroom. Some students are placed outside the local school, in a separate school, residential facility, private school, cor- rectional facility, or home or hospital.

Figure 2.2: Placement Options of Special Education Students

A student’s IEP team can choose from many placement options. The team, however, must always try to place the student in the least restrictive environment (LRE).


Residential program with on-

site school

General classroom

with co-teaching

Resource classroom

with inclusion

General classroom with accomodations/


Home/ Hospital

State school

Residential program

with public school

Self-contained classroom

Private school

General classroom

with specialist

General classroom

Special education in another


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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

From My Perspective: Teaching Special Education My name is Kat, and I want to share some of the success stories with you that explain why I stayed in the classroom for seven years as a special education teacher before leaving to pursue my doctorate. Teaching students with disabilities is a challenge, but these victories help me remember why I love being in this field.

One student that comes to mind is “Robert.” At the time that I met Robert, I was teaching third, fourth, and fifth grades, and he was in first grade. He began displaying extreme behaviors on a daily basis, where he would destroy property and physically and verbally assault anyone that tried to help him. I “adopted” him (since he was not a grade that I taught) and began working with him that year, and then officially worked with him in second and third grade. Once I began working with him, I discovered that he had significant levels of anxiety and did not know how to process them or what to do when he was having emotional issues.

I worked closely with Robert and his family and with every month that passed, his extreme behavior decreased. He grew to trust me and would come to me when he had a problem, which we would talk about and solve, often calling his mother to help troubleshoot. Robert is now in seventh grade and no longer has these outbursts in school. I still keep in touch with his family and occasionally go to watch him play little league baseball.

Two students from a first grade reading group also stand out for the growth they were able to make in one year. Both students began the year at a low to mid-Kindergarten level. “Jahiem” and “Jose” both started first grade unable to read, and not knowing all of their letters or sounds. Jahiem knew about half of the letters and sounds and did not seem to realize that you could use sounds to decode and spell words. Jose came to kindergarten and did not speak English, and although he could speak English well by first grade, his reading lagged behind his peers. (continued)

Big Cheese Photo/Thinkstock

The Concept of Inclusion IDEA 2004 mandates that unless the IEP team decides that another placement would be more appropriate, students with disabilities should receive their education in the same school they would attend if they did not have a disability. The student’s educational program should be as similar to the educational program of students without disabilities as is reasonable.

In an inclusion setting, students with disabilities are instructed alongside peers without disabilities for some or all of the school day. In some classrooms, a general education and special educa- tion teacher teach together (i.e., they are co-teaching). In other classrooms, a special education teacher may “push in” at various points during the school day to help provide instruction with the general education teacher. This is often referred to as a push-in arrangement. Another option is to “pull out” the student with a disability to provide instruction in a resource setting. This is referred to as a pull-out model.

Whether the school uses co-teaching, push-in, or pull-out models, all require strong communica- tion and collaboration between the general education and special education teachers, as well as with any other teachers for the student. Constant progress monitoring toward meeting the stu- dent’s IEP goals is also required.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

Inclusion can provide valuable opportunities for students to access and benefit from being in a general education environment (Florian, 2010). However, this arrangement is not appropriate for all students with disabilities. Some students who would benefit from small group instruction and intensive support may need to receive instruction outside the general classroom to be successful.

The practice of inclusion, although mandated by law, is debated in education (Obiakor, Harris, Mutua, Rotatori, & Algozzine, 2012). On one hand, inclusion produces schools that are respect- ful and equitable to all students (Obiakor et al., 2012). Expectations for all students remain high

as all students are held to the same standards or expectations, and students in special education learn to be more independent (Sun, 2007).

Inclusion can also help students with disabilities become friends with students without disabilities, and students without disabilities can learn to be more accepting of others (Copeland & Cosbey, 2008; Litvack, Ritchie, & Shore, 2011). Students with disabilities also learn from their peers, and often the peers benefit from learning alongside the student with a dis- ability (McMaster, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2007). Additionally, general and special education teachers may benefit from collaborating and picking up on each other’s teach-

ing strategies (Burstein, Sears, Wilcoxen, Cabello, & Spagna, 2004).

On the other hand, some argue that student expectations are lessened and higher-performing students learn less because teachers focus more on lower-performing students (Litvack et al., 2011). Another view is that students with disabilities may be better served in specialized settings

Associated Press

In an inclusion classroom, students with and without disabilities learn alongside one another, for the benefit of all. Among the benefits are that students learn empathy, understanding, and how to appreciate individual differences.

From My Perspective: Teaching Special Education (continued) All year long they received two reading groups, one from me and one from a reading specialist, where we focused on basic reading skills, fluency, and comprehension. By the end of the year, Jose was read- ing on grade level and Jahiem was just about there (he caught up by the middle of second grade). Now they are both in third grade and are successful readers.

These are not hollow victories. They are lasting changes that not only help students in the short-term, but will also result in positive long-term outcomes. Knowing that I played a part in these students’ suc- cess and the fact that I developed positive relationships that continued after they were out of my class are all reasons why I enjoyed teaching.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

by specialized teachers. Many teachers, from both general and special education, feel unprepared to teach in inclusion settings (Smith & Tyler, 2011).

Administrators must provide support for inclusion and collaborative practices in order for inclu- sion to be effective (Crockett, 2002; Tankersley, Niesz, Cook, & Woods, 2007). Schools also need to develop and maintain district- and school-wide best practices and appropriate training for teach- ers. As highlighted in the following sections, inclusion issues may vary depending upon the grade level of the student.

Early Childhood Inclusion Part B of IDEA 2004 requires that public school systems provide special education services to stu- dents as young as 3 years old. Preschool students should receive their education in the LRE to the maximum extent appropriate, as determined by the student’s IEP, and preschool teachers should monitor the progress of students to determine whether students are on track to meet long-term goals (Raver, 2004). Instruction for preschool students focuses on both academics and behavior, and should be as “naturalistic” as possible (i.e., instruction should be embedded within play or social activities and follow prompts from the child) (Wolery & Hemmeter, 2011).

The difficulty with early childhood inclusion, however, is that many districts operate preschools exclusively for students with disabilities. These districts do not have programs in place for students without disabilities, so preschool students with disabilities cannot be placed in their LRE alongside preschool students without disabilities. Thus, sometimes school districts place preschool students with disabilities in private preschool programs or programs offered by other school districts, and the districts compensate the programs accordingly.

In order for a private preschool to participate, the preschool program must be licensed by a state agency and be nonsectarian. The private preschool must ensure that the teachers and staff can follow the student’s IEP and provide appropriate supplementary aids and services.

Elementary Inclusion Inclusion can be very effective for elementary students identified with or without a disability (Burstein et al., 2004). For students with disabilities, inclusion provides greater access to the gen- eral education curriculum and the learning opportunities that come from learning alongside a heterogeneous mix of students. The classroom expectations in an inclusion setting may be higher; therefore, students may make larger strides toward meeting long-term goals if they receive proper instructional support.

In an inclusion model, the general education and special education teachers must collaborate on some level, so all students benefit from receiving the best instruction these teachers can offer. Teachers who use co-teaching will be able to better respond to student needs and behaviors. This is particularly important for early childhood and lower elementary classrooms, where social and behavior objectives are an integral part of class instruction.

Elementary students who need additional support may receive pull-out services, which might consist of additional time with a special education teacher or specialist in a small group or indi- vidualized setting. The ultimate purpose of such services is to help the student achieve grade level expectations and meet long-term IEP goals. If the pull-out programming does not prove effective,

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

the IEP team might recommend a student receive the majority of instruction outside of the gen- eral classroom.

Secondary Inclusion Inclusion at the secondary level provides similar academic and behavioral benefits to those found at the elementary level. Additionally, adolescents are generally more aware of the social stigma that can accompany special education, so inclusion alleviates the need to pull out students and can sometimes protect their anonymity. Teachers must employ proper accommodations and modifications to ensure success for students with disabilities (Duvall, 2006).

The IEP team determines the LRE at the secondary level. Some high school students may be enrolled in a “study skills” class taught by a special education teacher. This class can help students with learning essential skills for success, especially for classes that are more lecture-based or inde- pendent study. The study skills class can also help students with homework or other assignments. If students with disabilities demonstrate success with their courses, special education services may be pared back to prepare students for college and career transition.

The Role of the IEP Team in Placement The placement of students with disabilities is determined by the student’s IEP team and is based on the student’s IEP goals. The placement should be to the LRE in which the student can partici- pate in the general curriculum to the maximum extent appropriate.

The IEP team must make place- ment decisions based on the needs of each individual student. In other words, the school cannot have a plan for how all students with a given disability receive their education. For example, a school cannot say that all stu- dents with Autism Spectrum Dis- order (ASD) must go to a special school; for some students with ASD, that would not be an appro- priate placement and would be in violation of the LRE for an individ- ual student.

The IEP team also needs to con- sider the students without dis- abilities in the general classroom. If a student with a disability would disrupt the general classroom to the extent that the behavior would significantly affect the learning of all the other students, the IEP team might decide upon an alternate placement for the student. The alternative placement must still allow the student to participate in the general curriculum to the maximum extent appropriate.

©Jessica Hill/AP/Corbis

Members of the IEP team, which include the general education teacher, special education teacher, parent or guardian, and other specialists who may work with the student, meet to approve the student’s IEP. During the meeting, the team discusses placement options (i.e., the settings where the student receives instruction). Placement must be in the student’s LRE.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

General Classroom Placement A general classroom is the typical classroom setting for all students, and it is where most receive their instruction. (Please note that in this book, “general classroom” describes the student popula- tion in the classroom and not the actual layout of the school building.) Most general classrooms are divided by grade level (e.g., fifth-grade classroom), but some classrooms may include students from multiple grades (e.g., Chemistry 2).

The teachers in general classrooms, the “general” or “regular” teachers, follow the school, district, or state’s general curriculum. General curriculum includes any instruction or activity that takes place during the school day. The general curriculum is not limited to teaching from textbooks but includes all assessments, additional classes (e.g., art, music, and physical education), lunch, recess, assemblies, field trips, any materials (e.g., textbooks), media (e.g., films), and almost any other activity that students without disabilities participate in during school hours.

Most students with disabili- ties who participate in general classroom instruction are diag- nosed with the “mild” or “high- incidence” disabilities. These cat- egories include specific learning disabilities, emotional or behav- ioral disorders, Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and speech and language impair- ments. Students with other dis- abilities (e.g., ASD, intellectual dis- abilities, visual impairments, and hearing impairments) may also spend a considerable amount of time in the general classroom.

Students with disabilities who spend time in the general class- room may use supplementary aids and services as outlined by IDEA 2004 to participate in the

general curriculum. These aids and services might include a special education teacher or aide, special education training for a general education teacher (see the discussion of collaboration and co-teaching later in the chapter), behavior intervention plans (see the later discussion of class- room management), and assistive technology.


In this general education classroom, the students with disabilities are indistinguishable from students without disabilities. The general education teacher teaches the general curriculum to all students with accommodations or modifications for students with disabilities.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

Students who receive instruction in the general classroom are often presented with accommoda- tions and/or modifications of the general curriculum.

Accommodations If a student participates in the general classroom with only slight changes or variations from the classroom program, the changes are referred to as accommodations. An accommodation affects how a student accesses classroom material and is an alteration that enables a student to perform or participate in activities similar to those of students without disabilities. It may be a change in the way a student interacts with classroom material, participates in the classroom, or responds to classroom content, but an accommodation does not change the content taught in the general classroom. Accommodations may be decided by the IEP team; the student’s teachers may also choose appropriate accommodations for specific classes or assignments.

Table 2.1 provides examples of common accommodations for students with disabilities.

Table 2.1: Examples of Common Accommodations

Accommodation Description

Break time A student is given a break during lengthy assignments or activities. A student may also complete an assignment over multiple days (instead of during one sitting).

Calculators A student may use a calculator to perform complex calculations.

Carrel A study carrel (either purchased or homemade) can help eliminate distractions.

Classroom setup A student sits at a desk close to the front of the room to be near the teacher and the board and away from distractions such as windows or hallways.

Color coding Using different colors for specific categories or purposes can help organize class material such as file folders.

Extra time Students are given extra time to complete assignments or activities. If the student is to receive extra time for assessments, this must be written into the student’s IEP.

Graphic organizers

A graphic organizer helps organize important information in a visually pleasing way. See the Appendix for an example.

Handwriting Students are allowed to write in manuscript (if cursive is required) or vice versa.

Headphones When working independently, a student may wear headphones to block out extraneous noise.

Highlighting/ underlining


A student develops a system for drawing attention to important information.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

Accommodation Description

Large font Materials can be prepared in a larger font (or a font with easier readability).

Lighting The lighting in a classroom can be altered for a student to make it brighter or duller.

Manipulatives (concrete examples)

Hands-on materials help students understand concepts in mathematics and science.

Notes Giving the student a printed copy of a lecture can be more useful than requiring the student to take her own notes or copy from the board.

Oral response A student can respond orally instead of writing an answer.

Partners Students can be assigned to be partners to work on classroom assignments. Each partner takes on a specific role. (Partner A reads aloud while Partner B helps sound out difficult words.)

Quiet area A student can go to a quiet, relaxing place, such as a bean bag chair, if he needs a break.

Reminders A number line or alphabet attached to the student’s desk can help students with numbers and letters. See the Appendix for an example.

Schedule A schedule helps students organize their school day. See the Appendix for an example.

Scribe A scribe can transcribe a student’s oral words.

Timer A timer helps a student understand how much time they have to work before the next class or task.

Tracking sheets Tracking sheets help students monitor their own academic progress or behavior. See the Appendix for an example.

Table 2.1: Examples of Common Accommodations (continued)

Source: Fahsl, 2007; Fletcher et al., 2006; Fuchs, Fuchs, Eaton, Hamlett, & Karns, 2000; Leons, Herbert, & Gobbo, 2009; McCoy, 2005; Steele, 2008.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

Many students with disabilities may use assistive technology as an accommodation. Assistive technology is any item, equipment, or product that increases or improves the student’s interac- tion with classroom material. Assistive technologies do not necessarily have batteries or computer hardware. Hundreds of items can count as assistive technology, including:

• Book easel • Dictation machine • Dictionary • Enlarged text • Handheld magnifier • Multiplication table • Pencil grips • Picture schedule • Post-it notes • Raised writing paper • Tape recorder • Text-to-speech

or speech-to-text software

• Walker • Wheelchair

The purpose of accommodations is to give students with disabili- ties a greater chance of success in the general classroom; accom- modations are not meant to give the student an unfair advantage. Accommodations are intended to “level the playing field,” and should not change the evaluation of a student’s work. The student is still expected to learn the same content as a student without a disability.

Several of the accommodations listed above may also benefit students without disabilities. For example, working with partners may force all students to be responsible for reading and compre- hending a history text. For elementary students, having a number line will help all who are just learning their addition and subtraction facts and cannot immediately recall the answers. Study carrels may encourage all students to focus on their work and not be distracted by other students.

Accommodations should be determined on an individual basis. For some students, one accommo- dation is all that is necessary. For others, multiple accommodations will be put into place.

Modifications A modification, unlike an accommodation, changes the classroom content for the student with a disability. Typically, a student will work on a similar skill as students without disabilities, but the expectations will be different. (Note that the expectations will not necessarily be less than those for students without disabilities; merely different.) As with accommodations, there is no “one size fits all” approach, and modifications should be determined on an individual basis. The IEP dictates when modifications are appropriate and how they will be implemented.


This student is using a computer to type a report. Originally, this assignment was supposed to be handwritten, but because the student struggles with fine motor skills, including writing, the teacher allows the student to type on a computer as an accommodation. The content of the student’s assignment has not changed—only the way the student completes the assignment.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

Table 2.2 describes common modifications for students from preschool through high school.

Table 2.2: Modifications

Modification Description Example

Altered content A student works on content that is similar to the general curriculum but different or easier.

Instead of working on multiplication of fractions, a student works on identifying numerators and denominators.

Altered grading The grading of an assignment is altered to allow for some mistakes.

Instead of requiring a perfect score (10/10) to demonstrate spelling competence, the teacher will accept 8/10 or 9/10 as a demonstration of proficiency.

Altered work A different type of assignment is allowed.

Instead of writing a traditional science fair report, a student is permitted to compile a notebook of their experiments and outcomes.

Breaks in an assignment An assignment is broken into smaller, more manageable chunks.

A project on a unit about the Civil War is broken into four smaller assignments.

Lower-level reading A reading assignment is provided at a lower grade level.

Instead of reading a seventh- grade book about the Civil Rights movement, a student may read fourth- or fifth-grade materials about the same topic.

Reduced reading The reading load for an activity is reduced.

A teacher paraphrases a 15-paragraph science text into five paragraphs with pictures and diagrams.

Shortened assignment Fewer items or passages are required on an assignment.

A student completes 10 double- digit computation problems with regrouping instead of 20. A student only works on odd- numbered questions for a homework assignment.

Time A student receives extra time or an activity is untimed.

On an assessment, a student is permitted to work “time and a half.” Instead of having 30 minutes to complete the assessment, the student is given 45 minutes. On another assessment, a student is allowed to work for as long as he or she needs.

Source: Gunter, Reffel, Rice, Peterson, & Venn, 2005; Lee, Wehmeyer, Soukup, & Palmer, 2010; Lindstrom, 2007.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

Importance of the Resource Classroom A resource classroom is a place for students to receive special education instruction and support- ive services. Students may come to a resource classroom to receive additional support (e.g., learn- ing to read, completing geography homework, practicing speech skills) with a special education teacher, aide, or therapist. The resource classroom may be an actual classroom, or it could be an office or conference room. Though less desirable, resource instruction can even occur at a desk in the library or an unused table at the end of a hallway. The student still spends some, if not most, of the school day in the general classroom, and only comes to the resource classroom to receive specialized instruction.

Instruction in a resource setting capitalizes on evidence-based practices for students with disabili- ties. The teacher designs instruction that fits the needs of the individual students—both to meet their IEP goals and continue to make progress with the general curriculum. The instruction may be provided in small groups or on an individual basis, and may be provided by a special educa- tion teacher or aide. Specialists such as speech and language pathologists, physical therapists, or school psychologists may also provide instruction.

Most students who participate in instruction in the resource classroom do so on a regular sched- ule. Some students may come to the resource room once a week. Other students may receive special education instruction for only 20 or 30 minutes each day, and still others may spend con- siderably more time in a resource setting (e.g., 90 minutes each day).

Self-Contained Classroom Placement A small set of students with disabilities who attend their local public school receive all of their academic instruction in a self-contained classroom. The curriculum in a self-contained classroom is markedly different from the curriculum in a general classroom. A special education teacher or specialist familiar with working with students with disabilities provides all instruction. Often, this instruction is remedial and may vary significantly from the curriculum in the general classroom.

Remedial instruction reviews or reteaches important concepts and procedures that students may have not learned originally. Students in a self-contained class- room may participate in physical education, music or art classes, or extracurricular activities with students without disabilities, but their academic instruction occurs outside of the general classroom (Kleinert, Miracle, & Sheppard- Jones, 2007).

A self-contained classroom set- ting is typically reserved for stu- dents with moderate to severe or low incidence disabilities who would have extreme diffi- culty with learning the general

Robin Nelson/ZUMA Press/Corbis

In this self-contained classroom, a smaller number of students with disabilities spend the majority of their school day with a special education teacher. Highly trained specialists and aides also assist in the classroom.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.1 Placement of Students in Special Education

curriculum. Some examples might be students with intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injury, autism, or multiple disabilities. Most students with severe disabilities require highly specialized instruction and support provided by special education teachers and trained specialists.

Placements Outside the Local School Another small percentage of students with disabilities may best be served outside the local public school. For students with disabilities that require highly specialized instruction or care, the school district may have the option of sending the student to a separate school. These schools usually focus on the education of students with specific disabilities, and the schools employ the appro- priate aides, therapists, specialists, and teachers to provide a FAPE to the students. For example, some school districts have schools focusing on teaching students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Another example might be a separate school for students with Emotional Disorders (ED).

If the separate school is run by the school district, the district must provide transportation to and from the school for each student. Some separate schools are run by private organizations. Parents may choose to send their child (and pay for it on their own) to the school, or a school district may pay to send a student to the private school if the district does not have appropriate resources to educate the student.

The IEP team decides whether this option is better than placement in the student’s local school. They consider the possibility that separate schools (e.g., specialized schools) can provide students with additional resources and programs that local schools may not be able to provide. However, while students may benefit tremendously from an education in a separate school, they will have little interaction with students without disabilities.

Another option for placement is a private school. Though not a common practice, a school district may pay to send a public school student to a private school if it finds that the private school is the only option. More frequently, parents or guardians will opt to send their child to private school and pay for it out of their own pockets.

Private schools do not receive educational funds from the federal government, so they do not have to follow IDEA 2004 guidelines. If the school receives any federal funds, perhaps through a reduced and free lunch program, the school does have to follow IDEA 2004 guidelines. Private schools with- out a religious affiliation must adhere to Section 504 guidelines, because Section 504 protects the civil rights of people with disabilities except for religious organizations and private clubs.

Some parents decide to enroll their student in a private school that offers specialized programs for students with disabilities (most often learning disabilities and behavior disorders). Private school students may sometimes be sent to public schools because the local public schools have more special education resources than the private school. Other parents feel that private schools do not provide as many special education services as their children need.

A residential facility may be publicly or privately funded to provide special services and programs to students with a specific disability. For example, many states run residential or day schools for students with low-incidence disabilities, including schools for the blind or deaf. Most students come and live at these schools while they are receiving their education.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.2 Instructional Approaches for Special Education Students in the General Classroom

If the schools are state-funded, they may be available at low or no cost to students. If a school district decides the school is the best placement for the student, the school district would pay for the student’s education. Sometimes the schools are hours away from a student’s home, though, which puts a burden on families.

A correctional facility is a place where students receive educational services as they are spending time away from home after committing a violation or crime. Students in the correctional facil- ity may or may not have disabilities, but if the student had an IEP before entry to the facility or program, the facility must follow the student’s IEP with regard to educational programs. Some researchers report the percentage of students in correctional facilities who have disabilities may be as high as 90% (Zhang, Hsu, Katsiyannis, Barrett, & Ju, 2011).

Students may also receive their education in a hospital setting or home setting. This arrangement usually applies to sick students with disabilities whose treatment interferes with their ability to attend school. It might be put in place if a student will miss at least one month of school. The stu- dent’s local district is responsible for making arrangements.

Many children’s hospitals have their own teachers who develop and implement instruction for stu- dents during lengthy hospital stays. Hospitals may arrange for students to receive tutoring while in the hospital, and some students may be taught at home (by trained teachers) if it is impossible for the student to attend school.

2.2 Instructional Approaches for Special Education Students in the General Classroom

When students with disabilities receive their education in a general classroom or resource setting, collaboration must occur between general and special education teachers. Some teachers may participate in co-teaching, whereas other teachers will merely col- laborate and provide instruction separately. In the field of special education, several approaches have emerged as effective teaching practices for students with disabilities.

Associated Press

At the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, some students live on the school’s campus. The residential school allows for students to be completely immersed in school life, and students typically enjoy living with their peers.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.2 Instructional Approaches for Special Education Students in the General Classroom

Collaboration With the movement toward inclusion, many special education teachers spend less time in self-contained classrooms and more time in general education set- tings (Eisenman, Pleet, Wandry, & McGinley, 2010). Special education teachers who work with special education students in general classrooms often have not received training in how to be an effective teacher using the collaborative push-in mode. Gen- eral classroom teachers, in turn, often are not quite sure how to relate to push-in teachers (Wiggins & Damore, 2006).

Additionally, newer graduates who have received instruction about the push-in collaboration model may find themselves completing teaching assign- ments with older teachers who are using less effec- tive methods. Further, push-in teachers often take on the role of helping keep students on task or pro- viding specific help with class work, but may function more as aides than collaborators. When both teach- ers work together, however, collaboration benefits all the students in the classroom and the teachers improve their teaching skills (Simmons, Carpenter, Dyal, Austin, & Shumack, 2012).

The following strategies can often be successfully adapted to help special education and general classroom teachers collaborate more effectively (Eisenman et al., 2010; Jones, 2012; Wiggins & Damore, 2006):

• Be sure to communicate. Regular communication is essential to make sure everyone is using his or her time wisely. General education teachers are busy people. They will have looked at a student’s IEP, but they have lots of responsibilities and often do not make working on IEP goals a priority. That is where the special education teacher comes in. The special education teacher can share goals for his students with the class- room teacher, and describe the specific activities his students should engage in. The general teacher can then share her thoughts and concerns. The two teachers might not always agree, but if both are putting concern for their students first, they should be able to come to an agreement about how to best manage their time in the classroom.

• Have a plan. An effective push-in teacher will need more of a plan than to just “help the classroom teacher.” She will need to plan specific learning activities for the special needs students in the classes she is pushing in to. Doing so can involve more work than teaching a class on one’s own, because the teacher will have to take the class- room teacher’s plans and ideas into consideration. The push-in teacher may find that one effective method is to work with a student or a small group of students in the rear of the classroom on basic skills while the rest of the class does other things. The special education teacher can also walk a student, step by step, through an assign- ment that the rest of the class is doing independently. Sometimes, especially in the

© Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Corbis

A special education and a general education teacher meet to discuss the instruction for two students with disabilities. The students spend all of their day in the general classroom, and the special education teacher pushes in to provide additional reading instruction.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.2 Instructional Approaches for Special Education Students in the General Classroom

younger grades, teachers can involve the entire class in some of the planned activi- ties; for example, activities to improve concentration or hand-eye coordination for special needs students are likely to be helpful for all the students.

• Make sure you’re both on the same side. Classroom teachers often worry that activi- ties of push-in special education teachers will pull time away from their own planned curriculum. One way to minimize this fear is to share responsibilities. The push-in teacher can teach the classroom teacher how to include special education activi- ties even in his absence. Another strategy is to divide the class into small groups: The regular teacher works with one group, the special education teacher works with another, and the other groups work independently. While this means the special edu- cation teacher may actually work with the special needs students for only part of the time, doing an activity that directly relates to the students’ needs is much better than randomly helping out. As a tradeoff, the regular teacher can incorporate more activi- ties that work for the special needs students into all his or her teaching.

• Think positively. All teachers involved in collaboration should respect one another and focus on the positive collaboration outcomes for students. If all teachers are working from a similar plan, the collaboration will likely work well.

Increasing communication, creating a plan, making sure both teachers are on the same side, and thinking positively will go a long way toward ensuring the success of an effective push-in arrange- ment. The key is to know the students and put them first. As a professional, take your responsibili- ties seriously, and put your time to good use.

Co-Teaching An arrangement in which the classroom teacher and the special education teacher share respon- sibility of planning, teaching, and evaluating the class is called co-teaching (Sileo & van Gard-

eren, 2010). A type of collabora- tion (Fenty, McDuffie-Landrum, & Fisher, 2012), co-teaching is becoming a more popular model because of mandates from NCLB that require students with dis- abilities to participate in the gen- eral curriculum (Friend, Cook, Hurley-Chamberlain, & Sham- berger, 2010). In an established co-taught classroom, it should be difficult to determine who is the general education teacher and who is the special education teacher. The teachers in the class- room should consider themselves equal, and they should plan and deliver instruction together (Wil- son, 2008).

© Ed Kashi/Corbis

These teachers are co-teaching. They are equally responsible for teaching the students in the classroom. Sometimes one teacher takes the lead, sometimes the teachers divide the students into groups, and other times the teachers teach simultaneously.

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Co-teaching instruction can be delivered in a variety of ways. The teachers need to decide which arrangement is best, based on the content of the lesson and the needs of the students.

The following are possible co-teaching arrangements (Forbes & Billet, 2012; Friend et al., 2010):

• One teaches, and one observes. This arrangement allows for one teacher to observe a student or students without disruption to the lesson. Observations can be used to check student progress or to answer questions about student academic performance or behavior.

• One teaches, and one drifts. One teacher is responsible for teaching the lesson while the other teacher walks around the classroom and provides assistance to various stu- dents. This may be the most common co-teaching model, as it is easy to implement and requires little coordination between the two teachers in the classroom. While this arrangement is easy to implement, some of the other arrangements make better use of co-teachers’ time, abilities, and strengths.

• Parallel teaching. The teachers divide the class into two groups and deliver the same lesson, at the same time, to each group. This arrangement is beneficial because each teacher has fewer students to instruct, probably fewer behavioral disruptions, and more time to answer individual student questions.

• Station teaching. The teachers divide the students into groups. One teacher teaches a lesson to one group while the second teacher teaches a different lesson to the other group. The teachers then switch groups and repeat the instruction for the other group. This arrangement is beneficial when there are several parts to a lesson and it does not matter if students learn one part before another part. Station teaching can also play upon teacher strengths or preferences. For example, a teacher who enjoys teaching mathematics can teach the math portion of a lesson twice.

• Alternative teaching. The teachers divide the students into a large group and a small group based on student strengths and need for instruction. One teacher teaches the larger group while the other teacher teaches the smaller group. The smaller group may work on a different lesson or a similar lesson taught at a different level than the big group. This arrangement allows for teachers to tailor instruction for each group.

• Team teaching. In this arrangement, both teachers teach at the same time. The teachers play off one another so that the teaching is like a conversation. Students can benefit from this arrangement because two teachers may be able to provide better instruction than one teacher alone.

Both co-teachers should consider the class to be “their” class. All the students are “their” stu- dents; there are no students who are “yours” or “mine.” Co-teachers need to plan and teach together in order for co-teaching to be effective. Co-teachers also need to have the appropriate training to ensure a positive co-teaching experience (Bouck, 2007). School districts should provide professional development workshops on co-teaching methods and also provide co-teachers with shared planning time during the school day.

Evidence-Based Practices As you learned in Chapter 1, the passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the reauthorization of IDEA in 2004 emphasize the use of evidence-based practices by highly qualified teachers in the classroom. An evidence-based practice is an instructional technique or program that has been validated by research. When a technique or program is first introduced, researchers test it, usually

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Special Education: Your Profession Evidence-Based Practices Many different research teams work on developing and testing the effectiveness of instruction for students with disabilities. Researchers use data to determine whether student performance improves because of the specialized instruction. If the data shows significant effects, the instruction can be con- sidered an evidence-based practice. Evidence-based practices can be in academic, behavioral, or func- tional performance.

In mathematics, Jitendra et al. (2007) studied the effects of a word-problem-solving program in math- ematics that focused on teaching students to identify word problems by type (e.g., comparing amounts, amounts that change) and solve word problems by type. Third-grade students in inclusion classrooms were randomly assigned to receive the specialized word-problem instruction or typical instruction. Stu- dents who participated in the specialized word-problem instruction demonstrated significantly higher scores than students receiving typical instruction. This significant difference, along with similar research studies, shows that teaching word problems by type is an evidence-based practice (Fuchs et al., 2008; Jitendra et al., 2009).

In terms of disruptive behavior, Owens et al. (2012) examined the effectiveness of a daily report card with elementary students with ADHD or emotional disorders. A daily report card keeps track of instances of disruptive behavior that occur during the school day, and a teacher reviews the card each day with the student. The parent or guardian also reviews the daily report card each day with the student. Over- all, the majority of students demonstrated improved behavior when using the daily report card. This study, as well as others (Vannest, Burke, Sauber, Davis, & Davis, 2011), demonstrates that using daily report cards is an evidence-based practice to improve problem behaviors.

in school settings, to see if it is beneficial for improving student learning or behavior. Many times, the validation is conducted using a treatment group and a no-treatment control group (much like a science project). If a technique or program demonstrates favorable results for students who use it over the students in the no-treatment control group, the technique or program can be deemed “evidence-based.”

The push to use evidence-based practices in the classroom is important for several reasons. First, if an evidence-based practice worked for most (if not all) of the students during testing, the prac- tice is highly likely to benefit other students. Second, teachers do not waste precious teaching time when using an evidence-based practice. They do not have to develop their own programs and spend months or years determining whether their programs help students. With an evidence- based practice, teachers are guaranteed at least a good starting point for instruction for students.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.2 Instructional Approaches for Special Education Students in the General Classroom

Teaching Approaches in Special Education Many teachers wonder how to provide instruction in the general classroom to students with a wide variety of academic needs. This is especially true when students with disabilities are placed in the general education classroom to participate in the general curriculum. Three popular teach- ing approaches often discussed in special education include explicit instruction, differentiation, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). These are broad approaches to designing instruction; the more specific evidence-based practices associated with each approach can be starting points for teachers.

Explicit Instruction Explicit instruction, or direct instruction, is one of the hallmarks of special education (Archer & Hughes, 2011). Explicit instruction is not a specific program but an approach to teaching students with disabilities. With explicit instruction, teachers provide instruction that is straightforward— they explain and practice concepts and procedures with students until students understand the material. Elements of explicit instruction can be used to teach any subject at any grade level.

When a teacher uses explicit instruction, he or she provides the student with a series of scaffolds to support the student’s learning. Scaffolds are different levels of teacher support. With scaffolded instruction, the teacher plays a central role at the beginning of the student’s instruction, and that role lessens as the teacher gradually turns over ownership of the learning to the student. Put simply, at the beginning the teacher shows the student what to do. Then, the teacher and student practice together. Finally, the student is able to do the work independently.

Over the last 20 years, explicit instruction has been proven as a beneficial instructional strategy for students in preschool, elementary, middle, and high school as they learn reading, mathematics, writing, and the content areas (e.g., Rupley, Blair, & Nichols, 2009; Spencer, Goldstein, & Kamin- ski, 2012; Taylor, Mraz, Nichols, Rickelman, & Wood, 2009; Witzel, Mercer, & Miller, 2003). For example, Witzel et al. (2003) determined that middle school students who learn algebra using explicit teacher instruction along with conceptual practice with math manipulatives (i.e., math tools students can touch and move around) outperformed students who did not receive explicit algebra instruction.

Archer and Hughes (2011) have outlined 16 elements of explicit instruction. The following list explains each element and provides examples showing how to use them to provide fraction instruction at fourth grade for a student with a learning disability.

1. Teach critical content. Teachers should focus on providing instruction on skills, strategies, vocabulary, concepts, and rules that are important for success in school. Before teach- ing about fractions, the teacher should introduce the terms numerator and denominator and give the student concrete examples of the parts to a whole. The teacher could use fraction circles to demonstrate the vocabulary terms (Figure 2.3).

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.2 Instructional Approaches for Special Education Students in the General Classroom

Figure 2.3: Fraction Circles

The teacher could use a fraction circle to teach critical content—in this case, the vocabulary terms numerator and denominator. The teacher would explain that this picture shows the fraction 5/8, and go from there to familiarize the students with the terms.

2. Teach sequentially. Teachers need to teach students easier skills first and check for understanding of these easier skills before moving on to more difficult skills. For exam- ple, the teacher should teach addition of fractions with like denominators before teach- ing addition of fractions with unlike denominators.

3. Teach in small chunks. Teachers need to break down complex tasks into smaller chunks. Teachers should break the chunks into steps and teach students each of these steps. When teaching subtraction of fractions with unlike denominators, the teacher should first teach and work on finding common denominators. She would perhaps spend a few lessons on listing and identifying the least common multiple of the denominators. Then, the teacher would spend a few lessons teaching how to change the numerator when finding common denominators. Finally, the teacher would teach the student how to subtract fractions with like denominators.

4. Teach an organized lesson. Teachers should design a lesson that is focused on a particu- lar skill, strategy, or concept, and this lesson should not have digressions. When teaching addition of fractions, the teacher should focus on addition of fractions, and not focus on solving word problems or geometry problems.

5. Start each lesson with a goal statement. Teachers should be direct with students about the content of the lesson. One might say, “Today we’ll work on finding common denomina- tors. When we work with two fractions, common denominators mean both denominators are the same. Finding common denominators is important for addition and subtraction of fractions.”

6. Review prior knowledge before each lesson. Teachers should pick skills relevant to the lesson at hand and review these skills before beginning the lesson. This review of skills should be brief; this is not a time for reteaching. Review the vocabulary terms of numer- ator and denominator before discussing common denominators.

7. Use step-by-step demonstrations. With explicit instruction, the teacher models a con- cept or skill for the student in a step-by-step manner. Nothing is left to chance. Teachers are encouraged to use a “think-aloud” technique during their demonstration. Teachers

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should demonstrate (“I do”), practice with the students (“We do”), and then allow stu- dents to demonstrate their learning (“You do”). When teaching subtraction of fractions, a think-aloud might sound like this. “We are subtracting 7/8 minus 2/8. First, I look at the denominators to make sure they are the same. 8 is the denominator of 7/8. 8 is also the denominator of 2/8. Are the denominators the same? (Yes.) The denominators are the same. So, now I can subtract the numerators. What’s 7 minus 2? (5.) 7 minus 2 equals 5. So, I write 5/8. 7/8 minus 2/8 equals 5/8.”

8. Use concise language. Teachers should be consistent with vocabulary and terminology so students have a clear understanding of the content. When demonstrating subtrac- tion of fractions with like denominators, the teacher should be consistent in vocabulary choices, and always refer to the numerator as the numerator rather than switch from numerator to top number to part.

9. Use examples and non-examples. Teachers should provide examples so students know when to apply a skill, strategy, or rule. Teachers should also provide non-examples (i.e., examples that do not apply under certain circumstances) so students learn when a skill, strategy, or rule does not work. For example, after initial instruction on multiplication of fractions, the teacher should also ask the students to work on problems involving addi- tion of fractions so they understand when to find common denominators (i.e., addition) and when common denominators are not necessary (i.e., multiplication) (Figure 2.4).

Figure 2.4: Examples and Non-examples

This student worksheet provides students with examples and non-examples so students will get a better idea of when and when not to apply concepts they are studying. The focus skill of this lesson is multiplication of fractions, so the multiplication problems are examples, and the addition problems are non-examples. Students cannot use their learned multiplication strategy to solve the addition problems correctly.

+ =2 4

3 5

× =2 4

3 5

× =3 2

1 6

+ =4 3

1 5

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10. Teach with guided and supported practice. Once teachers introduce a skill or concept (using a step-by-step demonstration), they need to provide the student with multiple opportunities to practice. Initially, the teacher and students work together, with the teacher providing lots of support by reminding the students of the steps necessary to complete the problem. After a student demonstrates success with this guided practice, the teacher would provide the student with opportunities to practice while the teacher is still available to provide immediate feedback. For example, the teacher may ask stu- dents to solve five multiplication fraction problems on a worksheet while the teacher walks around the classroom and provides feedback as necessary.

11. Ask students for frequent responses. The teacher and student should be engaged in a dialogue. The teacher should constantly engage the student in the lesson by asking ques- tions, responding to student questions or comments, and requiring active participation. An example of dialogue might be: “Today, we’re going to compare fractions to decide which fraction is greater. Look at these two fractions. Read them with me. (4/6, 1/6.) We can easily compare fractions when the denominators are the same. What’s the denomi- nator of 4/6? (6.) What’s the denominator of 1/6? (6.) Are the denominators the same? (Yes.) The denominators are the same. So, let’s now look at the numerators. To find the greater fraction, let’s look for the numerator that is more. Which is more, 4 or 1? (4.) So, which fraction is greater? (4/6.) Yes. 4/6 is greater than 1/6. Say that with me. (4/6 is greater than 1/6.)”

12. Monitor student progress. Teachers constantly monitor student responses and ques- tions to determine whether students are learning the concept or skill of the lesson. If a student seems confused or is struggling with a concept, the teacher needs to make an immediate response and change the lesson to help the student with misconceptions or misunderstandings. The teacher continually asks questions of the student and moni- tors their written work. If the student is struggling with finding common denominators for addition problems, the teacher would not move to subtraction problems until the student is solving addition problems with at least 80% mastery.

13. Provide feedback. Teachers need to constantly respond to students’ responses with affirmative and (when necessary) corrective feedback. The feedback should be specific. The teacher might say, “I like how you multiplied the numerators and then multiplied the denominators.”

14. Teach at a brisk pace. Teachers should deliver instruction at a brisk pace to ensure they do not lose the students’ attention. (Sometimes, teachers may think they need to speak slower and take more time when delivering a lesson for a student with a disability, but this is not necessarily the case.) When instruction is delivered at a brisk pace, students have to constantly pay attention to the teacher in order to answer teacher questions and follow the lesson. The teacher might say, “Let’s think about denominators. What’s a denominator?” The teacher allows for a 3-second pause before calling on a student volunteer. “That’s right, Jesse, a denominator tells us how many parts are in the whole. What’s a whole?” The teacher continues in this manner.

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15. Make connections for students. Teachers need to show students how certain skills or topics relate to one another. Students may not always make these connections them- selves. When introducing subtraction of fractions with unlike denominators, the teacher should point out how much of the process is similar to addition of fractions. Once the student finds the common denominator, the only difference is subtracting the numera- tors instead of adding.

16. Provide practice. Practicing a skill over time is referred to as distributed practice. Teach- ers should give students opportunities to practice a skill over time because it helps students retain and practice skills they have learned previously. By practicing skills again and again, the students memorize the procedures and concepts. Teachers should also provide students with multiple opportunities to practice all the skills the student has learned, which is known as cumulative practice. Cumulative practice provides students with the opportunity to practice a variety of skills at one time. The teacher may pro- vide distributed practice on multiplication of fractions by doing a practice activity of 10 problems every other Friday, and cumulative practice by assigning a weekly practice worksheet that includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems with whole numbers and fractions.

Differentiation In instruction based on differentiation, the classroom teacher alters the delivery and content of instruction for students based on each student’s learning profile (i.e., how the student learns best), readiness level, and interests (Tomlinson, 2001) (Figure 2.5). The teacher accepts that all students are individuals and that each individual requires a different approach to instruction. Unlike explicit instruction, which was developed to help teachers of students with disabilities, the principles of differentiation were formulated to help general classroom teachers meet the needs of all students (Tomlinson, 2001). Like explicit instruction, the principles of differentiation can be used to teach any subject at any grade level.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.2 Instructional Approaches for Special Education Students in the General Classroom

Figure 2.5: Readiness, Interest, and Learning Profile

In differentiated instruction, teachers need to know the individual readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles of their students. When thinking about readiness, for example, teachers should consider the background, knowledge, maturity, and skills of the student for learning a specific topic.

Source: Tomlinson, 2001.

Because the instruction is designed with an individual student in mind, differentiated instruction can be a viable approach to teaching students with disabilities (Dee 2011; Tomlinson, 2001). Stu- dents with disabilities have an Individualized Education Program that warrants that the teacher design and deliver instruction for the individual student, and differentiated instruction provides a framework for this individualization.


Readiness LearningprofileInterest

EnvironmentGroupingBackground Cognitivestyle IntelligenceArts

Flexible/ FixedAdultKnowledge

Active/ Reflective AuditoryAthletics

Quiet/NoisyCombinationMaturity Concrete/Abstract CreativeBusiness

Still/ MobileGroupSkills

Creative/ Conforming KinestheticGeography

Warm/ CoolIndependent

Essence/ Facts LogicalGovernment

Peer Expressive/Controlled MusicalHistory

Inductive/ Deductive PracticalLiterature

Linear/ Nonlinear VerbalMathematics





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Differentiated instruction is based on several principles (Tomlinson, 2001):

1. Provide high-quality curriculum. Teachers need to understand what students are expected to know as part of a curriculum, and teach with the end in mind. Teachers should reflect upon what is most important for students to know, understand, and be able to do. Students should learn the strategies and skills necessary to understand big ideas and concepts.

2. Continually assess students. Teachers need to constantly assess students in a variety of ways. First, teachers should assess student readiness before beginning a new unit. If any skills need reteaching, teachers can determine this from the readiness assessment. Teachers should also assess student interests so as to play upon these interests during the unit. As teachers provide instruction, students should be assessed informally (e.g., questions during instruction, journal writing, observations, exit cards) and formally (e.g., quizzes, tests). After a unit, students should demonstrate their learning through an assessment or authentic learning task (e.g., writing a play about the Civil Rights movement).

3. Assign respectful tasks. Students should be engaged in work that challenges them, interests them, and is worthwhile. Students may work on different types of assignments or activities, based on their readiness and interest, but each of these assignments or activities should be meaningful to them. Differentiated instruction is not easier work for some students and harder work for other students. Students should have some choices during lessons in terms of how they will learn material and demonstrate their knowledge of material.

4. Build community. Teachers should foster a classroom environment that is welcoming and safe for all students. Students should accept and support one another.

5. Use flexible grouping. Teachers need to use different types of grouping in the classroom to differentiate instruction to best fit the needs of the group. Some possible groupings include small groups, partners, or whole class. In small groups or partners, students may be grouped with students similar to or different from them.

6. Teach up. Teachers should have high expectations for all students. Each student in the classroom should be working at a challenging level (for the student), and the teacher should provide scaffolding to ensure success in the classroom.

Note that differentiated instruction provides more of a framework for organizing the classroom and the lessons than an approach to how to teach students with disabilities. For more direction on how to teach, teachers may want to refer to the elements of explicit instruction discussed previously.

Universal Design for Learning Similar to differentiation, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is not a “one size fits all” approach to teaching; instead, it emphasizes the needs of individual students and adjusts instruction accord- ingly. As such, UDL principles can benefit not only students in special education, but all students (Jiménez, Graf, & Rose, 2007).

UDL is based on the concept of universal design in architecture, which strives to make structures accessible to people with disabilities. A building or structure that is universally designed, for example, may have ramps, elevators, automatic doors, and signs in Braille. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 mandated that all public buildings incorporate elements of universal design for accessibility.

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Tips for the General Classroom Within a UDL framework, students should have opportunities to comprehend, respond to, and get inspired by the material in different ways.

• Use multiple means of representation. Teachers should provide students with multiple ways to access information to accommodate differences in the recognition network of individual stu- dents’ brains. Teachers need to know how their students comprehend information and develop efficient ways of delivering content to the variety of learners in the classroom. For example, some students may learn better through visual representations, whereas others do better with an auditory presentation of information.

• Use multiple means of action and expression. Teachers should give students different ways to demonstrate what they have learned to allow for strategic network differences. For example, some students may show their knowledge better through a writing task, whereas other students may want to deliver a speech.

• Use multiple means of engagement. Teachers should provide students with many different opportunities to engage in a lesson to optimize the use of their affective networks. Some stu- dents may need encouragement from the teacher, whereas other students will be motivated to learn on their own. Some students may prefer working in a group while other students want to work independently.

UDL makes educational opportu- nities accessible to all students, similar to a public library being accessible to all library patrons. UDL has three guiding principles: (1) use multiple means of repre- sentation, (2) use multiple means of action and expression, and (3) use multiple means of engage- ment (Stockall, Dennis, & Miller, 2012). These principles come from research on how the brain receives and interacts with infor- mation (Evans, Williams, King, & Metcalf, 2010).

Researchers suggest that the brain has three networks: recog- nition, strategic, and affective. The recognition network deals with the “what” of learning and affects how students organize information that they see, hear, and read. The strategic network deals with the performance of tasks and allows students to show what they are learning. The affective network deals with “why” students engage in a lesson and allows them to be motivated and interested in what they are learning. The principles of UDL encourage teachers to engage these three brain networks by pre- senting content in different ways, allowing students to present what they have learned in different ways, and allowing students to engage in the content in different ways.

View Pictures Ltd/SuperStock

A building that is universally designed is accessible to all people. For example, the ramp in this school can be used by all people to access the classrooms. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) applies accessibility principles to classroom instruction, and asks teachers to design instruction that is accessible to all students, regardless of disability.

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Like differentiated instruction, UDL provides a framework for planning instruction for a variety of students in a classroom. UDL, however, does not provide information on how to teach students with disabilities. The elements of explicit instruction are better suited for helping the teacher determine how to teach students with disabilities.

Classroom Management No matter what teaching approach is used, effective classroom management is a prerequisite to effective instruction. Classroom management is the general term for everything a teacher does in the classroom to ensure that instruction occurs efficiently. Classroom management involves how the teacher plans the school day (e.g., when students will work on language arts or when students will go to art class), how the teacher delivers instruction so that all students pay attention and have the opportunity to learn, how the teacher arranges the classroom (e.g., desks are placed in rows rather than in groups), and how the class transitions from one activity to another (e.g., how students come into the classroom after lunch and get ready for science instruction). Classroom management is essentially the ability to consistently set and reinforce expectations that enable all students to learn.

The first step to ensure adequate classroom management is to give explicit directions for every- thing students should say and do. Next, reinforce behavior fairly and consistently. To these ends, teachers should develop a plan for how they will manage their classroom that includes classroom organization and procedures, rules, consequences, and positive incentive systems.

Room Organization How a classroom is organized can facilitate efficient transitions between and during learning activi- ties. The placement of student desks and seats is an important factor in organization that determines a teacher’s ability to move fluidly throughout the lesson and address student behavior/participation (see Figure 2.6 for one example). Students should be able to see the teacher at all times without having to strain. Good organization also facilitates classroom routines and procedures for common student needs, such as lining up, passing out papers, and locating materials.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.2 Instructional Approaches for Special Education Students in the General Classroom

Figure 2.6: Classroom Organization

This first-grade classroom has students sitting in groups at tables. All students in the group can see the board without having to turn their chairs around. The teacher also has a learning rug for whole-class activities, such as reading a story or watching a science experiment. Teachers should create a map of their classroom, similar to this one, as part of their classroom management plan.

Classroom Rules Classroom rules should be few, clear, concise, positive, and written in student-friendly language (Figure 2.7). They should be applicable to every learning activity and remain the same all year. The consequences of breaking rules should be age-appropriate, be meaningful for students, and be scaffolded in a way that students receive warnings before facing consequences (e.g., staying in the classroom during recess or for afterschool detention). Rules should be handled fairly, consistently, and in a way that maintains student dignity.

Student table

Student table

Student table

Student table

Student table

Student table

Student table

Student table

Teacher’s desk

Li br

ar y

Learning rug


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CHAPTER 2Section 2.2 Instructional Approaches for Special Education Students in the General Classroom

Figure 2.7: Classroom Rules

Rules vary from classroom to classroom but should remain positive—for example, “Walk” is more effective than “Don’t run.” Children remember better what they are supposed to do than what they are not supposed to do.

IDEA 2004 set forth guidelines for the discipline of students with disabilities. First, schools cannot suspend students for more than 10 days. If the student should be suspended for more than 10 days, the IEP team needs to meet to determine whether the behavior that brought on the suspen- sion was a manifestation of the student’s disability or whether improper implementation of the student’s IEP led to the student’s behavior. If the student’s behavior and disability are connected, the IEP team must conduct a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) and design a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP). The FBA helps determine when and why a student behaves in certain ways, and the BIP is a proactive plan for avoiding negative behaviors. IDEA 2004 does state that students can be suspended for up to 45 days without an IEP team evaluation if illegal drugs or weapons were part of the student’s violation or if the student threatened or caused serious bodily injury.

Positive Behavior Support All students—with and without disabilities—respond well to a positive classroom reward system. Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is a system that rewards and reinforces appropriate student behavior. PBS can be implemented school-wide or classroom wide. With PBS, a school or class- room establishes a positive environment with well-established rules so that teachers can focus on delivering instruction. PBS is not a packaged program; PBS is more of a framework for class- room management.

Our Classroom RulesClassroom Rules

We show good manners.

We use our hands for helping.

We respect the belongings of others.

We respect the safety of others.

We keep our hands to ourselves.

Always do your best.

Listen when others are talking.

Always raise your hand to speak.

Follow directions.

Be prepared for class.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.3 Collaboration Between Home and School

This system can be particularly effective for students with emotional or behavior disorders or ADHD. When the behavior of students with disabilities interferes with their academic perfor- mance, an FBA is conducted and a BIP developed (see Chapter 4 for a discussion of this assess- ment and plan). The BIP, and indeed any classroom management plan, must be implemented consistently in a manner that teaches and reinforces the desired behavior with students.

2.3 Collaboration Between Home and School

In designing teaching methods and environment, the input of family members of students with disabilities can be invaluable (Edwards & Da Fonte, 2012). Parents or guardians often have very useful information on instructional strategies and support that have been successful for their child in the past. Strong communi- cation and collaboration between educators and parents/guardians are critical to ensure that stu- dents are receiving the most sup- port possible (Whitbread, Bruder, Fleming, & Park, 2007).

The annual IEP meeting is a required interaction between the home and school, but contact should not be limited to this time. Rather, it should occur frequently throughout the year. The special or general education teacher should make initial contact with parents or guardians and facili- tate ongoing communication about the student’s progress. When parents or guardians and teachers work together, the rela- tionship is beneficial for everyone involved, especially the student.

Blend Images/SuperStock

Some parents or guardians may feel uneasy about participating in school activities, especially an IEP meeting, so teachers need to reach out to parents to build a successful partnership. If parents can work with teachers to support student learning at home, the student may benefit tremendously.

Tips for the General Classroom To help involve parents and guardians (and other family members) with schools, teachers should keep in mind these important guidelines (Cook, Shepherd, Cook, & Cook, 2012; Edwards & Da Fonte, 2012):

• Be positive and proactive. • Respect the cultural background of the family. • Understand the roles within the family. • Listen to family concerns. • Ensure communication between home and school. • Ask families provide similar school supports at home. • Provide necessary knowledge and tools for families.

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CHAPTER 2Section 2.4 Assessment of Students in Special Education

2.4 Assessment of Students in Special Education

All schools are mandated by NCLB and IDEA 2004 to include students with disabilities in school-wide assessments. Teachers want to have effective classroom management pro-grams in place in order to deliver effective instruction so that, among other outcomes, students perform successfully on assessments.

Most students in special education will participate in the regular assessments, but with accommo- dations. Modified or alternate assessments are possible, but NCLB dictates that no more than 2% of students with disabilities can take a modified or alternate assessment (Fuchs, Seethaler, Fuchs, & Hamlett, 2008). Typically, the IEP team determines which assessment (i.e., regular or modified) is appropriate for the student (Salend, 2008; Thurlow, Lazarus, Thompson, & Morse, 2005).

Assessment Accommodations If a student requires accommodations during an assessment, the accommodations must be out- lined on the student’s IEP. If the accommodations are not listed on the student’s IEP, the student is not permitted to use the accommodations during an assessment. Common accommodations for assessments include the following (Bielinski, Ysseldyke, Bolt, Friedebach, & Friedebach, 2001; Rieck & Wadsworth, 2005; Schulte, Elliott, & Kratochwill, 2001; Thurlow et al., 2005):

• Additional time (e.g., “time and a half” or untimed) • Items read aloud • Breaks during testing • Calculator • Larger print/answer bubbles • Multiple choice instead of constructed response • Scribe dictates answers • Testing in small group or individual setting • Typewritten essay

Modified/Alternate Assessments When it is not reasonable for a student with a disability to participate in the standard assessment, even with accommodations, a modified or alternate assessment can be used. Typically, students with disabilities that are significant enough to mandate substantial modifications to a grade level assessment are allowed to take a modified or alternate assessment, but this must be no more than 2% of all students in the school district, as mandated by NCLB. Portfolios of a student’s work are often used to demonstrate student knowledge. A portfolio is a collection of student work; it can be paper-based (e.g., an essay or worksheet), video-based, or anecdotal (e.g., teacher obser- vation of student performance). Rating scales based on classroom observations or audio or video recordings of a student’s performance can also be created and assessed.

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CHAPTER 2Post-Test


• The IEP team decides the placement of students with disabilities and any accommoda- tions for assessments. Students may receive most of their instruction in the general classroom with accommodations, modifications, or support with a specialist, or they may be placed in a resource classroom or a self-contained classroom. Very few students attend schools that are not their local school.

• The student’s teachers collaborate to decide appropriate accommodations, modifica- tions, and approaches to providing instruction. Accommodations allow the student to participate in the general curriculum and change the way students interact with class- room material. Modifications change the classroom material the student learns.

• Schools should encourage parents and guardians to be integral in the student’s education. Parents and guardians may advocate for appropriate placement and services of the student.

• Almost all students with disabilities participate in the standardized school assessment, with no more than 2% of the student population being eligible for modified assessments. Standardized assessments, as mandated by NCLB, help determine whether students in schools are meeting state standards for academic learning.


1. Where do most students with disabilities receive the majority of their instruction? a. General classroom b. Special education classroom c. Resource room d. Self-contained classroom

2. What is the deciding factor in a student’s placement? a. The finances of the school district. b. Previous placements for other students with the same disability. c. The LRE of the individual student. d. Previous placements from the student’s IEP.

3. What is an accommodation? a. An alternate way to take an assessment. b. A change to the instructional content. c. An alteration that permits a student to participate in instruction without changing the

content of the instruction. d. A teaching change.

4. What is an example of a modification? a. Reduction in reading b. Use of a study carrel c. Use of manipulatives d. Use of a graphic organizer

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CHAPTER 2Post-Test

5. Why is collaboration important? a. More schools want teachers to work together. b. More schools are incorporating a push-in model for students with disabilities. c. The government is requiring a special education teacher in every classroom. d. More schools have more students with disabilities.

6. Which is an example of co-teaching? a. The general education teacher meets with the special education teacher once a week

to discuss a student’s IEP. b. The special education teacher teaches a large portion of the class while the general

education teacher teaches a small portion of the class. c. The general education teacher sends students to the resource room to work with the

special education teacher. d. The special education teacher helps a student with homework while the general edu-

cation teacher teaches the rest of the class.

7. Why is explicit instruction beneficial when teaching students with disabilities? a. It gives students the right answer. b. It is individualized for each student. c. It stimulates all parts of the student’s brain. d. It provides multiple demonstrations, practice, and feedback from the teacher.

8. How is differentiation similar to UDL? a. Both were designed for students in special education. b. Both outline principles for providing individualized instruction. c. Both outline principles for teaching in small groups. d. Both can be used to prepare students for modified assessments.

9. What mandates the participation of all students in school-wide assessments? a. PL 94-142 b. NCLB c. IDEA 2004 d. NCLB and IDEA 2004

10. Which is not a common assessment accommodation? a. Use of manipulatives b. Extended time c. Test read aloud d. Use of scribe

Answers: 1 (a); 2 (c); 3 (c); 4 (a); 5 (b); 6 (b); 7 (d); 8 (b); 9 (d); 10 (a)

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CHAPTER 2Additional Resources

Discussion Questions

1. How does an IEP team make placement decisions? 2. When are accommodations used? When are modifications used? 3. How do teachers collaborate? 4. What are the advantages of explicit instruction, differentiation, and UDL? 5. How can teachers involve parents in the education of students with disabilities? 6. What are the regulations for including students in a modified assessment?

Answers and Rejoinders to Pre-Test

1. False. The placement of students in general classrooms depends upon the strengths and needs of the individual student, and a one-size-fits-all approach based on disability should not be considered by the IEP team.

2. True. Most students with disabilities benefit from spending some, if not all, of their school day participating in the general curriculum in the general classroom.

3. False. Collaboration involves general and special education teachers working together, but the teachers do not necessarily teach in the same classroom. With co-teach- ing, a general and special education teacher share the same classroom.

4. True. If teachers work with parents or guardians, students with disabilities receive support at home and school.

5. False. Only 2% of a school’s student population may take a modified assessment. Most students with disabilities will take the school’s standardized assessment with accommodations.

Additional Resources

• This site from the National Association of Special Education Teachers has many resources for teachers of students in special education. www.naset.org

• This site provides a list of evidence-based practices in general and special education. ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc

• This site provides a list of evidence-based practices in general and special education. www.bestevidence.org

• This site includes evaluation charts of progress-monitoring assessments and evidence- based practices in special education. www.rti4success.org

• This site provides insight into designing lessons using explicit instruction. www.explicitinstruction.org

• This site provides information about differentiating instruction. www.differentiationcentral.com

• The National Center on Student Outcomes provides information on modified and alternate assessments. www.cehd.umn.edu/NCEO/TopicAreas/AlternateAssessments/altAssessTopic.htm

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CHAPTER 2Key Terms

Acronyms Used in Chapter 2

Acronym Definition

ADHD Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder

BIP Behavioral Intervention Plan

ED Emotional Disorders

FBA Functional Behavioral Assessment

FAPE Free Appropriate Public Education

IDEA 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

IEP Individualized Education Program

LRE Least Restrictive Environment

NCLB No Child Left Behind

PBS Positive Behavior Support

UDL Universal Design for Learning

Key Terms

accommodation An alteration to the way a student interacts with classroom material or participates in classroom activities.

assistive technology Any item, equipment, or product that helps a student with a disability interact with classroom materials or partici- pate in classroom activities.

classroom management Everything a teacher does in the classroom to ensure smooth deliv- ery of classroom instruction.

collaboration The effort of all teachers and specialists to work together to create effec- tive instructional plans for students with disabilities.

correctional facility A place where students spend time if they have broken the law. A school runs within the correctional facility.

co-teaching When a special education teacher and general education teacher provide instruc- tion in the same classroom.

differentiation An approach to instructional design that requires teachers to consider a student’s learning profile, readiness level, and interests.

evidence-based practices Instructional meth- ods that have been proven by research to be beneficial for most students most of the time.

explicit instruction A teaching approach that requires teachers to explain and practice concepts with students in a straightforward manner.

general classroom The typical classroom set- ting for students without disabilities.

general curriculum The instruction or course of study for typical students.

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CHAPTER 2References

home setting Instruction provided, by a teacher or aide, in the student’s home when a student experiences a long illness or absence from school.

hospital setting Instruction provided, by a teacher or aide, in a hospital environment when a student experiences a long illness.

modification A change to the content of class- room material.

Positive Behavior Support (PBS) A classroom- or school-wide system of positive rules and expectations to guide student behavior.

private school A school that does not receive funds from the federal government for the education of children.

pull-out program A program in which stu- dents with similar needs are pulled out of the general classroom to receive extra support.

push-in model When a special education teacher or specialist comes into a general classroom to provide specialized support or instruction for students with disabilities.

residential facility A school that provides highly specialized instruction for students with disabilities. The students often live on the school’s campus.

resource classroom A classroom where stu- dents with disabilities come to receive addi- tional instruction or support.

scaffolds Levels of teacher support to help student learning.

self-contained classroom A classroom devoted to the education of students with dis- abilities who have highly specialized needs.

separate school A school devoted to the edu- cation of students with disabilities.

supplementary aids or services Any com- ponent added to enhance the academic or behavioral instruction of a student with a disability.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) An approach to instructional design that requires teachers to use multiple means of representa- tion, action and expression, and engagement.


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