Selected Readings: NYCTF Guide to NYC Special Education Classroom Settings

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1 Selected Readings: NYCTF Guide to NYC Special Education Classroom Settings To enhance the observation experience, please find helpful information below on what you can expect to encounter within special education classrooms in NYC public schools. In addition, we have provided several observation tools to complement your visit and focus your observations on specific aspects of classrooms serving students with special needs. Overview: Methods of Delivering Special Education Services Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), all school districts in the United States must place students identified with a disability in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible. The LRE clause mandates that school districts must educate students with disabilities in the general education classroom, along with their nondisabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate. Students identified with a disability must be carefully assessed to determine their degree of academic, behavioral and medical needs, and educated with non-disabled peers to the maximum degree possible. As a result of the LRE mandate, the manner in which special education services are delivered to students with special needs has shifted significantly, with more and more students learning in general education settings, with their general education peers, but with additional material and human supports, such as special educators and paraprofessionals (special education teacher s aide). This trend is known as the inclusion movement. Many studies confirm that students derive significant benefits from being educated with their mainstream peers, provided appropriate supports are offered. However, not all students with disabilities can have their learning needs met in general education classrooms. Some students may require a more highly structured classroom environment, with fewer students, to meet their educational needs. Such smaller settings allow the special educator and support personnel (such as a paraprofessional, when deemed appropriate) to provide more intensive support. In New York City, a variety of special education settings exist to support students with a wide variety of special needs, whether they are academic, emotional, and/or physical. NYC public schools serve approximately 100,000 students with disabilities. New York City public schools provide services for children with mild, moderate, and severe disabilities. However, the majority of New York City special educators teaching in elementary and secondary schools serve students with mild to moderate disabilities. In all situations, however, students with disabilities must be taught in the least restrictive environment as deemed appropriate to their needs.

2 Common Methods for Delivering Special Education Services in NYC: From Least Restrictive to Most Restrictive General Education with Non-Special Education Services When a student is noted by an educator to be experiencing challenges academically and/or behaviorally, the first course of action (and the least restrictive) is for the general education teacher to provide targeted interventions to remediate academic deficiencies and/or curtail behavioral problems. These interventions must be documented by the general education teacher to assess whether such interventions have been effective in addressing areas of concern, and may serve as the basis for further interventions. General Education with Related Services IEP Mandated A child might require additional Related Services as specified on his/her Individual Educational Plan (IEP), such as speech/language therapy, individual counseling with a guidance counselor or school psychiatrist, or physical/occupational therapy. The IEP refers both to the educational program to be provided to a child with a disability and to the written document that describes that educational program. These services are delivered to the child in the general education classroom. These services, particularly speech/language therapy and physical/occupational therapy, are most frequently found in elementary students IEPs. General Education with Special Education Teacher Support Services/ Push-In When a student with a disability has a demonstrable need for greater support, related to academics or behavior, a special educator may be assigned to help that student individually during the course of the regular school day. A SETSS (Special Education Teacher Support Services) teacher may push-in to a child s general education classroom to provide needed support students who have an identified disability on a regular basis, for usually for one period per day. Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT, also known as Integrated Co-Teaching Services) In order to integrate special education students into classes with their general education peers, both a general education teacher and a special education teacher co-teach the class in this setting. In many cases, the general education teacher provides content specialization, whereas the special educator differentiates instruction to the specific needs of the special education students in the classroom. There are numerous methods for team teaching, and practices vary from school to school. According to NYC regulations, CTT classrooms must be comprised of 60% general education students and 40% students with disabilities. Collaborative Team Teaching is an important development in the inclusion movement, as it has given many students (who would have otherwise been excluded) access to the general curriculum. Collaborative Team Teaching can be available to students either full-time (all classes) or part-time (usually mathematics and/or English Language Arts) depending on the needs of the individual student. General Education with Special Education Teacher Support Services/ Pull-Out Targeted special education services may also be provided to students with disabilities by a SETSS provider outside the general education classroom setting. Often referred to as Resource Room, special educators bring together a small group of students to provide academic remediation and to teach study skills. This setting is considered to be more restrictive than SETSS push-in services and Collaborative Team Teaching, as the child is actually removed from his general education classroom. Special Class Services (12:1 Elementary/Middle School; 15:1 High School) Students with disabilities that require significant academic and emotional support often require a more structured environment, with fewer students, in order to provide them with intensive services and instruction. In a special class, students with disabilities have the opportunity for more individualized instruction specific to their needs. In NYC elementary and middle schools, the standard ratio of students to teachers is 12:1; at the high school level, it is 15:1.

3 Special Class Services (12:1:1 Elementary/Middle School; 15:1:1 High School) Similar to the above 12:1 and 15:1 settings, some students with significant academic and emotional impairments may require the support of an additional adult in the classroom. Most frequently, a paraprofessional (also known as a teacher s aide) is assigned to the class in order to assist the special educator and provide additional support services to students. A paraprofessional is a special-education worker who is not licensed to teach, but performs many duties both individually with students and organizationally in the classroom. In classes that require an additional adult, special class ratios are expressed as 12:1:1 (12 students to 1 teacher to 1 paraprofessional), and at the high school level 15:1:1 (15 students to 1 teacher to 1 paraprofessional). District 75 Schools District 75 is a non-geographic district that provides educational, vocational and behavior support programs across all five boroughs of New York City for students who are on the autism spectrum, severely emotionally challenged, and/or multiply disabled. District 75 consists of 56 schools, home and hospital instruction, and vision and hearing services. The ratios of students to teachers to paraprofessionals that are found in District 75 schools are: 12:1:1, 8:1:1, 6:1:1, 12:1:4

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5 The Spring Classroom Visit A critical component of your summer Pre-Service Training is the time you will spend at your Field Experience Site where you and another Fellow will be paired with a Cooperating Teacher in summer school and given the opportunity to teach students. Because summer school classrooms sometimes look different from regular school year classrooms due to student enrollment and subject areas of need, your Field Experience classroom will not necessarily match the content area you ll be teaching in the fall. The Spring Classroom Visit will give you the opportunity to visit and observe a New York City classroom during the school year in the content area you ll teach next fall. The visit will also: Provide you with exposure to student populations in NYC public schools. Provide you with exposure to the roles and responsibilities of a NYC public school teacher. How to Use the Classroom Observation Tool These tools are designed to help guide your observation of multiple classes throughout a school day. Each tool will ask you to focus on a specific element of effective teaching, and you should finish the day with a stronger understanding of the pedagogy needed in New York City classrooms. Each tool is designed to take an entire class period. We recommend you use the guiding questions at the top of the tools to help focus your thinking during each observation.

6 Procedures Independent\Group Work The Mini-lesson Entering the Classroom Maximizing Instructional Time with Students (First Observation) As you visit this classroom, keep in mind the following questions: Are there clear procedures in this classroom? Are students engaged in meaningful work the entire time? Do the teacher and students show a sense of urgency in learning? How does the teacher explain new material? How does she check to see if students understand what she s explaining? Teacher Students Where is the teacher standing as students enter the classroom? What is she saying or doing? Do students enter the classroom in an orderly fashion or without direction? Do they know what materials to pick up and where to sit? How quickly do they start their work? How loud is the classroom? How does the teacher explain the lesson? Does she use clear steps or examples? Does she demonstrate the skill that students will need during independent work? Does she mostly talk? Write? Use visuals? Use hands-on demonstrations? What are students doing while the teacher explains the lesson (taking notes, watching the teacher, answering questions, etc.)? What percent of the class is paying attention and what percent is off task? What does the teacher do while students are working in groups or independently? Does the teacher spend more time with some students rather than others? Why do you think that is? Are students working independently or in groups? Are they all working on the same activity? What happens if a student needs support or wants to ask a question? What procedures do you see evidence of in this classroom (e.g. how to ask to use the bathroom, sharpening pencils, collecting homework, etc.)?

7 Directions & Behavioral Management (Second Observation) As you visit this classroom, keep in mind the following questions: Does the teacher address negative or off-task behavior? Does he acknowledge good behavior? Do the students respect and follow the teacher s directions? How did the teacher phrase his directions? Did he repeat them? Write them down? Ask students to repeat them? How did he ensure that students follow directions? Observe the Class Record the instructions/directions that the teacher gives the class and individual students (verbal, written, and non-verbal signals). Record how students respond to each direction, both verbally and through actions. Teacher Directions Ex. Open your books and turn to page 15. Let s start with the second paragraph. Anna, please begin reading out loud. Student Actions/Reactions Ex. Most students comply. But two seem to have not heard the page number and one student has her head down.

8 Motivation & Support (Third Observation) As you visit this classroom, keep in mind the following questions: How motivated did the students seem? How do you know? What did the teacher say or do to increase student motivation? What did the teacher say or do to support students who struggle academically? o Who struggle behaviorally? o Who excel academically and finish early? Observe the Class Record the attitudes and needs of students and how the teacher responds to them. Pay special attention to how the teacher motivates students and keeps them on task. Student Action Ex. A student has her head down on her desk. Teacher Response Ex. Teacher walks over and has a whispered conversation with the student. About 10 seconds into the conversation the student nods, sits up, and begins working.

9 Special Education Focus Setting Self Contained Besides the teacher, are there other adults in the room? How do they interact with students? Are all of the students working on the same activity? Do their activities change based on their groups? Or do they each have separate activities? How does the teacher modify materials and activities for struggling students? How is this material connected to what students learn in general education classes? Notes SETTS Is the SETTS teacher pushing in to a different classroom to support students, or do they pull students out to a separate area? Why do you think they made that choice? How many students does the SETTS teacher generally work with at one time? Are the materials the teacher uses modified off of the students general education classes, or are they completely different? How much do you think the SETSS teacher collaborates with the students general education teachers? Integrated Co-Teaching Do the teachers lead the lesson together or does one lead while the other supports? What is the second teacher doing if only one is in front of the room? Is it clear that both teachers have pre-planned, active roles in this lesson? Can you easily tell who the special education teacher and the special education students are? Why or why not?

10 Reflection: Now that you ve viewed three different special education settings, what do you think are the benefits and challenges of working in each setting?

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