It’s been a full month since school has started. And I know you don’t want to lose your special students – the ones who need special support. For example, Students With Disabilities, Gifted students, Early Intervention Program students, Remedial Education Program students, English Language Learners or Limited English Proficient students, 504, and other special students needed to be handled with care. Have you had IEP and 504 meetings yet? Did all your students roll over in your student information system? Which processes do you have in place to be sure they did?
As a leader ready for promotion, you are one who always has these students on your radar. You often just need to be more strategic in making sure you don’t lose these students. The way you guarantee that their needs are being met is to have a solid plan in place for them early in the year. Now. Now is the time to make sure their accommodations, the school’s processes and the state and federal coding regulations are solidified.
If you haven’t run any reports yet to ensure that all your special students are coded just furthers my perspective that processes must be strategic and intentional. Also, if you haven’t given a copy of your specials students’ plans and accommodations to their teachers yet – especially if schedules have changed since the beginning of the school year, that’s another justification for strengthening your processes. As a leader, you won’t rely on someone else to make sure this is done without your going back to verify. “Principals who effectively manage special education in their schools have to be one part lawyer, one part counselor—and a little bit fearless” (Samuels, 2018). And for any other programs that address special students who are not considered special education, handle them with just as much care – whether you are an aspiring principal or principal, leaders be vigilant.
As a leader, you recognize that you have a fiscal responsibility but you have an even greater responsibility to ensure that students who could be considered underachievers could actually become the most successful students in your school if you have processes and procedures in place for them. What is your current organizational framework for managing all your special students?
IDENTIFY EACH GROUP OF SPECIAL STUDENTS
As you examine the current program offerings in your school, make a list of each offering. Some programs are required by state or federal law to be addressed in all schools and some programs are school-based which is determined by needs or numbers. Once you’ve made a list of your programs in your building, do you know which students in your building actually qualify and are in each of these programs?
So now, you want to pull reports by grade level. I believe that grade levels alone can demand another level of attention. For example, if you have students with disabilities in their senior year who are in jeopardy of failing state assessments, they need to be disaggregated. If you have 9th grade students in the gifted program, you want to monitor them more closely in your school to ensure that you don’t lose them from your program. Ninth grade is a critical year.
Finally, you need to make sure that students are coded accurately to maximize the highest level of funding for your school and your district. I remember as EIP Coordinator, the Superintendent assigned me a task to call in every elementary school data clerk to professional learning in the central office. I collaborated with the district level personnel who supervised data clerks directly. Because I was responsible for the students and their instruction, as well as ultimately if the county earned all its funding for “my” program, I had to plan and organize the entire training days for 36+ data clerks – BEFORE the Full-Time Equivalent reports were run and reported for the county. It wasn’t until the Superintendent ensured that I had those county wide procedures in order that the county wide funding increased drastically. Which processes do you have in place to monitor the staff responsible for this in your building?
IDENTIFY PERSON(S) RESPONSIBLE FOR CODING SPECIAL STUDENTS
I think that the persons you make responsible for coding and scheduling your special students are extremely significant. It needs to be a team effort in gathering all the students by name and coding and scheduling them correctly. I believe in grassroots leadership. Even as assistant principal, I was tied to the hip with counselors and instructional coaches. As assistant principal, I was especially tied to counselors and data clerks during critical times of the year: 1) scheduling; 2) coding; and 3) testing. I’m sure I can think of other times such as 504 meetings and IEP meetings and other times. Leaders, you have to get to the root of what is going on with coding and scheduling your special students. Period. We really can’t afford to pass the buck at any level when it comes to special students.
Your coding and scheduling team could consist of the school’s data clerk, guidance counselor, and assistant principal . You may need to schedule periodic meetings with teachers who teach these students of course for instructional and programmatic monitoring of progress. However, this team is responsible for coding, scheduling, and ensuring that teachers know who these students are and the quality accommodations, modifications, and instruction they are required to give them. Then, 1) Identify who is responsible for making sure coding is done correctly in your Student Information System. 2) Make sure students’ data rolled over in the system correctly. 3) Print all the prior year’s data and compare it to this year’s data to make sure the data is pristine. In addition to your data clerk, identify a certified staff member (i.e., Guidance Counselor) and assistant principal to help her/him and then to verify its accuracy. Code, place, and serve students appropriately.
IDENTIFY PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR RUNNING REPORTS
Become intimate and extremely close to reports. I’m not about wasting paper but I really and truly developed into a data driven leader. I grew to value and desire pristine data. I think having a seven-year background as program director for both EIP and ESOL and English Language Arts, I began to rely on data, realizing that data is only as good as those who input it and analyze it. Are you data driven? How often do you run reports to
assess the temperature of your programs? Print your Full-time equivalent reports. How many students with disabilities should you have coded in the schedule with the coding for SWD? How many segments should EACH student have? Do they have what is required? How do you know? Sit with your data clerk and explore different reports and the information each provides.
Identify exactly what you need to monitor regularly. Which reports help you monitor these things? How many segments should your gifted students have? Are your EIP students receiving services in both reading and math? Are they in self-contained classes? What are the class size requirements? Do you meet these requirements? Which reports prove that you’re meeting the requirements?
Now, consider running reports by code/program. Then…
- Identify the person responsible for running reports.
- Run a report by program (EIP Roster, Gifted Rosters, etc.).
- Make sure total numbers of students are accurate.
- Run copies of the students’ schedules and make sure their required segments are correct.
- Then, print program teacher rosters to make sure students are assigned to the correct teacher.
- Run copies of the students’ updated accommodations for each teacher who serves them and have teachers sign for them.
CHECK TEACHER CERTIFICATION
Do you rely on central office or some person in your school to check teacher certification? Certification can impact instruction and funding. You, O great leader, must be vigilant in verifying this right now. Consider certification requirements by subject area and programs. Identify teachers who need specific certifications to teach specific students. You may want to verify teacher certification before printing your reports in the previous step. For example, a high school pull-out SPED Mathematics teacher should be highly qualified in the appropriate subjects in Mathematics. A teacher with gifted students should have the gifted endorsement/ certification ideally in order to get funding during that segment. If it takes shuffling some things around, that is why YOU are leader. YOU are resourceful. YOU know how to make adjustments with few to no disruptions of scheduling. But now you know how to be more strategic and even more vigilant.
So there you have it, just a few tips for ensuring that your special students are getting the support they need. Make sure you watch the video as a supplemental resource! And if you’re a woman educator, looking for some extra guidance in how to prepare for the promotion you desire, I would love to invite you to complete an application for screening.
Do you have any other steps to add for new students, new needs, new processes? Let me know if you’re implementing these steps! How is it working? Do you have questions? I created a new group! This group is for women educators who want to be promoted and women leaders who want to be unleashed to be legendary leaders. To join, click here.