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Haley23 Haley23 is offline
Joined: Jul 2012
Posts: 11,060
Senior Member

Joined: Jul 2012
Posts: 11,060
Senior Member

Old 12-17-2017, 02:21 PM
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I'm also a sped teacher. In our building, it really depends on the kid and the situation. Legally in my state, the child must have at least 6 data points that show they aren't progressing in order to be labeled as learning disabled. We progress monitor all below grade level kids weekly in my building, so that's not really a hurdle for us. We don't have set timelines like "must spend 2 6 week cycles in each tier" or anything like that. In some cases, there are legal reasons why we can't test, such as the child needs glasses but parents won't go get them (and yes we provide free vouchers) or the child has terrible attendance.

I also know that based on the testing we give, it's extremely difficult if not impossible for a K student to qualify as learning disabled (unless they literally have NO academic skills- not a single letter, etc.) Kids who come in "low" and stay low tend to be tested by the end of 1st grade/beginning of 2nd grade, because mid-1st grade we switch to progress monitoring/testing based on real reading passages, rather than early reading skills. Generally, even kids with difficulties will show progress on early reading skills, so the evidence for testing is not there at those ages. When they're asked to do all of that at once to read a non-decodable passage, that's when the difficulty becomes more evident. On average, when a "low" kid that moves into our school later, assuming there are no other factors, they tend to get tested by the end of that school year, assuming interventions were provided with fidelity, matched the student's need, and low growth was shown.

I know this isn't true in every building/district, but my district truly doesn't provide more for kids that have a sped label, especially if the main/only problem is reading. My district has chosen to invest most in reading interventionists and coaches. In most buildings, there are more reading intervention teachers than sped teachers. In my building we have 2 of each, but the other sped teacher and I also teach math and writing, and of course are also responsible for case management, testing, and all of the paperwork that goes along with IEPs and evaluations.

Often times, the interventionists are able to see kids for more time and in smaller groups than we can. They also have access to actual tier 3/intervention programs, whereas typically nothing is bought for us. For many years, children who got tested and moved into sped groups actually began receiving worse/less interventions than they were getting in title 1. For example, they'd move from a group of 3 students that was meeting for 45 minutes, 5 days per week, to a group of 7 students that was meeting for 30 minutes, 4 days per week.

Classroom teachers were fully aware of this and continued to fight tooth and nail for sped testing. I never understood why. I thought that perhaps despite me always saying this isn't true, they thought I had some "special sped knowledge" that other teachers don't have that could "fix" disabilities. Some of my teammates felt that it took some responsibility off of their plate because they could "prove" that something was "wrong" with the child and not feel as guilty if they didn't make as much progress.

My district/building has made some changes this year. For one, they've quit referring to title 1 as "tier 2" and sped as "tier 3" and instead have made these labels based on time and intensity in interventions, as they should be. Under ESSA, interventionists are now legally allowed to meet IEP minutes. This has solved the problem of kids getting identified and then receiving less services. In most cases, we haven't gotten to the point where kids get identified for sped and actually start to receive more services, though. I would like to see us get to a point where the IEP actually provided more time/more intensity (even if it's not me who gets to teach the smallest groups).

So, my long winded answer is that it doesn't really matter when a child is tested because basically the IEP is providing the child with some extra paperwork and a label attached to their name. It doesn't come with more or better services. We're not allowed to provide modifications for any LD student and any gen ed student can get accommodations (including for state testing) so that's not a factor either. I suspect that more schools are like this than people realize. Most teachers at my school continue to see getting low kids into sped as an accomplishment even with all evidence that it doesn't provide more for the child.

Last edited by Haley23; 12-17-2017 at 03:09 PM..
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