Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Data, Data, DATA!

The number of parent referrals for special education make me think that someone has written my email on the bathroom stall of every single establishment within the ten mile radius of my school. Better yet, there may have been a mailing or TV commercial.

As our latest cycle of SRBI interventions has begun, report cards are around the corner, and the 100th day of school came and went, I have had an influx of teacher requests for meetings to discuss testing. Often these students are behind academically and do present with some concerns. However, how do we triage to meet the needs of students in our building and on our caseload?! How do you "pick" which child gets tested first?!

My team is working to ensure that we have data to back up a referral, especially when you review eligibility guidelines (!), but often what teachers say is: 
They have been in Tier 3 since October and haven't made much progress!

This raises some red flags: (1) are they being provided with intensive, individualized instruction with fidelity?, (2) October was 4 months ago and since then we have had two vacations and 7 snow days, (3) what is "much progress?" how much? what's the trendline? do you have graphs (!), (4) have we changed up the intervention if they are not making expected gains to ensure we are pinpointing the correct skills?

My school leans towards two measures of progress monitoring data: DIBELS ORF and Cloze Maze. I have concerns with this. Interventions are not always targeting student needs. Not all teachers are doing Tier 1 probes beyond the Fountas and Pinnell and rely heavily on the ORF and Cloze Maze to track progress. What about the Core Phonics Survey? Developmental Spelling Assessment? ANY OTHER CBM MEASURE!!??

Please check out this resource from Elmbrook Schools on progress monitoring: here

After you have done your diligence to collect some data, these kids are often trumped by parent requests that come through. I am required to schedule a Planning and Placement Team meeting within a reasonable time (i.e., 5 days). This may bump kids down the list until our staff is more available to be able to meet testing demands. However, as we enter into Annual Review season, I do not forsee my schedule freeing up any time soon. #lesigh

So...what's a first year school psych to do? 

This young professional has been seeking supervision and attempting to keep her supervisor apprised of all the referrals coming through and where our testing load is at. However, this is not necessarily a building-based issue; our entire department is struggling. 

I really feel that there is a systemic change that needs to occur, even if in our building alone. I have been probing to start the conversation about examining our tiered supports and see if we need to strengthen Tier 1, as well as our Tiers 2 and 3. We also need to educate staff and parents about the types of data we need to collect and to ensure that the interventions we provide are targeting skills. Moving between tiers should be based on DATA not on the length of time spent in an intervention, especially when jumping to special ed. Some kids might just need tiered levels of support; doesn't make them special ed!

Does anyone have any advice to share about how to deal with this issue or the system you have in your schools?

Until next thyme, 

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