Where Does Special Education Fit In?
Students with disabilities have historically been the main responsibility of the special education teacher with regard to paperwork and documentation. However, the service delivery model of the resource room for learning disabilities has changed considerably. Many students with disabilities also struggle to learn to read or calculate. Most students with learning disabilities in reading are also dyslexic. If effective and appropriate intervention, matched to their core disability exists in the mainstream, then placement for that service in Tier 2 or 3 would meet not only free appropriate public education (FAPE), but least restrictive environment (LRE) as well. Therefore, students with disabilities might receive effective instruction across all tiers. General education and special education are more tightly aligned than ever.
The concept of RTI is becoming pivotal in how American classrooms will teach basic skills. The National Reading Panel has challenged classrooms to match their reading instructional practices to the needs of their students. Additionally, progress monitoring with effective intervention has significantly reduced the number of students referred to special education. RTI is a concept that provides added benefit to students regardless of diverse backgrounds or ability levels.
A practical benefit for special education students, particularly those with reading or math disabilities, is the use of progress monitoring. The ability to document the effectiveness of intervention compared to student growth toward educational outcomes is the hallmark of the standards based IEP. Considerable research exists (Lyon et al., 2001) that shows that removal of a student to a resource room does not promote the gains anticipated. Many IEPs are poorly written and have too many objectives. Understanding the predictive validity of the norms will help future special education teachers to ensure that students with disabilities move toward competence in the tools of academic learning such as reading, writing and math. Until a student with a disability is measured and monitored in a manner that demonstrates growth toward enrolled grade level independence, FAPE cannot be guaranteed.