Redefining Achievement and Success to Advance Special Learners
written by: David Graham Farnsworth
• edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas
• updated: 7/12/2012
The improvement of special education students has to entail engagement along with achievement to define success. The learner's potential individually and overall well-being are significant factors when ascertaining a positive outcome.
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Awareness of Standards
Efforts to move special education students forward in the educational system concentrate on the areas of comprehension found within state standards, metacognitive strategies, standards-based individualized education programs and effective instructional methods in metacognitive and comprehension strategies. Appropriate evaluations to assess the numerous attainments that special learners can achieve enhance classroom success. The focus to continue involving parents in their child's education is significant to advance special learners toward graduation. Engaging and giving parents a voice in their child's education remains paramount to furthering educational pursuits. It is the role of educators to keep parents of special education students continually involved and informed to ensure their child's successful outcome. Additionally, advancing the merits of inclusion continues to be a focus to propel special education students toward greater promise. An integral part of promoting increased classroom inclusion involves better defining the public's concept of inclusion – and how it influences the success of student placement.
What remains influential in advancing special learners in the educational system, are best practices like using standards-based Individualized Education Plans (IEP's). Individual Education Plans that are standards-based must retain their teacher focus. This continued focus aids disabled students in achieving classroom success. An important component within the standards-based IEP's is goals founded upon standards at grade level. To benefit optimally, the special learner, teachers and all educators (special and general) need to be more cognizant of these standards:
accommodations must be met to reach grade-level content access,
instructional strategies should help needy special learners accomplish individualized goals and
grade-level standards continuity should be maintained.
Helping special education students to advance, remains contingent upon student goals that adhere to the mastery of individualized strategy and grade-level content.
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Building upon the foundation of learned skills and background facts, truths and principles from previous grades drives new individualized instructional strategy. Special learner instruction must concentrate on “thinking about one's own thinking (metacognition)" and all higher-order thinking skills. It proves instrumental in instructional system design. Teachers need to be successful incorporating the acquisition of high-order thinking, metacognition, and compare and contrast methods of comprehension. These methods propel students toward a promising academic future. Skills like analyzing, inference of meaning, critiquing, interpreting and synthesizing must be met adequately and maintained to ensure an ongoing positive classroom outcome. Instruction of these strategies – along with comprehension of metacognition – is monumental to student understanding and application of concepts to move on to more difficult exercises each grade level.
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Metacognition and Instructional Strategy
The special education teacher can further her students' progress by helping them realize their own selves as learners. The student's continued success relies on their own ability at self-monitoring to assess if they are learning. A learner must know if the strategy is working and make necessary changes. Regular classroom and special education teachers need to be adept at employing metacognition to design deeper learning and promote growth – particularly for readers that struggle. Encouraging a “thinking aloud" method, as well as modeling, will further metacognitive and comprehension strategies. Modeling entails showing the student a strategy by thinking aloud. Over time, the learner slowly becomes part of the modeled behavior. Since the reading learning disabled do not comprehend reading's thinking process, they are given detailed instruction. Thinking aloud fosters a visual image of their tasks as they read – resulting in an anchoring effect for learning.
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Achievement and Success
While there is no doubt student achievement and success in the classroom remains the focal point, “achievement" and “success" are loosely defined due to diversity among the learning-disabled population. To further real student progress, educators must define “success" and achievement" in terms of the individual student potential, multiple intelligences, overall well-being and progression in the classroom. Student betterment must include engagement, as well as achievement. Basing student assessments upon multiple intelligences and differentiation instead of traditional evaluations propagate a better understanding of diverse learners. Assessments that stress product in lieu of process must be replaced.
In regards to the overall special education system, educators should not remove students with disabilities from systems of accountability or hastily rely on methods of examinations that are less taxing as quick answers to the IEP problem. Do away with caps on how many students' scores may be counted on alternate assessments and replace them with percentages as a means to review how states are employing assessments. No special education student who has a chance for success in the general education curriculum should have that chance taken away. The performance gap of students with disabilities and the general education population is immense. Educators can greatly lessen this gap by improving the curriculum of special education programs. Everyone involved must increase their expectations and opportunities for learners to succeed at the higher level and improve curriculum. All these efforts combined will increase the likelihood of moving special education students forward.