Your first step should be to communicate directly with your child’s classroom teacher. If the difficulty persists and your child attends a SHEMESH partner school then you should be in touch with the school’s On-Site Special Educator (OSE). The OSE is the individual who coordinates the school’s student support team, conducts classroom observations and collects data regarding a student’s behavior and academic performance. Once this information is available, the team will arrange a meeting to determine a course of action.
Parents are invited to be a part of the team and to attend the meeting. Depending on the outcome of this meeting, students may be referred for further testing. Once testing is conducted and reviewed your child will be assigned to a tier of service (see below for more information regarding tier of service: How does the school determine what services my child needs? ) If your child already has a documented disability a Learning Center teacher may be assigned to work with your child. The Learning Center teacher works closely with the classroom teacher and the parents and provides quarterly progress reports in writing.
Testing is recommended when academic difficulty persists even after a period of intervention. When students struggle despite small group instruction and/or extra practice and reinforcement, parents are encouraged to get their child tested. Psychoeducational testing results in information regarding cognitive functioning, academic strengths and weaknesses and preferred learning styles. This testing will also explore attention and executive function concerns. Speech and language testing is recommended when receptive, expressive and/or social language is of concern. Occupational therapy testing is recommended when fine and/gross motor issues such as clumsiness, poor handwriting and other visual perceptual difficulties are evident. When results of testing are available, parents should be sure to ask questions and feel they have a clear understanding of the results, including the scores as well as the recommendations.
SHEMESH views collaboration as a key component to student success. It is important that test results are shared with the on-site special educator, school administrators and classroom teachers. A close review of the recommendations is useful for developing a plan of action that can be implemented with success. Small group or individualized instruction in one or more areas of weakness coupled with classroom accommodations and/or modifications are likely to be a part of the plan. Speech and language therapy and/or occupational therapy may also be appropriate as well as Title I services for reading and/or math.
SHEMESH uses a collaborative team approach when determining services for students. The team, which consists of school administrators, on-site special educator, classroom teachers, parents, and other service providers, jointly decides the tier of service that will meet the student’s needs. Three tiers of service are available: Tier I services include case management, consultation with the classroom teacher, general classroom accommodations, benchmark assessments, classroom observation and co-teaching. Tier II services include all of the above in addition to scheduled Learning Center sessions or small group instruction one to three times weekly. Classroom support, specific accommodations and modifications to access grade level curriculum and progress monitoring are also Tier II services. Tier III services include all of the above, with students being seen daily in the Learning Center using a pull-out or push-in service model as appropriate.
The early intervention team consists of an early childhood special educator and a reading specialist. They are on-site in the preschools at each of our partner schools for approximately one to two days each weekly. They work in consultation with classroom teachers providing support for classroom management, instruction and early literacy. They also work with small groups of selected students to improve social skills, phonological awareness and beginning reading. The early intervention team works closely with the preschool team to identify students at-risk and will assist in the development of an intervention plan that may necessitate formal testing and result in more intensive student support in the Learning Center.
There are many things that families can do to support literacy in the home that include the following:
Executive Function (EF) coaching is available through SHEMESH at our partner schools. Typically, parents or teachers of students with EF difficulties will be concerned about a student’s ability to organize themselves and their materials, manage their time and complete and turn in assignments when due. These students are referred to our EF coach through the school administration or directly by parents. Our EF coach then reviews the information available, speaks with teachers, parents and often the students themselves to determine whether they would make a good candidate for coaching. Criterion for candidacy includes a diagnosis of EF disorder, or at least testing that evidences weaknesses in that area, motivation to improve and family participation in the process.
Child Find is a special education service provided by the public school system for identifying from ages three through twenty-one who are suspected of having an educational disability and who may be eligible for special education and related services. The Child Find program is particularly important because children with disabilities can benefit greatly from early intervention and other related services. Child Find is a program that even parentally placed private school children are eligible for. If you believe that your child would benefit from Child Find contact your school’s preschool director or On-Site Special Educator for a referral form (locally known as the PEN form). Once the form is submitted, you should receive a notice for an initial meeting at your local public school. Bring any data, school reports and anecdotal records you have to support your intention to get testing. Being accompanied by a parent advocate can be very helpful. The parent advocate is an individual who has experience with the Child Find process and can help you with information, skills, and tools to help you navigate the system with ease. Maryland SNAP is a program that provides parent advocacy at no cost available through the Center for Jewish Education. Contact Martha Goodman at 410-535-5012 for more information about MD SNAP.
The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the SAT and other standardized tests, allows for reasonable testing accommodations for people with disabilities or other health-related needs. These include, but are not limited to: extended time, breaks, a reader, a writer, and a separate testing area. To qualify for accommodations, documentation of a disability must be provided. Parents should speak to the school’s administration to be sure that the documentation is provided in a timely fashion. For more information please view the ETS website.