Children with and without disabilities are increasingly more challenging in schools. Current legislation has increased accountability for the education of all children which has forced schools across the nation to redesign instruction for all children regardless of educational placement. “What Works in Special Education and for At-risk Learners” focuses on the implementation of general education initiatives in programs and schools serving all students including those with mild to severe disabilities. The book will provide strategies for improving the educational environment. The book will also look at issues that impact all levels of the school system emphasizing that in order to make effective changes the vision and goal setting must begin with the Superintendent and extend to the building administrator, the classroom teacher, the student and parent.What Works in Special Education offers a critical look at the current educational system and its impact on students while offering specific strategies for teachers and administrators to change the school climate in order to effectively teach all children. This book provides a framework, procedures and specific tools for assessing and implementing systems and strategies at all levels (from Central Office to the Classroom) in order to ensure that all children general grow and learn. These strategies can be used by general and special educators based on a district or a school’s need to change the environment in order to increase positive student outcomes for all children regardless of abilities or disabilities. Tools and strategies are provided to cover topics including 1) Creating effective teams using strategies that increase communication, 2) Building leadership capacity among staff members 3) Developing, implementing , monitoring viable curriculum 4) Assessing engaged learning in special education classrooms and 5) Assessing school and teacher level factors for quality of implementation. The primary focus of the book is to assist teachers and administrators at all levels of a school system in implementing general education initiatives such as RTI/PBIS, general education curriculum and other strategies in order to include and not exclude students with disabilities or at-risk learners.
We cannot solve the problems of today with the same thinking that gave us the problems in the first place. Albert Einstein. Can we improve the ideology of special education enough to change how people view special education as an institution? We do not believe that children with disabilities are any more or less special then their peers. This belief that some children are so significantly different that they are perceived as needing something distinctly separate is the problem with our current system. The term special education should imply hope and support for students and yet it is perceived as a burden to the educational system. As an educator, you must believe that you can teach all students with proper training and support. You need to commit yourself to finding a way to teach all students whatever they need and to learn and believe that everyone will be successful. But, be willing to redefine success based on each individual child. Like so many of our colleagues and contemporary leaders in education today, we recognize that the education system is in need of improvements in the United States on many levels particularly when looking at the changing needs of the future. The approach to teaching and learning for all students must be addressed. Instructional strategies for the diverse learner are a focus for improved instruction in the school and classroom. How to provide professional development is a primary area of concern in developing schools that meet the changing needs of a global society as well. All of the supports for teaching and learning must be provided without jeopardizing the fundamental philosophies of education where a “student centered approach” to teaching and learning should be the backbone of education in America. Consistently, the piece of the puzzle not being address is how the general education student with an IEP (formerly thought of as a special education student) as well as other students who do not learn in the traditional school environment will be productive in the global society of tomorrow. It is almost as if there is a feeling that the crisis of the general education systems needs to take precedence over the special education system because the former has to be improved before we even begin to look at the latter. In our opinion, and research shows it as well, this is faulty thinking on two levels. First, special education and general education are NOT two separate systems with different goals. Therefore, improving one and not the other is counterproductive because they are one in the same. Second, the premise of the current educational system overwhelmingly indicates that what we are doing in education in the United States is not working. We are specifically rethinking and examining the choices between critical components of our past educational system combined with the new challenges of our future generations. So, it stands to reason that now is the time to think like a 21st-- century leader. The challenge for the new leadership of today is to create an interdisciplinary approach in the application of new career possibilities for our future workforce. This should be done by creating a sustainable, viable curriculum that identifies essential learning skills for all learners. This book provides a framework and initiatives that can be used to increase the quality of education for all students. We have found that the strategies in this book can be used in school environments regardless of severity of individual student needs.
Dr. Walters and Mrs. Fisher have over twenty years of experience working with students with disabilites as well as at-risk learners. Both authors are committed to the quality of education for all children particularly those who struggle in the traditional classroom setting.