Is it really the least restrictive environment? Special education vs Mainstream

“Holding to rigorous standards” doesn’t always mean what it seems to mean for students with severe disabilities, especially when it comes to standardized testing. See below for why.

The Qwiet Muse

*The following is based on personal experience and observation both with my own children and those I have advocated for in the past. I realize there are indeed success stories involving a smooth and beneficial transition from a special education setting to a general education one. Unfortunately, there are many more examples of the system failing.

The methodology behind mainstreaming special needs students into the general education classroom is too often poorly thought out and implemented. It takes too broad of an approach to the special educational needs of many students, and in doing so, only serves to hinder, not help.

Special education was created for a reason. For a population of students with different needs than many of their peers, different abilities which sometimes require a separate and unique forum in which they can learn, an environment better suited to meet their needs. The school system has been caught…

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Get Students Extra Time on the SAT and PSAT!

Warning: the resources on this page open in a new window. 

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Over the summer, I learned the how to apply for accommodations for the College Board tests (AP, SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, SAT Subject Tests).

1. Go to the Students with Disabilities page on the College Board site

2. Sign up to be your school’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Coordinator by filling out the SSD Coordinator form and faxing it in. What does it mean to be the SSD Coordinator? It just means that you are in charge of getting parental permission to release student data to the College Board, and that you are the main contact for the College Board when it comes to providing accommodations for students to take College Board tests.

3. Follow the instructions you get by email. You’ll have to take a 10-minute “class” about the basics of checking identification at a testing site (which you probably won’t have to do unless your students require extensive accommodations beyond extra time and extra breaks), and you’ll have to create an SSD Online account.

Now, because the College Board has pretty stringent guidelines for what documentation is required to get accommodations, no student is guaranteed to get the requested accommodations. Based on anecdotal information from other Special Education teachers, it’s usually pretty easy to get extra time.

I won’t lie: there is some serious paper shuffling that goes into this process, but once you get your students accommodations for the College Board tests, you never have to apply for those accommodations again. And! The College Board gives you a stipend for your efforts, which always helps. I have no idea how much the stipend is, but if you were doing this for the money, you’d have chosen a different occupation, right? We’re learning about this together. So, let’s keep learning, shall we?