Following are possible ways to provide scaffolded support for individual students in the context of classroom instruction. Careful observation of the outcome will provide additional information to an IEP team considering eligibility.
- Scaffold classroom instructions. Provide explicit instructions for tasks, minimizing the complexity of language and number of steps to be held in short-term memory. If possible, provide visual prompts for the steps. For example, draw pictures on an index card and tape it to the student’s desk, or make a classroom poster of the visual prompts.
- Scaffold attention and engagement. There are numerous ways to prompt individual students for attention and engagement without bringing it to the attention of the whole class and creating negative perceptions. A teacher can establish a visual cue for one or more students, such as a hand signal: “When I pull on my ear, that means I really want you to listen because I am saying something that is important.” Another way is to check for understanding with an individual student more frequently and unobtrusively. Making frequent eye contact with an individual student may suffice for alerting the student to be engaged.
- Scaffold the language of instruction. With careful observation, teachers will know when an individual student is having difficulty with the language of instruction. Teachers can check for understanding with individual students more frequently and provide simplified or more explicit explanations of vocabulary, concepts or procedures. For example, a teacher might tell the class, “I want you to calculate the distance the migrating geese travel,” following that with, “That means the geese are moving from one place to another,” or, “Calculate means to add it up.”
- Observation of student response. Through careful observation over time, teachers gain insight into whether the classroom difficulty is due to inherent learning difficulties or the process of second-language acquisition. This anecdotal evidence is important information for determining the need for a referral and further consideration by an IEP team.
Case Study: Alejandro
Alejandro is in late second grade and is considered ELL based on language proficiency testing, (Level 2, Beginning/Production: can speak conversationally with difficulty, understands only simple directions, very limited reading/writing skills). He was in a different state for Kindergarten and part of Grade 1. School records indicated that previous teachers were concerned about his academic difficulties. In January of Grade 1, screening assessment in reading led to Tier 2 intervention, with limited progress. Early in Grade 2, he was moved to Tier 3 intervention. According to his teacher, he continues to lag behind in all subjects, but especially in reading and writing.
The RTI team has been monitoring Alejandro’s progress in Tier 3 intervention. The progress monitoring graph below shows that after 10 weeks of monitoring and adjustments to the intervention, there is cause for concern about his responsiveness. Though there is an upward trend in the data, the gap is slowly widening. This may be sufficient evidence to warrant a referral for special education. The team uses the decision rules below to guide their discussion of Alejandro’s progress. The team makes a decision to move forward with a referral.
|Levels of Response
|Gap is closing
Can estimate timeline for meeting goal
|Gap is no longer growing or rate falling behind is slowing
|Gap continues to widen with no change of rate
Case Study: Alejandro
Alejandro is in late second grade and is considered ELL based on language proficiency testing, (Beginning/Production: understands only simple directions, very limited reading/writing skills). He was in a different state for Kindergarten and part of Grade 1. School records indicated that previous teachers were concerned about his academic difficulties. In January of Grade 1, screening assessment in reading led to Tier 2 intervention, with limited progress. Early in Grade 2, he was moved to Tier 3 intervention. According to his teacher, he continues to lag in all subjects, but especially in reading and writing.
Alejandro is Hispanic, with a home language of Spanish. He lives at home with two parents, who work outside the home, a grandmother and three siblings, one of whom is older and was born in his parents’ native country of Mexico. His mother completed high school; his father did not. He lives in a low-income neighborhood and qualifies for the Free/Reduced Lunch program.
|Interpretation of Evidence
|Language Proficiency Testing
Alejandro has moved only from the Beginning to the High Beginning level of proficiency from mid-first grade to present. He continues to struggle with following complex directions in class and written language.
|Limited progress in English language development despite increased ESL services
|Classroom Observation and Teacher Interviews
Alejandro is one of six ELLs in the classroom. ESL services are provided in-class. Alejandro is the only ELL experiencing significant reading difficulty. The teacher provided several supports, including preteaching vocabulary, using visuals, checking for understanding, and grouping students so that each ELL has a more language-proficient peer buddy. The ESL specialist has increased services, providing both pull-out and push-in support.
|Alejandro has had access to core instruction with appropriate language support. He has received intensive ESL support. Despite intensified Tier 3 intervention, he continues to struggle.
Standard scores on the reading assessment are well below expectations on all subtests. The examiner noted following acceptable accommodations for testing, including providing extra practice items.
Standard scores on math assessments were slightly below expectations, but not significantly delayed.
|Alejandro has a significant delay in reading, spelling and writing, especially with word- and sound-level skills.
The school psychologist noted significant auditory processing difficulty, but indicated that the student may have had difficulty following verbal directions. Nonverbal tests showed some difficulty with attention and short-term memory.
|Difficulties with auditory processing, attention and short-term memory may be significantly contributing to reading, spelling and writing difficulty.
|Parent Interview (with translator)
Parents report that Alejandro has had more difficulty than his older siblings with homework, even when his older brother helps him with reading. He often leaves household chores unfinished, when they communicate with him in Spanish and when his older brother gives him directions in English. The parents feel he does not listen closely. The parents report that he has a good attitude about school, but he says it is “really hard.”
|There is some evidence that language-related processing difficulties occur in both Spanish and English in the home environment.
|Progress Monitoring Data
The progress monitoring graph shows an upward trend in the data, but the gap is slowly widening. This pattern has been consistent in over a year of Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervention.
|Despite several iterations of intervention adjustments and moving from Tier 2 to Tier 3, Alejandro has a consistent pattern of minimal growth.
|Other Informal Assessments
According to classroom work samples, running records, and benchmark assessments given prior to grade reporting, Alejandro is lagging academically in reading, writing and mathematics skills.
|Classroom performance shows a significant difficulty with learning across subjects and data sources.
|IEP Team Decision
Multiple sources of evidence point to an inherent disorder. Alejandro is eligible for special education services due to Specific Learning Disabilities. He will receive special education in a combination of pull-out and inclusion support services. Additionally, he will receive Speech and Language services two times per week for six weeks, in addition to continuing with ESL services.