I have seen this system work very well in some schools, like Queen Anne Elementary and not so good in other buildings. For this post I would like to demystify this process and discuss its importance and purpose the QAE way.
For starters let's look at what it is not. It is not always a referral to special education. It is not a Smack Down to parents who are not 'doing their job'. It is not meant to feel intimidating, reprimanding, excluding or punishing. Before telling you what it is I'd like to tell you a little story about a brand new school.....
I met Julietta Skoog in late August of 2010. She introduced herself as our new school psychologist. I was in awe. First, she didn't look old enough to me but that was because most of the psychs I have worked with are older, grey hair and christmas sweaters. And second, here she was present, involved and coming in to introduce herself. Other psychs have really stayed away. They come to the school once or twice weekly, do their thing and that's about it. I am telling you this because Julietta's commitment to students and staff have really made the QAE intervention department what it is. From that first day Julietta and I sat down and asked ourselves how we wanted to do it differently. We recognized the uniqueness of starting a school, which meant starting policies and changing how it has been done previously if it meant doing it better. This has made all the difference. And, it is an ever changing, ever evolving process.
Let me first explain how the sit team works at most schools. Let's say that student X is in Mr. Y's class. Mr.Y notices that X is struggling in some area in relation to his same age peers. This may be in reading, math, writing or social/behavior. Hopefully Mr. Y has exhausted resources and ideas and is looking to the team to help with suggestions and interventions. He then turns in a referral for a student to the SIT team which usually consists of the principal, school psychologist, a general education teacher, and a special ed teacher. Sometimes the SLP (speech and Language Pathologists) are involved or the school nurse.
After this happens someone will schedule the student and the teacher will contact the parents with the date. The team will meet even if the parents do not attend. This may seem odd but the purpose is to help the teacher and to support the student. We can do that without the parents, although with the parents makes this goal more attainable. We recognize that parents are the experts on their kids and their input and ideas are invaluable.
Parents are then invited and the team meets on the date scheduled. This year we meet every Wednesday before school. It can feel overwhelming. Think of how many individuals are present! The parents may see: Julietta, Mr. Elliott, the teacher, another teacher, a specialist, me, and maybe the nurse. Think of how much money in salaries are there! Most schools have a template or formula that is covered: *Students strengths, *academic or behavior concerns, *health and developmental history, *interventions tried, and *next steps. Someone takes notes (usually me) and they are forwarded onto parents and the rest of the team. This whole process is about 45 minutes.
Julietta and I have been tailoring this team and perfecting these procedures for four years. We have had a SIT meeting almost every week since the beginning of our school. We meet every week and we hope that we are effective and helpful. Not only to students and family but also to teachers. At QAE we learn from each other- sometimes it takes that collaboration and idea exchange to try something new. Sometimes this meeting ends with parents having a new plan. Sometimes the teacher has a new plan. Sometimes we bring in Lara Francisco (math specialist) or Laura Cooper (reading specialist) and the student gets small group intervention or tutoring. Sometimes we talk behavior and the student is put on a behavior intervention plan. And, sometimes there is a special education referral which will be discussed in the next blog post.
What is in a name?
This year we changed it up even more. We have renamed the team. Remember last year when I renamed the resource room the Learning Lab? This year we have changed the SIT to the SST (student support team).
Well, I feel like if I am really going to change the face of special education and make the huge paradigm shift of what we all think we know as truth we have to call it something different. Sometimes we are not actually 'intervening' but we most definitely are 'supporting'. Maybe next year it should be called the STST (student and teacher support team)?
Best in individualizing education,