Effective Academic Support for Special Population Students

Posted on Categories Individuals with Disabilities

At a Glance

The administration and instructional staff at Lawrence County Career and Technical Center implemented new instructional and assessment policies and practices to better serve students who qualify for support services.


After becoming Director of Lawrence County Career and Technical Center (LCCTC), Leonard Rich conducted a review of how students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are supported. The review found that the services and strategies provided to these students could be more effective. As a result, Director Rich committed to making changes to improve instructional delivery for all students, with a specific emphasis on those with IEPs.

He diminished the Career Center’s subcontracted special education consultant’s role, assumed the chief special education administrative role of the Local Education Agency (LEA), and made improvements to LCCTC’s overall continuum of special education services.

Specifically, Director Rich reassigned the roles of the four special education teachers to allow for the re-establishment of inclusion and co-teaching, in addition to promoting teacher and classroom concentrations in 1) Replacement / parallel Learning Support English Classroom, 2) Replacement / parallel Learning Support Math Classroom, and 3) Specialized differentiated Learning Support Academic Support Classroom. These changes allowed the special education department teachers to each serve in skilled knowledge roles. Furthermore, a newly assigned teacher now serves as the primary Academic Support Teacher.

Many of Director Rich’s improvement efforts centered on the Academic Support Classroom, which is designed to provide specialized differentiated instruction to students who qualify for support services. Collaboration among special education and general education academic teachers / CTE instructors became a new fundamental component of the Academic Support Classroom. Another new key component involved timely data collection, data-driven decision making, and the timely identification and notification of student progress needs to limit the need for remediation and/or possibility of failure. One more key change of the Academic Support Classroom involved a focus on literacy integration.

The learning activities in the Academic Support Classroom are based on the individual needs of students and are identified in their IEPs. They are designed to maximize students’ learning potential. Some of the activities that take place include, but are not limited to: academic remediation, CTE instructional support, transition planning, social skills instruction, and emotional/behavioral growth facilitation. Students receive instruction in an individualized and/or small group setting.

Director Rich notes that to make the Academic Support Classroom effective for students, there must be:

  • Regular communication between Special Education personnel and CTE and academic teachers;
  • Evidence that each student’s ILP and IEP are used to inform instruction;
  • Use of reports from student information systems and tools (such as PowerSchool, Study Island, Reading Horizons, and ASVAB) to monitor progress and inform instruction;
  • A scheduled time to meet with each student to review grades and assignments;
  • Visual display of upcoming tests and assignments;
  • Evidence that each student is, and has been taught to use organizational tools;
  • Designated work centers and/or resources for various activities;
  • Pre-teaching and re-teaching content area materials and resources;
  • Reading, writing, and math skills materials and resources;
  • Evidence of weaving Reading Apprenticeship and PLN vocabulary and reading comprehension instruction throughout; support and reinforce “Talking to the Text” and “Think Aloud” strategies;
  • Student files that have individual goals related to ILPs, identified skill deficits;
  • Evidence of review and work on IEP goals, utilization of Specially Designed Instruction (SDI); and
  • Evidence of student success in general education academic and CTE course work.

Origin / Implementation

In the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, LCCTC Director Rich and committed instructors identified several areas of the Academic Support System that were in need of substantial improvement. Their primary concern centered on the number of students failing their classes.

As a first step toward creating a more effective Academic Support System, the administration and instructors conducted a review of student performance data at the end of the first nine-week grading period. Using this data as a guide for implementing strategies, the administration provided opportunities for relevant staff development and conducted oversight beginning at the start of the second marking period. The goal of these efforts was to identify and enact the necessary changes in school culture, instructional practices and data collection to improve student success.

As noted earlier, many of the changes centered on how the Academic Support Classroom operated and served students. The primary instructional strategies that were implemented after the first marking period include:

  • Collaboratively aligning research-based intervention strategies with specific academic and behavioral student needs.
    • Graphic Organizers
    • Error Correction & Formative Assessments
    • Guided Notes & Cornell Notes
  • Strict adherence to use Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) strategies in students’ IEPs.
  • Particular care was placed to define, teach, model, practice, reinforce, and re?teach content.
  • Providing timely notification of an IEP student’s progress concerns to all of the following:
    • IEP Case Manager; Work collaboratively with the IEP Case Manager when an IEP student is not demonstrating success in the regular education setting utilizing regular education curriculum; particularly if a student has below a 70%.
    • Academic Support Teacher; Send IEP student to the Academic Support Classroom, particularly if a student is not making satisfactory progress; if a student has below a 70% be proactive & consult with the Academic Support Teacher.
    • Parent/Guardian; When an IEP student has lower than a 70% at any time during any grading period, the teacher must contact the parent and document communication.

Results / Impact

At the end of the first marking period, 21 IEP students had received failing grades. After implementing administrative, instructional, and cultural changes, only seven students received failing grades at the end of the second marking period.


Lawrence County Career and Technical Center
Leonard A. Rich, Director
Renea Young, Support Instructor
Email: lrich@lcvt.tec.pa.us