Special Education Key Terms

Glossary to Student Services

Accommodations: Changes made to the learning environment (i.e. extended time, alternate testing site, etc.) or how educational materials look (i.e. enlarged text, less problems on a page, etc.) to address learning needs. No changes to standards or level of curriculum.

AIMSweb: A universal screening, benchmarking, progress monitoring, and data management system that supports Response to Intervention (RTI) and tiered instruction. “Benchmarking” is completed three times a year district wide in order to identify students who might benefit from supplemental support in basic skill areas like reading, math and writing. AIMSweb is used to maintain the district’s Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM) data. All assessments in this system are timed tests and are used to measure progress of students receiving RTI support or special education services.

Annual Review: By law, a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) is reviewed yearly at what is called an annual review meeting. This is a formal meeting between the parents and the special education team at which the current goals are reviewed and progress is shared. A plan is also put into place for the following school year.

Articulation Meeting: A meeting between the 8th grade IEP team and the high school IEP team. Information is shared and accommodations, services, and supports are agreed upon between the two teams. From there the student’s high school IEP is written by the incoming high school special education team.

Assessment: In order for a student to receive an IEP or Section 504 Plan, the school district is required to complete an assessment of the student’s strengths and needs. The specific components of this assessment are based on the identified concerns and determined at the domain meeting.

Assistive Technology: Term used to describe devices that are specifically selected to assist students with disabilities.

Bell Curve- A symmetrical bell-shaped curve that represents the distribution of values, frequencies, or probabilities of a set of data. It slopes downward from a point in the middle corresponding to the mean value, or the maximum probability. In schools, we mostly use percentile ranks to describe a student's performance or scores compared to a comparison group or norm.


(from http://www.gilbertgifted.org/giftedglossary.html)

Benchmark (of IEP goal): In an IEP, annual goals are written for the student. These goals are broken down into three benchmarks or short-term goals throughout the year (usually November, February, and May) to monitor progress toward the long-term goal.

Best Practices: Methods validated by research to enhance outcomes in specific areas of special and general education.

Breaks: Leaving the classroom or an activity to help a child regulate emotional reactions and or stimulation in order to stay focused or alert.

Case Manager: The supervisor of a child’s special education program. The case manager coordinates all aspects of the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan. The case manager manages communication with parents and other service providers as well as communicates needs and services to the general education teachers.

Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM): Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM) is an assessment tool given to students to monitor academic progress in basic skill areas- math, reading fluency, comprehension, writing, and spelling.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)- Cognitive behavior therapy is based on the cognitive model: the way we perceive situations influences how we feel emotionally. When people are in distress, their perspective is often inaccurate and their thoughts may be unrealistic. Cognitive behavior therapy helps people identify their distressing thoughts and evaluate how realistic the thoughts are. Then they learn to change their distorted or negative thinking. When they think more realistically, they feel better. The emphasis is also consistently on solving problems and initiating behavioral change.

Common Core Standards: A set of learning standards defined in federal legislation and adopted by the State of Illinois the goal of which is to ensure all students are ready for success after high school. The Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language, and mathematics at each grade level, kindergarten through 12th grade. In a few instances, it makes prescriptions for instructional strategies useful in developing key skills.

Co-Teaching: Co-teaching involves two equally qualified educators who may or may not have the same area of expertise sharing instructional responsibility for a group of students to teach the curriculum. Co-teaching usually pairs a general and special education teacher to meet the needs of all students in the class.

Counseling Services: Counseling services may be provided in a group or one-on-one setting and may include cognitive behavioral therapy or direct instruction and practice of social skills like conflict resolution, problem solving, conversation and friendship skills. Counseling services are not meant to take the place of long-term outside/private therapy, which can often be more intensive and include family members.

Data Collection: Assessment data may be collected in the following areas to determine the need for interventions, modifications, or support in the following areas: Reading, Writing, Math, Social emotional health. Data collection tools may include:

  • Standardized testing [PARCC, MAP, Curriculum Based Measurement (CBMs)]
  • Observation
  • Teacher interview and consultation

Differentiated Instruction: Providing students with different avenues to learning in terms of: acquiring content; processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas; and developing teaching strategies and assessments so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability.

Direct Instruction: Research based curriculum in the areas of reading, writing, and math that is highly structured, scripted, and consistent. Direct instruction programs are highly effective with the at-risk and special education populations.

Domain Meeting: The first meeting in the process of determining initial eligibility for special education services or determining continuing eligibility for a 3-year reevaluation. A team of staff members (including: school psychologist, social worker/counselor, speech language pathologist, general education teacher, director of student services, and principal) and the parent/guardian determine what types of evaluations are necessary to determine eligibility. The Domain Meeting is held for the purpose of determining what relevant data we already have, what data still needs to be collected, and who will collect the data. At the meeting, the following area “domains” are discussed: Health, Hearing/Vision, Social/Emotional Status, Cognitive Functioning, Academic Performance, Functional Performance, Communication Status, and Motor Abilities. At this meeting, parents sign permission for the evaluation to take place.

Due Process: a letter/complaint filed by an individual or organization on matters of conflict related to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a child, or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the child.

Early Childhood Services: Services provided to students who are identified as requiring special education services prior to kindergarten. The student can be identified at early childhood screenings offered within the district. If the student requires services the expense is paid by the school district in which the student lives.

Eligibility Determination: This refers to the identification of why the student is eligible for special education services. Students must qualify in one of the following areas under eligibility determination: learning disability, autism, cognitive disability, deaf/blindness, deafness, developmental delay, emotional disability, hearing impairment, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment including blindness. In some cases, a physician’s input is needed to determine eligibility. Eligibility determination is required in order to start a child on an IEP.

The Illinois State Board of Education (www.isbe.net) has extensive information on the specific categories of eligibility.

Executive Functioning: A variety of skills associated with goal setting, planning, organizing, selective attention, and behavioral regulation. District 29 employs a school-wide approach to actively teach students to set goals, plan activities, and organize commitments. All students utilize a structured planner and filing system to teach executive function skills in the context of managing their school and home responsibilities.

Extended Resource Support: When a student's disability requires modifications and supports beyond what can be reasonably provided in a general education classroom environment, District 29 offers services/supports through an Extended Resource Classroom. In this instructional environment, students participate in an individually tailored instructional program, which is significantly modified from that which is available in the general education classroom. The Extended Resource Classroom is staffed with a full-time Certified Special Education teacher and a special education Teaching Assistant(s).

Extended School Year (ESY): Extended School Year services refers to academic support offered in the summer months to address goals stated in the student’s IEP and to avoid regression in academic areas. The IEP team considers whether a child is eligible for ESY services by determining if the regression they experience over the summer is not expected to be recouped within 2.5 months. ESY services are limited to students with IEPs these services are suggested, but not mandatory.

Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE): A free and appropriate education is provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge. All students, including children with disabilities, will receive an education that meets the standards set by the State Education Agency (SEA). A free and appropriate education can be achieved by giving a child with a disability special services, usually written in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan.

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA): FBA is generally considered to be a problem solving process for addressing problematic student behavior. It relies on a variety of techniques and strategies to identify the antecedents to certain behavior and to help IEP teams select interventions to directly address the problematic behavior.

Flexible Service Delivery Model (FLEX): An approach to addressing the educational needs of all students through shared special and general education resources.

Fluency: The rate of relaying information within a specified time period. In reading, this refers to words read per minute.

504 Plan of the Americans With Disabilities Act: Civil rights law that requires special accommodations if a student has a substantial mental or physical condition or impairment that limits one or more of his/her major life activities. The 504 plans allow for equal access within the classroom setting and therefore include classroom accommodations and supports.

Goals: A mandated component of a student’s IEP, identifying the key and measurable objectives of a student’s educational program. The progress is monitored through data collection.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): A Federal law ensuring a free and appropriate public education to students with certain disabilities, as well as specified due process and procedural safeguards. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to eligible individuals.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP): A legally binding plan that describes the special education program and related services provided by a public school district to address the needs of a student. This plan contains information regarding student’s needs, rights, goals, minutes, and accommodations to be successful in the Least Restrictive Environment.

Initial evaluation (MDC)/ Reevaluation: After the team decides an evaluation is needed and have created an evaluation plan at the Domain Meeting, the evaluation is completed (within 60 school days of receiving parent/guardian consent). Each member of the team (including parents) collects the agreed upon information and data. The team reconvenes to review the data and make an eligibility decision. The same process is followed for the reevaluation, which is every three years.

Intervention: A measured and coordinated set of activities to positively impact a student’s academic and/or behavioral skills. Whenever possible, evidence-based programs and strategies are utilized.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): Children with a disability should be educated in the regular education environment with non-disabled peers. They should have access to the general education curriculum with supplementary aids and support. If the severity of the child’s disability prevents the student from achieving success in the general education setting, with the aids and support, then the student would be place in a more restrictive environment (special school, extended resource classroom, or a hospital program).

MAP Testing: The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) is a computerized test that aligns with the district curriculum and the common core standards. The MAP test measures student achievement and growth, and accurately reflects the instructional level of each student.

Meetings: The parent and/or guardian must be given the opportunity to participate in meetings involving the IEP, which can include but are not limited to the identification, evaluation, eligibility, reevaluation, and educational placement of the child. In order to ensure parent/guardian participation, the school district must provide the parent/guardian with ten-day notice of the meeting in writing.

Minutes: The time spent throughout the school day that the student receives services from a speech therapist, social worker, occupational therapist, psychologist, and/or resource teacher. This time is listed as minutes in the student’s IEP. The minutes may be served in the general education setting (push-in minutes) or a special education setting (pull-out minutes).

Modifications: A change in the curriculum content or the expectations of an assignment, project, or test in order to meet the needs of the students. Modifications are made when the expectations are beyond the student’s level of ability.

Other Health Impairment (OHI): Other Health Impaired (OHI) is one of the 14 categories of disabilities listed in our nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This classification refers to a child who has limited strength, vitality, or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as but are not limited to ADHD, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, hemophilia, and leukemia.

Occupational Therapist (OT): School-based Occupational Therapists work with students with special needs in order to address fine motor skill development and sensory processing. This can include but is not limited to working on handwriting, helping the child get organized, working with the teachers to modify the classroom to promote successful participation.

Parent Rights: At their child’s Annual Review, parents will receive a packet describing their rights as parents of a student with an educational disability. The packet outlines the rights that are mandated to parents by the Individual with Disability Education Improvement Act (IDEA-2004 Public Law 108-446).

PARCC: The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is an association of states and the District of Columbia that have worked to create a standard set of K–12 assessments in mathematics and English. The PARCC assessment includes two portions – a performance-based assessment (PBA) and an End-of-Year Assessment (EOY). These tests are meant to be used as indicators of student needs and progress for teachers to identify and address.

Progress Monitoring: Students receiving academic supports through special education or Response to Intervention (RTI) are closely monitored to determine academic progress. Teachers collect progress monitoring data using Curriculum Based Measurements (CBM) tools in the area of reading, math, spelling, and writing. This information is reported through graphs generated by AIMs Web, a web-based program used to maintain records of student CBM data. Teachers use this data to ensure student progress and to help determine whether instructional changes are needed.

Problem Solving Meetings: The problem solving team meets once a month and consists of grade level teachers, specialists, and administrators. Teachers refer students for whom they have academic or behavioral concerns. Prior to the meeting, data is collected in order to help identify the problem and analyze why the problem may be occurring. Then, interventions are developed, implemented, and evaluated based on their effectiveness. The team keeps a written record of the students who have been brought up by the team through the RTI database. If after interventions have been tried; the student continues to show a lack of growth, the team will recommend qualification under special education.

Pull-out/ push-in services: Special education can be provided through pull-out or push-in services based on the student’s IEP. Pullout services- students are pulled out of the general education classroom by the special education teacher or related service provider to receive academic instruction or special education interventions. Push-in services- occur when a special education teacher or related service provider delivers support to the student within the general education classroom.

Rate of Improvement: Aimsweb provides percentile ranks for the 3-times per year benchmark assessments (see Aimsweb definition). The Aimsweb Rate Of Improvement (ROI) growth norms are different from the benchmark percentiles. A benchmark percentile indicates the percentage of students in the norm sample (local or national) who scored at or below a particular raw score at that point in time (e.g., fall of Grade 3). By contrast, an ROI growth norm percentile indicates the percentage of students in the national norm sample whose rate of improvement is at or below a particular value. (Note that ROI growth norms are available for Kindergarten through Grade 8, based on the national norm sample.)

Regression: A concept relevant to the determination of eligibility for Extended School Year (ESY) Services. Regression refers to the loss of educational growth during periods of non-instruction. Typically, students can be expected to lose up to 2.5 months of learning over summer break.

Re-evaluation Meeting: Reevaluations occur every three years from the time of a student’s initial evaluation/ initial eligibility into special education. The purpose of a re-evaluation meeting is to determine if additional assessments are necessary to address any of the following issues: present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, current placement and respective educational programming, and continued eligibility for special education and related services.

Related Services: Related services refers to any services that a student receives that are not provided under their primary diagnosis. In some cases, students have a secondary diagnosis such as Speech/Language and they receive related services from the Speech/ Language Pathologist.

Response to Intervention (RTI): It is a nationally implemented process that provides guidelines for intervention levels (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3) in order to support students and their needs in the educational environment. Tier 1 interventions are what is done at the general education level. Tier 2 interventions are more intense group instruction of the general education curriculum with increased frequency. Tier 3 interventions is usually an alternate curriculum in a pull out format. Tier 2 interventions usually target “at risk” students and students with IEPs while Tier 3 usually only target students with IEPs.

School Psychologist: The school psychologist is involved with academic and social assessment and data-based problem solving as well as teacher/parent consultation and direct service to students with social/emotional and behavioral needs.

School Counselor: The school counselor helps parents, students, and school staff identify needs that interfere with the capacity of the student to function in the educational setting. Through assessment, consultation, development and implementation of behavior plans, and providing push-in and pull out services the school counselor supports students with social, emotional, behavior, and/or family difficulties.

Speech Language Pathologist (SLP): District 29 provides services delivered through a Speech Language Pathologist for students with speech and or language impairments. Services include individual and small group speech and language therapy, push-in and pull out supports, consultative supports, and case management services.

Student Services Teacher: The student services teacher is a special education teacher that provides specialized instruction specifically designed to meet the needs of a student with a disability or a 504 plan. Services include individual and small group instruction, push-in and pull out supports, provide modifications and accommodations based on the students’ IEPs or 504, consultative supports, and case management services.

Teaching Assistant (TA): The teaching assistants are assigned to a grade level or a specific student. They help provide services in conjunction with the student services teacher to support the minutes, accommodations, and modifications in all of the students’ IEPs. They are also responsible for modifying work and making accommodations to a student’s day according to the student’s IEP. Most of the TAs in District 29 are certified teachers.

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