Teaching IS Rocket Science!

By Denyse Doerries, Ph.D.
February/March 2013

rThe Virginia Waiver from NCLB, The Virginia Flexibility Waiver to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (http://www.doe.virginia.gov/federal_programs/esea/flexibility/index.shtml) and the phasing out of alternative assessments, such as the Virginia Grade Level Assessment (VGLA), highlight the requirement that special education students with mild to moderate disabilities master the general education standards.

Given necessity, adopting evidence-based practices (EBP) becomes even more imperative; however, it is a complex process. Even if an EBP is implemented with fidelity, educators must collect data in order to evaluate its effectiveness with their students. Although an EBP is more likely than not to be successful, it may not be the most appropriate strategy for a particular student in all contexts (Detrich & Lewis, 2012). Educators must be thinkers and decision makers; that is, problem solvers. They must be willing to use the scientific method to test ideas and strategies and to measure their impact.

But even this is not enough to ensure success for students with disabilities (SWDs) in inclusive settings. Researchers have found that educators who are more likely to adopt new practices have a depth of knowledge to build upon and are able to respond to the needs of both the individual student and the whole class without compromising their beliefs about how students should learn. Educators must believe that it is their job to meet both individual and group learning needs (Brownell, Adams, Sindelar, & Waldron, 2006).

The expectations for teachers are growing exponentially.  Luckily, effective teachers seem to be lifelong learners who are resilient and persist in the face of challenges (Brownell et al., 2006). This issue of Link Lines is exciting because it introduces multiple options for educators to increase the intensity of instruction to meet individual student as well as group needs.

The article Assessment, Flexible Grouping, and Research-Based Instructional Strategies: Powerful Tools for Co-Taught Classes  by Tina Spencer and Lee Anne Sulzberger presents strategies to maximize the benefits of co-teaching while increasing the intensity of instruction needed by SWDs.

 Multisensory Structured Language Education of Basic Language Skills: Another Way to Teach Word Study by Lanett Brailey and Mary Stowe not only describes evidence-based intensive reading strategies for SWDs and struggling readers, it also introduces the new e-learning reading instruction series that will be available soon on the T/TAC W&M website.  The series is comprised of multiple modules that incorporate online instruction, activities, and demonstration videos. A certificate will be issued to participants who complete this e-learning program.

Strategic use of technology can offer teachers the means to provide SWDs access to complex material as well as to help them compensate when performing certain academic tasks. The article Digital Reading Tools by Cathy Buyrn introduces ways to expand students’ basic reading skills and digital literacy through e-texts.

Given the pressure on educators to monitor student learning in order to provide appropriate instruction and ensure student success, the role of the IEP is pivotal in defining needed assessments, data to be collected, and schedules for data collection. Designing the IEP: Measuring and Reporting Progress Toward Mastery of Annual Goals by Dale Pennell explores a critical process that is too frequently glossed over – How do IEP teams measure and assess student progress?

Motivation is often an issue in supporting SWDs over the course of their educational careers.  Making Interest and Career Connections: The Race for Discovery by Elaine Gould is the second article in a series devoted to presenting strategies to support students by connecting their interests, strengths, and experiences with career development.  Assisting students in developing a vision for their futures is critical to motivating them to engage and persevere in their academic curriculum.

Learning to address both intensive, individual instructional needs and group needs is the Zeitgeist of the day. It is insufficient for teachers to know the content; they also need to know how to differentiate instruction. Educators must persist when strategies are not successful. trying to find new interventions that will help students access and succeed in the general curriculum. Change is the norm today. This issue of T/TAC Link Lines offers support to meet this new normal.  


Brownell, M. T., Adams, A., Sindelar, P., & Waldron, N. (2006). Learning from collaboration: The role of teacher qualities. Council for Exceptional Children, 72(2), 169-185.

Detrich, R., & Lewis, T. (2012). A decade of evidence-based education: Where are we and where do we need to go? Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 20(10), 1-7.