Of the fifty million children and adolescents enrolled in public schools in the United States, fifteen percent, or seven million of them have disabilities and are eligible for special education services. Though classroom teachers play critical roles in not only determining eligibility if a student is eligible for special education services, but also in ensuring that a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is provided, research has consistently shown that university training programs do not adequate prepare them for their professional, ethical and legally-mandated roles and responsibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This is especially true for middle and secondary-level teachers. In terms of focus and methodology, this paper is unique in the literature. It describes the initial results of a key field-based assignment in a newly-developed, required course specifically designed to better prepare general educators’ understanding of what they are required to do, but also to improve the integrity of their input into the eligibility process. Eighty-nine pre-service teachers were required to not only practice with but also demonstrate proficiency when responding to open-ended questions on a state-developed form. The importance of providing correctly completing this questionnaire cannot be overstated as it: 1) is often a teacher’s ONLY input into the special education eligibility process; 2) becomes part of a student’s educational record; 3) screens for a number of high incidence disabilities (Specific Learning Disability, Communication, ADHD/Other Health Impairment); and 4) ultimately answers the elusive but essential question that ALL Teams must answer in order to determine eligibility: “Is the student making effective progress?”

Author: Denise R. Foley

Published in: World Congress on Special Needs Education (WCE-2022)

  • Date of Conference: 14-16 November 2022
  • DOI: 10.20533/WCSNE.2022.0003
  • ISBN: 978-1-913572-53-2
  • Conference Location: Virtual (London, UK)