Program Standard 3
3. Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.
3.3 Element – Demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness in persisting to support students.
3.3 Example of Proficient – Teacher persists in seeking approaches for students who have difficulty learning, drawing on a broad repertoire of strategies.
For EDSP 6644 (Educating Exceptional Students) I researched the increasingly popular Response to Intervention (RtI) model and how it relates to twice-exceptional students (see linked paper below). Twice-exceptional students are distinctive because of their combination of high intelligence and specific learning disabilities. These combined traits can often make it difficult for standardized measures to detect these learners. Oftentimes their intelligence can offset their specific learning disability resulting in average achievement even though they are capable of so much more. According to Crepeau-Hobson and Bianco (2011) “This masking can make the twice-exceptional students appear to have average abilities and achievement. Because of these issues, gifted students with [learning disabilities] are less likely to be identified for either exceptionality” (p. 103). If these students are not detected within systems like the RtI model, they will not get the supports and enrichments needed.
Although it is not a perfect screening process, the RtI model can be adjusted to provide a first step in detecting twice-exceptional students. McCallum, Mee Bell, Coles, Miller, Hopkins, and Hilton-Prillhart (2013) suggest, “Scrutiny of more than one academic area for screening purposes will decrease the potentially negative effects of masking” (p. 219). The researchers believe that if students’ scores are vastly different between subjects, those discrepancies might indicate that they are suffering from learning disabilities despite testing within the normal range. The students who have large inconsistencies in their test scores across subjects would then qualify for further screening. While this is not a perfect solution, it does help to fill a gap in the RtI model that would otherwise leave twice-exceptional students undetected. It is important for administrators to take suggestions like this one under consideration so that students can get the interventions that they need.
Even with adjustments to screening systems, it is essential that teachers always advocate for their students. After doing research, I have learned that perceptive teachers are crucial to the success of their students. This is especially true for students with special needs. In inclusive classrooms, these students often fail to receive proper supports. McKenzie (2010) asserts, “Insightful teachers have always been, and must remain, the conduits of advocacy on behalf of students with exceptionalities” (p. 166). This knowledge will drive my teaching and make me a more thoughtful and dedicated educator. It will push me to learn more about the needs of exceptional learners so I can create a truly inclusive classroom. It is important for teachers to not exclusively rely on standardized testing to detect the needs of all students. All teachers must be informed about special education issues so that they can differentiate their teaching and provide students with the support needed. Vigilant teachers must ensure that these students are receiving proper interventions, are building strong social relationships, and are developing a sense of self-efficacy. It is crucial for all students, but especially those with disabilities, to develop a sense of agency so that they can advocate for themselves and understand their own learning needs. Teachers are such an important part of their students’ lives so it is imperative for them to champion for the needs of each and every learner in their classroom.