The Goal of Student Support Teams

150 150 DC Special Education Cooperative

Student Support Teams are intended to help teachers work with students who are struggling either behaviorally or academically. Although the precise format can differ (as can the name), the general process remains the same, in theory.  In reality, it can be quite a different process.

The Theory of SST:
  1. The teacher recognizes that a student is having difficulty in their classroom and attempts to help them, using their own strategies and reaching out to others for ideas.
  2. If they are unsuccessful, the teacher submits the student’s name to the SST, along with documentation that shows where the student is struggling and clearly outlines all the steps the teacher has taken thus far and the results.
  3. The team reviews the documentation and meets with the teacher, and parents if possible, to discuss the student’s needs and identify academic and behavioral interventions and supports that the teacher may implement to help the student achieve.
  4. The teacher then takes these new strategies back to the classroom and implements them, recording the results.
  5. Based on those results, the team either reconvenes to develop additional strategies or simply continues to monitor the situation.
  6. Once the situation is resolved the student is released from the SST process, the few that cannot be resolved are referred to the SEC for further evaluation.

The Reality of SST:

  1. An overwhelmed teacher has a student in class that is struggling.  They make some effort to help them but try only a few strategies and have only limited paperwork on the process.  Teacher is convinced the student needs more than they can give.
  2. The situation does not improve, and in fact might be worse.  The teacher asks for help and eventually fills out the paperwork for SST, with only cursory supporting documentation.
  3. The team meets and discusses the student’s ongoing problems. The team gives some general ideas for the teacher to try.
  4. Teacher tries them briefly, goes back to SST and says they didn’t work.
  5. Student is referred to SEC for testing.

Sound familiar? Teachers do want to help their students and are not simply trying to get out of doing more work, but they generally have more on their plate than they can handle without adding in all the observation, brainstorming, trials and documentation necessary for SST to be truly effective.  Too often, SST is viewed as a box to be checked before students can be referred for testing.  This means unnecessary testing and students not getting the help they do need as early as possible.