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Where Are We Now and Where Are We Headed? A Time for Reflection and Decision-Making

One half of the 2014-15 school year is over, and by now, educators possess data from multiple formal and informal sources that can help them to know and understand their students and to determine where they are performing in relation to mastery of the Standards of Learning (SOL).  When you analyze your students’ data, do they indicate that they are on track to meet the demands of the grade-level or course SOL? Do your instructional practices and the services for students with disabilities support movement toward reaching the state’s learning targets? In what ways could instructional practices be adjusted to more effectively meet the learning needs of your students? Do you know all you need to know about your students with disabilities and best practice to meet those needs?

Graham-Day, Fishley, Konrad, Peters, and Ressa (2014) describe the ongoing process of data analysis and decision-makingbook tunnel in Prague library -- mirrors are used to create this effect that allows educators to understand and respond to student learning as  formative instructional practices (p. 70). Teachers use formative assessment informally during instruction (e.g., using classroom learning activities) to make immediate adjustments in their instructional approach. Used more formally and at specific times during the school year, formative assessment (e.g., benchmark tests, collaboratively developed common assessments) is used to measure student progress toward long-term learning goals  (Graham-Day et al., 2014).

At this critical point in the school year, teachers will analyze informal and formal student data, reflect on current practices, and make data-based instructional decisions. The articles in this issue of Link Lines provide disability-specific and instructional resources, educator self-assessments, teaching practices, and tools for decision-making that can support you in this process.

In accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Act (2004), special educators are accustomed to collecting formative assessment data, monitoring student progress, and adjusting instructional practices to meet the needs of their students (Graham-Day et al., 2014). Knowing students and understanding their instructional and service needs helps educators and individualized educational program (IEP) teams to make the best instructional and service delivery decisions. In Debbie Grosser’s article, “The Nuts and Bolts of Co-Teaching,” readers learn how to maximize the impact of the co-teaching partnership on student learning. Specifically, the author outlines the decision-making process for determining the need for co-teaching and ensuring that co-teaching is the most efficient and effective service delivery option for students with disabilities in general education.

Dyslexia: Insights and Current Understandings,” Mary Stowe provides multiple resources related to the topic of dyslexia. She explains the definition of dyslexia and how this learning disability impacts student learning, and suggests ways in which educators can best meet the learning needs of students with dyslexia.

Assessment data can help teachers know if they are meeting the needs of their students and if instructional adjustments are necessary to increase student learning or to create more inclusive learning environments. Elaine Gould’s article, “Teacher Practices That Support Positive Academic and Behavioral Outcomes for Students,” reminds us of the powerful impact of three easy-to-implement instructional techniques – modeling, opportunities to respond, and feedback – that engage learners and support academic and behavioral progress. When used during instruction, these practices also provide teachers with valuable formative assessment data that can be used to immediately inform instruction. In “Quality Indicators for Inclusive Practices: How Are We Doing?,” Lee Anne Sulzberger shares guiding questions related to administrative support, planning, instruction, and student supports to help collaborative teams assess the implementation of inclusive practices in their buildings.

Additional Resources

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has uploaded to its website the following new resources to enhance teachers’ instructional toolkit:

  1. The 2014 SOL Mathematics Institute professional development module Making Mathematical Connections and Using Representations has been posted on the VDOE website. This and the other Mathematics Institute modules (also contained on this page) may be used for grade-level or content-area team professional development.
  2. The Fall 2014 SOL English Institute presentation materials and handouts are posted on the VDOE English Web page. These resources include materials for reading and writing as well as strategies for English language learners and students with disabilities.
  3. In addition, the VDOE has posted Using Statewide Sol Test Results to Guide Instruction in Mathematics and English. This resource shares SOL content that, through analysis of SOL data, indicated weak or inconsistent overall student performance statewide. Suggestions for student practice are also provided.
These and other VDOE announcements are posted weekly on Teacher Direct, a resource provided by the VDOE. By subscribing to this free service, you will receive notification of instructional resources developed by the VDOE, grant and professional development opportunities, and other relevant announcements and information delivered directly to your inbox.


Graham-Day, K., Fishley, K., Konrad, M., Peters, M., & Ressa, V. (2014). Formative instructional practices: How core content teachers can borrow ideas from IDEA. Intervention in School and Clinic, 30(2), 69-75.