General education teachers, special education teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, and other education professionals work together to support students. But despite their desire to help, these educators are often unprepared to support the diverse learning needs of students. We must rethink how to prepare new educators, support those already in the classroom, and ensure that schools employ the range of professionals needed to support students with learning and attention issues.
- Create more supportive classrooms by rethinking educator preparation programs and professional development. Making changes to existing preparation programs and ongoing professional development for teachers and other educators who work with students with learning and attention issues will help drive effective instructional strategies, expand the use of accommodations, and foster better collaboration among educators and families to support students with learning and attention issues.
- Changes to the Higher Education Act’s Title II relating to teacher preparation can transform how educators are equipped to instruct students. By including more opportunities for hands-on, clinical experience through residency programs or mentorships, teachers will enter the profession more prepared to identify the early warning signs of learning and attention issues and to effectively instruct these students.
- ESSA offers another opportunity to use policy to expand the expertise of educators. ESSA provides states with funding that can be used to support both general and special educators as they increase their understanding of and skill in effective teaching strategies to support students with learning and attention issues.
- Partner to erase discipline disparities. Data has revealed that students with disabilities are suspended and expelled at rates well above those of their peers without disabilities. Yet there are practices that work to reduce these disparities and foster safe, positive learning environments. To address this issue, we must ensure that educators are fully involved as partners, are aware of the problem, and are provided with resources and professional development—particularly related to cultural competence—to implement successful strategies (such as PBIS) that will support the academic and behavioral needs of students with disabilities.
- Expand research to prevent youth involvement in the justice system. Data shows that youth with disabilities are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system. More research is needed to determine the prevalence of learning and attention issues (including ADHD and executive functioning challenges) among young people involved in the justice system—and the relationship between having these issues and becoming involved with the justice system. Reliable research into this relationship and the scope of the problem will allow us to take steps—either through policy or practice—that will improve outcomes for students. An increased investment into precipitating factors of justice involvement, common challenges with the justice system, and transition issues upon exiting the justice system are important next steps to addressing this complex and urgent issue.