As a part of District 64’s Student Services Action Plan, Director of Student Services Alicia Schmeisser, and Superintendent Dr. Eric Olson met with special education students at Emerson and Lincoln Middle Schools to give them a voice in the plan.
The four goals of the Student Services Action Plan are:
- Clarify and expand the continuum of services
- Seek to improve consistency and methods for greater student growth
- Expand learning opportunities for staff and community
- Foster a culture of trust through relationships
Students provided feedback on those goals, their importance, and where the work is most needed. “We want to hear from you because we think that you all have really important ideas that could give us direction for what we need to be doing for all students at school,” said Schmeisser as she addressed the room of eager students.
The group of classmates not only shared the commonality of going to school with each other, but they also had Individualized Education Plans (IEP) that involved strategies and support to be successful. The panel of middle schoolers described what IEPs meant to them.
“If you’re having trouble with a topic, you could have another teacher help you,” explained one D64 8th grader. “You could have another teacher help you or could have extra time on a test. There are a lot of accommodations that you can have here. So accommodations basically help you if you’re an IEP student that just needs more help.”
Another student described the support and resources he receives to stay organized and on task. “Instead of using just a whiteboard, my teacher will sit down next to me and use a dry-erase marker to write on my desk to help me visualize and understand what the problem is and how it’s working.”
Other peers shared real-life examples of how having an IEP helped make sure they made growth every year in school.
“I’ve been able to cope with the kids around me and just work on how to stay in class,” commented one 7th grader. “I try to figure out a problem on my own before I ask for help, and then if I still don’t understand it, then I will ask for help. Then the teachers will come over and give you the help you need.”
Schmeisser asked the group about how they could access core content delivered to them in the classes they were taking and how their classes prepared them for the next grade level.
“Classes are pretty easy, to be honest if you understand the concept,” noted one D64 8th grader. “The concepts get harder, but if you do know what you’re doing, it’ll be easy. Also, if you advocate for yourself, it could boost your grade a lot.”
“Like in science, social studies, or LA, if you don’t know what the word means and you don’t really want to ask it because you might think it’s a weakness. That’s one thing that helps people though because you should really ask so you get a better understanding.”
Part of the discussion also reviewed students’ favorite classes, and answers ranged from Marine Biology to Math and PE. Those were just a few, but one common theme in why students enjoyed certain subjects was their positive relationship with the teachers.
“If you have a teacher that you don’t like, you’re not going to enjoy the class, and you’re not going to feel like participating or anything,” said one 8th grader. He also mentioned how meaningful it is to have teachers understand different things going on in your life, like illnesses or why you were absent for an extended time.
One of the 7th graders added that trust makes students feel more comfortable confiding with teachers that they need help in certain areas, “Some teachers treat you like more than a student. So I’d probably feel more comfortable talking to them than talking to teachers that would be like, ‘Oh, that’s irrelevant to what we’re doing right now.’”
These insightful conversations with students were part of a process outlined by the Student Services Action Planning Committee. A group of representatives from the Board of Education, administrators, teachers, staff, and parents met multiple times to develop goals and a plan outlined on our website.