Special education students set own goals, see progress

With over 100 special education students with learning disabilities, Alliance Middle School teacher Laura Kelleher had been trying for three years to get her students to set their own goals and to take ownership of their own reading skills. Seeking a stronger tool to help her in this effort, she turned to Diagnostic Online Reading Assessment (DORA), a comprehensive web-based program that assesses students' reading abilities.

“DORA has been great for helping us diagnose, assess, and guide reading instruction for our special education students. I love being able to see patterns in student performance over time,” Kelleher said.”I can assess an entire class in 45 minutes and quickly identify each student’s needs.”

Alliance Middle School is now using DORA to assess their students three times a year. The Alliance,Ohio middle school’s success has prompted the district, Alliance City Schools, to consider implementing DORA district-wide for special education students.

When first working with DORA, Kelleher used the reports to set goals for her students. Now they’re setting their own goals: students review the reports with Kelleher, and identify three priorities for them to work on during the semester. Then they decide what their comprehension goal for the year should be.

Kelleher has also started using the standards reports to create student Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

“We can easily see which students need to address which state standards. The instructional suggestions that the DORA reports provide are great for ?tting those IEP goals into regular classroom instruction too,” she says. ”Now we can tell our regular education teachers exactly what they need to do to help bring these students to grade level in reading.”

Seeing their own progress in the printed reports has bolstered students’ confidence to the point that they’re now actively looking for new challenges, reports Kelleher.

“They can see their own success from a print-out, an authentic source--not just my word. It’s a great reinforcement that they’re doing well. It helps make their motivation intrinsic. Now my students are working to raise their own bar!