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Final Case Analysis: Savannah
Our group worked with Savannah, which was a unique situation. The IEP meeting for
Savannah included the assistant principal, the mathematics teacher, the special
education teacher, the school psychologist, the english/language arts teacher, the gifted
program coordinator, Savannah’s mom, and Savannah.The meeting was centered
around five main points, Savannah’s present levels of performance, Savannah’s annual
IEP goals for the coming year and the types of special education services she will
receive, Savannah’s participation in the gifted program and a review of the team's
The principal started the meeting off by allowing the staff present to introduce
themselves and providing Savannah’s mom with the procedural safeguards. The
school psychologist spoke first and she discussed Savannah’s evaluation test scores.
On the WISC III Savannah’s full scale IQ was 132, verbal 136, performance 130. On the
basic achievement skills inventory-2 Savannah’s math total standard score was 85,
showing particular problems with math computation. Savannah’s other scores included
reading total (130) and written language total (107). The school psychologist mentioned
that she was surprised to discover during testing that Savannah had a significant math
disability which had not been noted previously. As she was going through her records
she noticed that Savannah scored below average on her math state test in fifth grade
but it was attributed to the fact that she didn’t complete the test due to illness.
Mr. Sharp Savannah’s Math teacher spoke next and he proposed that Savannah
should be placed in the special ed resource math class so she can learn the basic math
facts and computation. He felt like it would be a waste of time for her to work on higher
level mathematics and her focus should be on getting the basic skills in place so she’ll
be ready for high school. He also mentioned that in class he does cooperative learning
activities and Savannah rarely participates. He believes she's embarrassed about her
math skills and is uncomfortable working in groups. Mr. Sharp suggested that the
special education teacher work with Savannah to increase her confidence in math.
Ms. Raring, the gifted program enrichment coordinator chimed in and suggested
that Savannah become a part of the gifted program. She stated that she would be
thrilled to have Savannah participate because in the past there have been no students
of color in the program. Ms. Raring explained that the gifted program is structured
around twice/week enrichment activities and there are twice monthly after school trips.
She believes this would be a great opportunity for Savannah based on her
disadvantaged background. Ms. Raring also made sure to explain that in the district
there are no gifted programs at the high school level and that Savannah should take
advantage of this opportunity now. Even though Savannah basic math skills are weak it
shouldn’t pose too much difficulty during the enrichment activities which usually entail
higher level thinking. The students usually work in groups and are encouraged to build
teams around each other’s Strength.
While Ms. Keen, Savannah’s english teacher was speaking, Savannah
mentioned to her mom that she did not want to participate in the gifted program. Ms.
Keen nominated Savannah for the gifted program and raved about her exceptional
writing creativity. She stated that Savannah is very friendly with other kids but doesn’t
seem to have a lot of friends. She encouraged Savannah to participate in the gifted
program even if it means missing her class twice each week. She thinks the program
might be more engaging because she’s surrounded by students like her.
Savannah voiced that she does not want to participate in the gifted program
because she already gets teased by kids in the neighborhood for being a bookworm.
She also stated that she loves her English class and does not want to miss it for
enrichment activities. Savannah also stated that the girls in the gifted program always
try to play with her hair, as if they’d never been around a black person before and it
makes her feel uncomfortable. She also addressed her issues with math and stated that
math isn’t really difficult, she just thinks that it's boring and she hates when Mr. Sharp
makes her work in groups.
Savannah’s mom spoke next and she expressed that she is very proud that her
daughter has been recognized as gifted, she never knew what to make of all the
reading and writing Savannah would do at home. When the school called to ask for
permission to test Savannah for the gifted program she was surprised because back in
her day the school only called when you were in trouble. Savannah’s mom stated that
Savannah is her only child and she's determined to make sure savannah has a good
school experience which is why she “choiced” her into this school in a better
neighborhood. She also stated that Savannah has a really hard time making friends
because she can’t stay after school due to not having a ride home. She also doesn’t
agree with Savannah’s math disability, she believes Savannah is just being lazy. If
Savannah is able to excel in reading and writing she should be doing just as well in
Ms. Merritt, the special education teacher, stated that she has mixed feelings
about the gifted program for Savannah due to her not wanting to participate. She
believes there are much bigger issues to address such as the math disability. She also
believes Savannah has social issues but math is her main priority. The meeting ended
in no general consensus, so there was no final verdict for Savannah’s classroom setting
based on her math disability or her participation in the gifted program. In addition, no
one in the meeting responded to the fact that Savannah stated she is being bullied and
teased by her classmates.
Several problems are identified as a result of analyzing this case. The most
prevalent one was that Savannah being bullied and teased by her classmates was not
mentioned very much and recommendations or solutions were not given by any of the
staff members in the meeting. When it was mentioned the Gifted program coordinator
just said “ It won’t happen here”. Essentially, the IEP team could not come to agreement
on whether or not Savannah should participate in the gifted program. In addition,
Savannah’s math disability was not taken seriously, both her mother and Mr.Sharp feels
like she’s lazy and does not want to do the work so there seems to be a disconnect
between departments. The process of the meeting was strange, Savannah was not
included in the meeting like she should have, she was not able to voice her feelings and
opinions even though the meeting was for her. Mr. Sharp Savannah’s math teacher was
extremely rude and disrespectful. At one point in the meeting he stated “It’s not me, it’s
Savannah she just doesn’t get the basic math skills and she needs to be in Special
Education classes”. This was especially problematic considering the fact that it was
stated numerous times in the meeting that she has a math disability and needs extra
assistance and support from her teacher in order to be successful. Last but not least the
agenda of the meeting was to discuss Savannah’s present levels of performance,
Savannah’s annual IEP goals for the coming year and the types of special education
services she will receive, Savannah’s participation in the gifted program and a review of
the team's recommendation the team did not come to a conclusion on any of these main
There are many problems affecting Savannah which are necessary to discuss.
First, given her dislike for math and attitude towards learning it seems like she’s
suffering from a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset describes people who see their qualities
as fixed traits that cannot change. With a fixed mindset, talent is enough to lead to
success and effort to improve these talents isn’t required: one is born with a certain
amount of skill and intelligence that can’t be improved upon. Those who hold a fixed
mindset believe that they are either good or bad at something based on their inherent
nature. Those with fixed mindsets may avoid challenges, give up easily and ignore
useful negative feedback (Dweck, 2010).
A major part of the problem is that Savannah tends to be quiet in class. She is
very friendly with her peers and well-liked, but she prefers to work alone if given a
choice. She often appears to be distracted and unfocused on class assignments and
does not consistently submit homework assignments. It seems like Savannah is not
receiving the necessary accommodations and modifications to help with focus, staying
on task, submitting class assignments and her social issues. When a student has an
(IEP) or a , you’ll likely hear the word accommodation. You may also hear school staff
members say modification. While the two words sound similar, they mean different
things. An accommodation changes how a student learns the material and a
modification changes what a student is taught or expected to learn (Volpitta). Savannah
is also struggling with a learning difficulty known as Dyscalculia. Dyscalculia is a math
learning disability that impairs an individual’s ability to learn number-related concepts,
perform accurate math calculations, reason and problem solve, and perform other basic
math skills (Frye, 2021). Also, the middle school made an effort this year to
screen students from under-represented groups for possible participation in the gifted .
program. Savannah was nominated for screening by her English teacher. The issue
here is that Savannah does not want to participate but her English teacher, the gifted
program coordinator, the special educator and the school psychologist believes it will be
beneficial to her. The entire IEP meeting was centered around Savannah and she felt
uncomfortable, unheard and not included.
There’s several possible solutions that could be implemented to help out
Savannah. Research and experience has told us that having social skills is essential for
success in life. Inclusive teachers have always taught, provided and reinforced the use
of good social skills in order to include and accommodate for the wide range of students
in the classroom. I would start by recommending Savannah’s teachers implement steps
in order to create a more inclusive classroom and to help support her social skills
development. Assigning Savannah a classroom job will provide her the opportunity to
demonstrate responsibility, teamwork and leadership. The Jobs can be as simple as
handing out papers, taking attendance, or being a line-leader and that can highlight her
strengths and in turn, build her confidence. In addition to the academic benefits, large
and small group activities can give Savannah an opportunity to develop her social skills
and gain more confidence working with others. Savannah’s teachers should also
encourage her to complete and turn in her assignments on time. They should work with
her to get organized and reiterate when assignments should be turned in.
Another solution to help Savannah with her math learning disability is having a
teacher who understands. Her math teacher currently is rude, disrespectful and shows
no interest in helping Savannah cope with her disability. Many students with dyscalculia
struggle with what’s commonly called math anxiety. “Kids who have a hard time with
math often feel serious anxiety when it comes to doing any math-related task, especially
homework or tests,” explains Meredyth Kravitz, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist.
Oftentimes, this anxiety becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, says Dr. Kravitz. “Kids who
struggle with math often become so anxious that the anxiety takes over. They’re unable
to concentrate on learning the problem or passing the test because they’re worried
about doing badly.”Math anxiety isn’t exclusive to kids with dyscalculia, but it is common
among children with the disorder. “One of the keys to helping kids with dyscalculia is
teaching them anxiety management strategies,” says Dr. Kravitz. As kids learn to
manage the anxiety provoked by math challenges, they become more able to absorb
information and techniques that can help.
As I stated earlier Savannah was nominated to participate in the gifted program
but she’s not interested due to teasing.bullying and missing her English class. I would
recommend allowing Savannah to test out the gifted program for a few weeks and if she
really does not enjoy it she should be allowed to stop participating. Forcing students to
participate will create a negative impact.
Parents and caregivers are often nervous about IEP meetings to check on their
child’s progress and challenges. There are important tenets for team members to follow
to ensure the meeting runs smoothly. The team members should bring the learning
goals and plans, and when it is their turn, share their vision for how to help the student
strive to reach those goals. Bring some solid strategies and suggestions that will help
the student succeed. I also recommend briefing the team members about the student
before the IEP meeting begins so that the team is on the same page and the agenda is
There are several things I learned from being involved in Savannah’s IEP. I
realized that these meetings can come with a lot of challenges. There’s no single
solution that’ll connect perfectly with every member of the IEP team, so even the most
objective standard of rationale can come with controversy. This was especially prevalent
with Mr. Sharp, Savannah’s math teacher. He lacked empathy for Savannah's disability
and he disregarded her feelings. As a teacher your main priority is to make sure all your
students succeed and that you’re doing your very best to meet all their needs. I also
learned about the importance of bringing emphasis to the student’s disability.
Throughout the whole conversation, no one often directly spoke on Savannah’s
disability. Because of this, most of the meeting was being driven as if Savannah was
lazy. This mistake created an unproductive outcome, considering the fact that a solid
consensus wasn’t met.
Overall, this has contained several implications for my professional career. I’ll
make sure to approach meetings calm and positive with assertiveness, jumping straight
to the core of the issue. Ignoring the primary cause of the student’s behavioral troubles
and beating around the bush can be unproductive in the short term and harmful in the
long term, especially to the success and well-being of the student. I’ll make sure to
present myself in a pleasant manner, especially to parents and the IEP team members.
I’ll make sure to do what’s necessary to effectively guide IEP meetings in the right
direction while allowing parents the comfort and right to add as much input as they feel
is necessary. I will be sure to make sure the student feels heard, seen and valued.
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