Student Study Team (SST)
The Student Study Team is a positive school‐wide early identification and early intervention process. As a team, the student, parents, teachers, school administrator and other related staff, work to identify the student’s learning strengths and needs, upon which an intervention plan can be designed.
As a regular school process, the SST develops recommendations, based on teacher/school concerns that will facilitate the student’s success within his or her current program. Concerns are seen as obstacles to the student’s success and not descriptors of the student or his or her character. The Team creates a plan with measureable, targeted interventions assigned to the student, the teacher(s), and the parents intended to support and encourage academic growth and a positive learning experience. Follow‐up meetings are planned as needed in order to maximize the student's success.
California Education Code 56303 states, “A pupil shall be referred for special educational instruction and services only after the resources of the regular education program have been considered and, where appropriate, utilized.” The SST develops recommendations that facilitate the student’s success within his/her regular education program. It is only after those interventions have not been successful that the SST would refer for evaluation to determine if the student requires special educational instruction and services.
The SST process supports regular education teachers as they work with struggling students to identify their needs prior to the referral for evaluation of more specialized instructional supports. The SST process helps teachers to develop interventions to assist the student. Specific areas of concern are identified; information is gathered through observation, interview, review of school records and informal assessment (as necessary).
There is typically an SST coordinator who leads the meeting, takes notes and makes sure the appropriate staff is present. You, as the parent/guardian, are encouraged to be a part of the SST. Of course, your student’s teacher would be there and perhaps other teachers from previous and/or future grade levels. Most schools will also invite an administrator, usually the principal, and potentially other support staff (such as a school counselor, school psychologist, intervention support staff, etc.)
Any unresolved concern that impedes learning may merit a request to the SST by a teacher, administrator or parent. Typically, the student’s teacher will initiate a meeting with the parent/guardian to discuss his/her concerns about the student’s progress. Other times, the parent/guardian might request a parent/teacher conference in response to a school concern. Together, you will come up with strategies to address those concerns. If, after a sufficient period of time to implement the strategies, the concerns persist, the student’s teacher initiates the referral to the SST for more support.
The SST works hard to maintain a positive, student‐focused environment. The meeting usually begins with a statement from the parent/guardian (as well as other members present who know the student) about the student’s strengths in any area. Identifying these strengths are extremely important in brainstorming possible intervention strategies; building off of what the student is already good at to increase the chances for his/her success.
Following the conversation about the student’s strengths, relevant background information is discussed. At this time any important education information (like retention or previous school attendance), family information (such as changes in the family structure, primary caregivers, etc.) and health information (any medical conditions that may impact the student’s academic success) is discussed. The parent/guardian is asked to complete a Background Information form prior to the SST meeting so that this information is readily available to the team. Following the SST, all documents including the Background Information form would be placed in the student’s confidential educational record.
At this point, the team members discuss the main concerns that brought the student to the SST. The team brainstorms different strategies to address these concerns and creates a timeline for implementing and monitoring new strategies and/or interventions. The SST will discuss if a follow up meeting is necessary to review the student’s progress and determine the need for future intervention.
You know your student best. Therefore, your insight into his/her background and behaviors at home is a critical part of viewing the whole child. Prior to the first SST meeting, you may be asked to complete a Background Information form about your student. Please complete this information and either return it to the school before the meeting or have it ready to share at that first SST; the school will let you know their policy. Next, be prepared to share your perception of your student’s strengths in any area as well as any concerns you have. The SST will ask for your input about what you have successfully tried to help your student. Historically, the SST is most successful when the teacher(s) and parents work together to set similar expectations for behavior and learning for the student.
The SST is a brainstorming process used to generate recommendations for addressing the specific teacher and parent concerns about the student. Therefore, recommendations are unique to the individual student and vary case by case. However, the SST might recommend different instructional strategies not yet tried by the teacher, or homework strategies not yet tried by the parent. Sometimes, the SST will refer the teacher and/or parent to other support systems where available, such as school‐based counseling, academic intervention programs or after‐school tutoring. If there are health‐related concerns, the SST may recommend that the parent/guardian look into further supports available through community resources. As a last resort, the SST can refer the student for consideration of a special education assessment.
The parent/guardian must give their consent for any screening, evaluation or participation in a program that will remove their student from their regular education program. However, the SST may request additional hearing and vision screenings; because these are given to every student in a particular grade and they would not require parental consent.
Yes, but only after several important decision criteria are met: 1) that reasonable classroom interventions of sufficient duration have been carefully attempted, without success; and 2) that the cause of the problem is suspected to be a disability that cannot be resolved without special education services.
Generally speaking, all referrals should go through the SST referral process. The SST interventions can be bypassed for students for whom it would be detrimental or for students whose difficulty is so severe or so unusual as to render the need for an evaluation. This is a decision to be made by the school with parent input.
Many factors can show success of the SST process, from teacher/parent satisfaction to pre/post student performance. As a problem‐solving process, the SST is a crucial step prior to special education referral to make sure all that can be tried within the general education environment, has been tried. Only those students who have not shown a positive response to the SST intervention strategies should be referred for special education assessment. These students are likely to require special education support as all else has been unsuccessful.