There are many variables to consider when addressing a student’s level of need. Some special education students may require individual instruction for all of their day, in all of their subjects. Some may function quite well in a mainstream classroom with a teacher or assistant providing help as needed. Still others may have combinations of these needs or of anything in between!

Changing Needs

The frequently changing needs of the special education student can present challenges for both student and teacher. Often, a student who requires close supervision and assistance may transform into one who has minimal needs and requires only occasional monitoring. Generally speaking, most special education kids will have the same teacher and remain in the same classroom throughout the entire day. While each student may have individual subjects, the teacher may be teaching different subjects at different levels to the same group of students.


Regardless of the student’s ability, the teacher (or the paraprofessional that assists the teacher) is the first line of defense when transitioning a student to the mainstream classroom. This is the time when a reassessment of the student’s needs may be critical to his success. So, the teacher, or paraprofessional, will, because of their familiarity with the student, assure that all academic needs are being met. In addition, any and all difficulties encountered when a child is transitioned, will also need to be addressed and documented. Some problems may be the child’s inability to keep up with assignments, or having trouble following verbal instructions. Information of this nature should be communicated back to the assigned teacher, who is then responsible for reassessing the student’s current level of need, and deciding on the appropriate placement. Some students may excel and progress to having a need for monitoring only, while others may become overwhelmed and have a need for additional support.

Student Monitoring

In regard to student monitoring, there are different levels to be considered. The special education teacher must determine whether the student requires close monitoring, in which help is made available during each period…or less stringent monitoring, in which the student meets with a teacher during a study period during which time he can catch up, organize, and receive help if necessary. If close monitoring is to be applied, the student would receive ongoing assistance as needed when the teacher is present. All homework and pertinent information can be gathered and reviewed during each period. This is beneficial, as well as necessary for the organizational needs of some students. This arrangement also allows for the availability of a teacher to help explain assignments if needed. The teacher, because of the nature of working more closely with the student, will also have a better understanding as to the student’s comprehension and his ability to progress to a lesser need for monitoring.

Academic Progress

With less vigilant monitoring, in which the teacher and child may meet once daily during a study period, grades achieved may be the best predictor of the child’s ability to succeed. Ideally, when moving into the high school years, most mainstreamed students will be provided with study hall monitoring of their academic progress. This also will allow them a time in their day in which to have a quiet study environment, organize their work and complete assignments.

In all of these scenarios, it is essential that input from students, parents and teaching staff be communicated regularly. It is the key element in determining the successful transition from special education to the mainstream classroom.