Student Study Teams

Ten years ago in counseling school, I learned about Student Study Teams (also called Student Success Teams.) Our professor explained that Student Study Teams (SST’s) are a function of general education and that there exists the incorrect idea at many school sites that that if you don’t think a student would qualify for special education services you shouldn’t be doing an SST. Thankfully, we have a great, proper SST process at our school and I am proud to be a part of it.

Our Student Study Team meetings happen when a student is struggling either academically or personally/socially at school and needs more support than they are getting following other interventions specific to the concerns.  Students can be referred by school personnel (teacher, counselor, administrator) or parent and even self-referred.  Most often the call is made by the counselor based on their own observations or comments from a teacher, parents, or the student. About 10% of my current class has had SSTs.  Some of those students were offered assessment and qualified to receive services in special education.  Most received other kinds of support or suggestions and follow-up.

The actual meetings include the student and at least one parent, the counselor, school psychologist, administrator, resource teacher and any of the student’s current teachers who care to come.  Presented first are the student’s records including attendance, grades, transcript to date, and test scores followed by a form filled out by each teacher reporting observances regarding grades, tests, and behavior.  A packet of this information is given to each person and they follow along as this is gone over.  Our school psychologist looks through the student’s cumulative file and each teacher’s grade-book while this is going on and prepares questions to ask the student.  If a classroom teacher is in attendance, they present their own observations.

The members of the team then ask questions about the student’s past experiences in school (what was easy and what was challenging) and current experiences with studying, doing homework and classroom instruction and also ask about career goals and anything else that is pertinent.  The parents and student can share anything they want and also ask questions.  During the meeting, the counselor fills out the standard SST form that lists concerns, difficulties, teacher observations, and interventions.  The beauty of the process is that each person brings a different perspective and ideas to the team.  Interventions and suggestions come out usually from all who are present and the person in control of decisions is the student. We would never try to put an intervention in place that the student did not feel would work or was not willing to try.

The best characteristic of our SST’s is the positive, non-judgemental atmosphere.  I think the students are surprised as the adults present are not taken aback looking at low grades, attendance issues, social/emotional struggles, or discipline problems but are working with the student and parents to build solutions.  It truly is a team of people studying a student for about 45 minutes to an hour and a plan is made to address, cover, and then follow up with the interventions decided on. The kids are always told that if the suggestions don’t work to please come and let us know in the office and that we will be following up and calling them in.

The SST’s that we did the when my students were freshmen were the most obvious students in need.  Once those kids were taken care of, other students struggles were seen.  I have also had new students who came as sophomores and juniors surface as needing to be looked at more closely and they have been scheduled for SST’s this year.

I am continually amazed as problems, challenges and situations are discovered or revealed during our SST’s.  Our school psychologist told me that I always say the same thing after each SST.  “They’re all different.”

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