The following characteristics should be considered in the team’s makeup:
Team members should have their colleagues’ respect.
Staff are more likely to seek or accept input from individuals who have credibility and are held in high esteem.
Team members should be able to apply effective group process skills.
Underpinning team operations are the dynamics of group process. The degree to which team members are able to cooperatively work together as a healthy unit (e.g., communicate, resolve conflicts, trust one another, support one another, openly share information, observe privacy rights) will directly affect their effectiveness and longevity.
Team members should be knowledgeable about the school building’s program of I&RS and its procedures, as well as related school and community policies and resources.
There should be understanding, agreement and commitment on the I&RS team’s mission and operating procedures. Team members should be familiar with all school policies and be able to relate the implications of applicable policies to each request for assistance. Familiarity with available community resources is particularly important for proceeding with students who require assistance from resources outside of the school.
Team members should possess the requisite skills for assessing and solving problems in a collaborative manner.
Most educators tend not to receive extensive instruction or have experience in the skills of collaborative problem solving in either their preparatory programs or in the workplace. Operating in a structured, collaborative mode involves far
more than just “working together.” Skills such as data collection, data analysis, problem assessment, brainstorming, problem solving, consensus building, creative thinking, behavioral observation, program planning, organizational
development, as well as the group process skills identified above, are necessary for staff to be effective members of an I&RS team.
Team members should be familiar with the district’s instructional objectives and curriculum.
Knowledge of the required curriculum and standards for instruction are essential in determining appropriate strategies for solving learning problems at all grade levels. This is particularly important for the early elementary years, since primary age students tend to exhibit at-risk behaviors more by way of academic problems, rather than behavioral issues.
Team members should be familiar with traditional, innovative and culturally sensitive instructional practices and other education programs and methods for formulating strategies and techniques helpful to school staff and parents.
Put simply: If school staff do what they have always done with recurring problems, they are quite likely to get the same results. Many of the problems presented by students can be readily resolved with tried and true methods, but many others may require more innovation and experimentation. In either case, once staff members have added the strategy to their supply of instructional or behavioral management practices, they have increased their capacity to address
similar problems in the future, without requesting the assistance of the I&RS team.
When problems continue after repeated attempts at correction, imaginative strategies may be the team’s most appropriate response. The implementation of an I&RS team does not magically produce innovative or effective solutions to persistent problems. Team members should be selected, in part, because of their proclivity toward creativity or a balance of right- and left-brain thinking; their breadth of knowledge and experience in techniques for individualizing instruction; their specialized skills and information base; and their ability to represent the culture, language and backgrounds of the student population.
Team members should stay current
with the research literature on effective instructional practices and actively
new strategies in order to expand their repertoire of ideas for helping staff
and parents who request assistance for problems.
Since school staff often approach an I&RS team after they have attempted a number of correctional strategies, it is absolutely critical that team members expand their repertoire of practices and techniques for dealing with the spectrum of student academic, behavior, social-emotional and health problems. Teams are strongly encouraged to include steps to receive ongoing training in new strategies as part of their plans for developing and improving the I&RS program, which should be developed, at a minimum, on an annual basis.
A variety of funding sources are available to support these professional development and other team activities. Some examples of eligible funds include the following:
♦ Local Educational Agency Formula Funds under the No Child Left Behind Act.
♦ Special Education Funds.
♦ General Education Allocation.
♦ Comprehensive Educational Improvement Financing Act (where applicable).