eNews - November 17, 2015

student study team

Many people have heard of Student Study Teams (SSTs), but there is often a misconception about what an SST really is. Let’s start with what an SST is not. SST does not stand for “Stall the Student from Testing” and it also does not mean “Save the Student’s Teacher.” SST stands for Student Study Team. Other people like to call it the Student Support Team because effective SSTs truly do identify the supports needed by the student to be successful. The SST is often the first step that a parent, or a teacher, can take when they have a concern about a child’s progress in school. The purpose of the SST is to design a support structure for students having difficulty in the regular classroom.

The SST is a group formed within the student’s school to further examine the student’s academic, behavioral, and/or social/emotional progress, and to provide interventions regarding the presenting problem(s). The team typically consists of teachers, an administrator, support personnel from the school, and the parent. Sometimes a special education teacher is included to provide an additional perspective and input. Depending on the concern, the district may also include other specialists such as the speech/language pathologist, school psychologist, or occupational therapist in the SST meeting.

The SST meeting provides an opportunity to share concerns regarding the student in the school setting and to explore opportunities to develop an intervention plan to work in the concern areas. Parents or staff members can make a request to hold an SST meeting.

All parties contribute to the discussion and decisions made at the meeting, which often consists of:

  • Identification of the student’s strengths
  • Discussion of concerns about the student at school
  • A review of the child’s school and/or developmental history
  • A review of interventions already tried

The SST tries to determine the cause of the presenting problems, which may include:

  • Impaired vision or hearing
  • Social problems
  • Medical condition
  • Physical or psychological issues
  • Language barriers
  • Other issues affecting the child’s performance

If the student has an existing condition that limits a major life function, the team may refer the student for a Section 504 evaluation to determine if a Section 504 Plan would be appropriate. A Section 504 Plan is typically used for a child who has a medical condition, such as asthma, and requires accommodations in order to achieve academic success.

The SST meeting can be a valuable opportunity for parents and staff members alike to share concerns and work together in alleviating a child’s presenting problems. SST meetings are encouraged as an initial step toward intervention, because school districts are required to exhaust all possible resources and accommodations for children in the general education classroom before looking as to how to serve students in a more restrictive environment, even for students who have been found eligible for special education or a Section 504 Plan. However, if the interventions provided by the SST and/or Section 504 Plan do not sufficiently allow the student to adequately progress in their education, then the team may need to consider an evaluation for special education eligibility.

The SST process can be a valuable resource to help a student succeed. Because special education services are only intended for students whose needs cannot be met in a regular education setting, the SST process can be essential in ruling out lower levels of interventions, should the student require an evaluation for special education eligibility. A great resource for strategies and information on behavior and interventions is the PRIM (Pre-Referral Intervention Manual). For additional information on SSTs, see the D/M SELPA policy and procedure manual, Chapter 1, Section C.