Sunday / April 21

“I’m the New Special Education Teacher, Now What?”

The Presenting Challenge…

“How can I make sure I’m serving the needs of all my students?” is a question I’ve been asked repeatedly by beginning special education (SPED) teachers. The roles and responsibilities of Education Specialists are extensive and can be extremely daunting, rendering development and implementation of systematic procedures as essential and critical.

As the Education Specialist you are not only the students’ teacher, but also their liaison who works collaboratively to advocate, communicate, and manage resources for the implementation of the continuum of services for the students’ Individual Education Program (IEP). In other words, their case manager. Therefore, efficiently collecting and gathering information about each student on your caseload is key to performing your job in an effective and successful manner.

The Proposed Solution…

So, a first step is to increase knowledge about your students’ eligibility/qualifying background, family culture, behaviors, skills, strengths & needs, along with previous assessment and classroom performances. Getting to know the students can begin before the first day of school by reading existing student IEPs & school cumulative folders, speaking with/contacting previous teachers, the school psychologist, additional service providers, and parents.

We’d like to think that we can maintain all the information in our heads about the individuals on our caseload, but creating systems for organizing the data is necessary. It enables you to not only manage it all for planning and developing teaching strategies, but also to easily share with the IEP team current and future members.

Fortunately, you do not have to start from square one because I have provided examples of tools for use as a guide in the development of your systematic program. There are multiple facets to SPED Case Management, but let’s start with Step 1.

Below you will find resource tools for the first of several steps in developing systems for effective case management. I have provided explanations for each tool. Whether you are a beginning special education teacher, or the mentor supporting a new teacher, Step I provides components for assisting in the development of a systematic program that focuses on the most important aspect of the job, the students.

The System:



Student IEP Summary

Caseload list

Student Profile


  1. Student IEP Summary

This tool not only assists the SPED teacher to become more familiar with each of his/her students as it is being completed by the teacher, but it is a helpful snapshot to have on hand for quick reference. It is also an effective communication tool to share with the paraprofessional working with the student, general education teachers, other service providers, and parents. It addresses key descriptors of a student including eligibility statement, strengths, challenges, accommodations, goals, and dates of IEP meetings. Here is an example of a completed tool for your reference.

Pages from Madigan_9781452202884_Final Text PDF_Page_1Pages from Madigan_9781452202884_Final Text PDF_Page_2

  1. Caseload List

The Caseload List helps SPED teachers to sort their students according to their grade level, general education teacher/homeroom number, the subject/content areas of their IEP goals, the minutes to be served by the SPED teacher and the due date of the next IEP. The tool helps teachers to systematize their caseload in order to determine schedule of service. Here is an example of how to organize students on the teacher’s caseload using this tool:

Name Grade Gen. Ed. Teacher/room number Goal content area Minutes of service IEP Date
Sue Clark 1st Rm. 6 Reading 60min. x

4 days

Joe Smith 1st Rm. 5 Reading 90 minutes x 4 days 12/7/15
Sharon Link 2nd Rm. 10 Reading 60 minutes x 4 days 5/5/16
Hank Jones 2nd Rm. 11 Reading & Writing 90 minutes x 4 days 10/1/15
Fred Peters 3rd Rm. 14 Reading & Writing 90 minutes x 4 days 3/15/16

Click here to download a blank version of this chart.

  1. Student Profile

This tool augments the Caseload List and provides an organized way to record information about students including monitoring progress toward their IEP goals. Students can be arranged on the tool in grade level and IEP content goal clumps following the same order as on the Caseload List allowing the teacher to systematically design instructional groupings and plan teaching strategies. The following provides an example of utilizing the tool.

Name /grade level/birthdate Eligibility/


Eng. Lang. Level Services Reading Level Math Level Goal(s) Evidence Goal(s) met
Sue Clark

First gr.


SLD N/A Speech & Lang. Pre-primer Basic Reading:

By 1By 11/16/15, Sue will be able to recognize and read 8/10 grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words in 2/3 trials as measured by student work samples.



Read 4/10 grade level sight words

Joe Smith

First gr.


SLD N/A OT Pre-primer Basic By 12/7/15, Sue will be able to recognize and read 8/10 grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words in 2/3 trials as measured by student work samples. 9/16/15:

Read 5/10 grade level sight words

 Sharon Link

2nd gr.



SLD N/A Primer Basic By 5/5/16, Sue will be able to recognize and read 12/15grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words in 2/3 trials as measured by student work samples. 9/16/15:

Read 8/15 grade level sight words

Click here to download a blank Student Profile.

Next Steps

Which tool will you select to start using right away ? Is there a tool that you find to be most helpful in your case management? If so, which one?  How can you “tweak” one or more of the tools for your individual needs? What do you think Step 2 in the Guideline would/should be? Please share these and any other ideas in a comment below.

Written by

Georganne Schroth-Cavataio is a veteran teacher of 30 years in both general and special education. Ms. Cavataio’s educational background includes a Masters degree in Education from San Jose State University (SJSU) with an emphasis on cross-cultural literacy for an equitable society. Additionally, her educational credentials include: Education Specialist, Reading Specialist, and Multiple Subjects. Within these many educational capacities, Ms. Cavataio has had opportunities to work with diverse populations ranging in ages from preschool through adult. She has mentored both special education and general education beginning teachers in grades K-12 locally and nationally with The New Teacher Center eMSS online mentoring program and Santa Cruz/Silicon Valley New Teacher Project. Ms. Cavataio has supervised student teachers and Interns for the Department of Special Education at SJSU. She has published with the education journal Academic Exchange Quarterly, and co-authored articles for the National Teacher Education Journal, and NASSP: Principal Leadership. Georganne is the co-author of Mentorship of Special Educators.

Latest comments

  • So helpful Georgeanne, thank you!

    • Hi Kristen,
      Thanks so much for reading my post. I am glad to hear that you find the ideas helpful. Perhaps you can share if you implemented any of the tools.
      Georganne 🙂

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