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Iowa Handout

Ensuring Effective Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) in Iowa


Iowa’s SPDG is beginning its third year of implementation and is completely aligned with Iowa’s SSIP. Three main objectives were established to ensure effective specially designed instruction (SDI) in Iowa:

1. Establish a technical assistance system to effectively implement and support personnel preparation and professional development in the area of specially designed literacy instruction.

2. Build capacity of Iowa’s coaching network so that network participants have the capacity to train, coach, and support delivery of specially designed literacy instruction with integrity.

3. Deliver high quality professional development so that specially designed literacy instruction is implemented with fidelity and effectively improves reading proficiency for a wide range of learners.

These objectives will be accomplished through four strands of focus:
Preschool The focus for this strand includes work to align SDI with the Division for Early Childhood Recommended Practices (DEC).

Implementation of identified evidence-based practices are also be a focus in working with Early Childhood Special Education teachers. K-6 Literacy Key outcomes focus on the SDI Framework as the foundation for the work. Also aligning with work already being done in Iowa

schools on MTSS and K-6 Literacy.
Significant Disabilities The focus of this strand is to improve literacy outcomes for students with significant disabilities through the evidenced

based comprehensive literacy instruction with an emphasis on receptive and expressive communication.
Family and School Partnership – Iowa’s proposed project, rather than having a separate family component, will integrate family needs into the

overall design of the program. This work is currently in development.


The SDI framework is the result of multiple years of work of a variety of Iowa stakeholders. Absent clearly articulated features of SDI, it is impossible to determine fidelity of its implementation or to efficiently organize resources and ensure that technical assistance and professional development activities present. Therefore, the stakeholders were convened to develop the key components and critical features that are represented in the SDI Framework. As feedback and data are collected and analyzed, revisions will continue to be made. The Framework was deliberately designed to be applicable across the various needs of learners with disabilities (e.g., literacy, behavior, communication, secondary transition).

Presentation by Amy Alfrey, Kathy Bertsch, Barbara Guy, Shelly Menendez, and Emily Thatcher at National SPDG Meeting, October 5, 2017; Washington D.C.





Use RIOT and SCIL in order to:

With a team who has relevant and specialized knowledge, develop a plan which:

Use evidence-based, high-leverage instructional practices in order to:

1. Define areas of concern and verify potential reasons for the


  1. Gather and triangulate multiple sources of data through the RIOT process

  2. Thoroughly review the learner’s educational history focusing intentionally on the setting, curriculum, instruction and learner’s performance to develop a learner profile

  3. Pinpoint skills and/or behaviors that are not at mastery

  4. Develop an observable, measureable concern that has a

    verifiable standard based on the data gathered

4. Incorporates evidence-based practices aligned to learner needs

  1. Apply diagnostic results to select appropriate supports for: ? Access

    ? Engagement

    ? Increasing specific skills

  2. Explicitly state learner outcomes

  3. Determine intensity and frequency of alterable variables (e.g.

    grouping, materials, accommodations, time, etc.)

  4. Use high leverage instructional practices that match the concept/skill

    being taught and the learner’s needs

  5. Maintain high expectations, is coordinated and is inclusive of the

    necessary services and supports

7. Deliver the instruction as designed and monitor instructional


  1. Regularly use implementation fidelity checklists/walkthroughs/observations to ensure:

    • all parts of the instructional plan are implemented as intended

    • the instructional plan is implemented with the frequency/intensity/duration as planned

    • instruction includes evidence-based, high-leverage instructional practices

  2. Intentionally and regularly engage ongoing implementation support for feedback and guidance (e.g., family, coaches, content experts, PLC, etc.)



2. Identify strengths, interests and preferences that sustain learner engagement

  1. Identify existing skills in which to build on through specially designed instruction

  2. Identify preferences for learning, materials, adult instructional behaviors, and activities that will maximize the likelihood a learner will remain engaged

5. Aligns to the Iowa Core and is age appropriate

  1. Align learning targets to grade level, learning progressions and foundational skills

  2. Align the learner’s IEP goals, progress monitoring and supports to Iowa Core

  3. Connect supports and services to instruction the learner is receiving throughout the school day

8. Monitor learner progress

  1. Use assessments/data sources that link directly to skills


  2. Collect and use formative and summative assessments as


  3. Gather data with sufficient frequency to make instructional


3. Determine critical supports needed for learner success

  1. Analyze the data collected in order to recommend and outline where specially designed instruction needs to begin

  2. Make an instructional match which includes the environment and approach/materials needed for the learner to access and make progress in the Iowa Core

6. Maximizes opportunities for access and engagement

  1. Address appropriate accommodations & modifications

  2. Consider multiple means of engagement, action and expression and

    representation which are matched to learner need

  3. Provide instruction in the general education environment and

    removal is considered only if needed for learner success.

9. Adjust instruction as necessary based on learner progress and instructional fidelity
a. Intentionally collaborate to review/analyze learner data to

enhance instructional practices and materials
b. Examine implementation data and progress data to consider:

? continuing the plan as written ? gathering more data
? improving implementation
? reducing supports/services

? intensifying/modifying supports


  1. High Expectations-Family & Teachers:

    1. Share high expectations for the learner

    2. Partner to promote self-determination in the learner

    3. Have access to and understand the curricular expectations and standards required of the learner

    4. Advocate for multiple approaches and strategies that will support the learner and hold their interest

    5. Recognize their roles in the teaching and learning process and stay up to date on pertinent responsibilities in

      supporting the learner

  2. Positive Communication Family & Teachers:

    1. Persistently and clearly communicate high expectations

    2. Communicateaboutthelearnerusingpreferredmethods

    3. Communicate honestly, openly and with respect

d. Seektounderstandbyaskingquestionsandactivelylistening

e. Recognize that they are partners in the teaching and learning process 3. ActiveInvolvement-Families&Teachers:

  1. Engage in collaborative and active problem solving

  2. Valuefullparticipationandsupportactiveinvolvement

  3. Support and promote positive and trusting relationships with learners

4. SupportLearnerLearning-Families&Teachers:

  1. Intentionally create and/or support safe, accessible and inviting environments for learning

  2. Establishandconnectlearnerstoreallifelearningenvironments

  3. Support and promote instruction that maximizes access and learner opportunity for growth

  4. Actively seek means to improve learner engagement

2 Iowa Department of Education; Iowa’s SDI Framework, Revision, August 2017