A resource specialist program (RSP) is a form of special education that is available to students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities and who are having trouble in one or more areas of classroom learning. RSP might be called directed studies in some schools, particularly in middle schools and high schools. It might be a once-a-day class that middle school and high school students take to help address ongoing learning challenges. In many jurisdictions, public schools are required to have RSP services available to students who require them.
Led by a Qualified Teacher
A teacher who is credentialed in Special Education heads an RSP. This specialized credential helps the teacher address a variety of learning disabilities. Special Ed teachers also are skilled in assessment for learning disabilities, which might constitute a portion of their work, as well as assessment of students in meeting predefined goals. The RSP teacher might employ assistants called resource specialists who work in the RSP classroom or work with individual students or groups as needed. Sometimes, an RSP’s nominal head is a school district Special Ed teacher who administrates RSPs at the individual schools.
Mainstreaming is a Goal
One goal in Special Education is to help students learn in regular classroom settings, which is called mainstreaming. An RSP might be set up so that teachers or resource specialists work with students in their mainstreamed classrooms. Especially if many students in a particular classroom require assistance, the RSP might focus on the teacher or resource specialist going to a class and assisting at certain designated points during the day, such as the times devoted to acquiring language or math skills.
Pull-Out Time an Option
The needs of each student are often designated by Individual Education Plans (IEPs). In some cases students might benefit from “pull-out” time. In these cases, students visit an RSP classroom for part of the day, possibly every day or several times a week, to work on basic skills. This means that the RSP teacher must attempt to schedule pull-out times around multiple teachers' schedules, and the students often must try to catch up on things that were missed in class.
Pull-out work can be challenging for students because they might be grouped by needs rather than by age or classroom. Some students, especially older kids, might resent pull-out time because they might have to make up material that they miss in class and might receive lower grades in subjects in which they normally do well. RSP pull-outs usually trump students’ concerns, however, because students who have IEPs need extra time to master basic skills that will facilitate more advanced learning.
An RSP can change yearly to adapt to the changing needs of students who require assistance. One important aspect of any RSP is continued assessment of a student’s ability to meet IEP goals. When IEP meetings are convened each year, benchmark goals are set. The RSP teacher must be able to target his or her teaching methods toward helping each student achieve individual goals. When goals are not achieved, more testing might be required to better define the specifics of a student’s learning challenges.
Cooperation is Essential
The RSP works best when teachers in mainstream classrooms cooperate and implement the strategies suggested by RSP teachers that are designed to help each student perform his or her best. Not all teachers are equally cooperative, although many try hard to be so. When RSP instruction takes place without the input of the student’s primary teacher, however, the resulting benefits are diminished. For this reason, RSPs that incorporate additional help in the student’s main classroom might be more successful in helping the student with minor learning disabilities. On the other hand, students who are far behind in basic skills such as reading or mathematics might benefit more from pull-out instruction.
In some cases, students cannot function well in a regular classroom and might need more than an RSP program. Not all students benefit from being instructed in mainstream settings. The next level up are Special Education classes, which students attend solely instead of in addition to RSP program pull-outs.
Each school or school district might organize Special Ed and RSP classes differently. Sometimes, RSP and Special Ed classes are administered by the same department within a school district. In other cases, the two are completely separate departments. When the departments are separate, communication between the departments is essential because some students make a transition from Special Ed classes into mainstreamed classes with RSP assistance.