Student Support Team (SST)

  • What is SST?


    Student Support Team (SST) is Tier 3 in Georgia’s Pyramid of Interventions. SST has been in place in Georgia’s schools since 1984. SST is a six step problem solving process to assist students who do not respond to interventions in Tier 2:


    Gathering Information: Prior to and during the first meeting, team members gather as much relevant information as possible regarding the student’s past and present educational and/or behavioral performance. Information should be gathered from a variety of sources including parents, official school records, and anecdotal records.


    Assessment and Evaluation of Data: The team meets to discuss and interpret the information available to them. The team may decide that more information is needed and develop a plan for obtaining the information.


    Development of Educational Plan: After evaluating the existing information, the team develops an individual educational plan specific to the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Strategies and techniques are brainstormed and agreed upon by all those involved in the implementation process. A timeline for follow-up and evaluation of progress is established.


    Implementation of Educational Plan: The educational plan is implemented for a specific period of time. Additional data is gathered as needed.


    Evaluation of Progress: The SST reconvenes to discuss progress and additional data. The educational plan is changed as needed. Further course of action is discussed.


    Ongoing Monitoring and Evaluation: The SST monitors student progress and alters the plan as is necessary. If the educational plan is effective and no disability is suspected, the team should meet periodically to discuss the student’s progress.



    GA Department of Education Rules Related to SST


    Code: IGB


    160-4-2-.32 STUDENT SUPPORT TEAM.


    (1) Definitions:

    (a) Student Support Team (SST) - an interdisciplinary group that uses a systematic process to address learning and/or behavior problems of students, K-12, in a school.


    (2) Requirements:


    (a) Each school shall have a minimum of one Student Support Team and shall establish support team procedures.


    (b) Before a referral is made for other supplemental or support services an evaluation and/or assessment shall be conducted.

    1. Prior evaluation(s) and/or assessment(s) of a student for a state or federal program shall be considered as having met this requirement.


    (c) The SST shall include at a minimum the referring teacher and at least two of the following participants, as appropriate to the needs of the student:


    1. Principal

    2. General education teacher

    3. Counselor

    4. Lead teacher

    5. School psychologist

    6. Subject area specialist

    7. ESOL teacher

    8. Special education teacher

    9. School social worker

    10. Central office personnel

    11. Section 504 coordinator

    12. Other appropriate personnel


    (d) Parents/guardians shall be invited to participate in all SST meetings regarding their child and in the development of interventions for their child.


    (e) Each school shall include the following steps in the SST process:


    1. Identification of learning and/or behavior problems


    2. Assessment, if necessary


    3. Educational plan


    4. Implementation


    5. Follow-up and support


    6. Continuous monitoring and evaluation


    (f) Documentation of SST activities shall include the following:


    1. Student’s name


    2. Names of team members


    3. Meeting dates


    4. Identification of student learning and/or behavior problems


    5. Any records of assessment


    6. Educational plan and implementation results


    7. Follow-up and, as appropriate continuous evaluation


    (3) Exceptions to the use of the SST process:


    (a) School personnel and parents/guardians may determine that there is a reasonable cause to bypass the SST process for an individual student. Documentation in the 160-4-2-.32 student’s record shall clearly justify such action, including whether the parent or guardian agreed with such a decision. In cases where immediate referral is sought, the SST shall still determine what interim strategies, interventions, and modifications shall be attempted for the student. Parents may request a direct referral to special education. In these cases RTI process will be conducted as part of the evaluation within the 60 day timeline.


    (b) It is not necessary for students who transfer into the local school system/state operated program with a current Individualized Education Program or Section 504 plan to go through the SST process.



    Student Support Team: Frequently Asked Questions


    (Adapted from Georgia Department of Education SST Resource Manual)


    Just what is a student support team? The Student Support Team is a regular education, problem-solving process in every Georgia school. Its purpose is to provide support to both students and teachers with the outcome being improved student performance. It is Tier 3 in Georgia’s Pyramid of Interventions.


    Is this SST process mandated? Yes. SST was a permanent commitment by the state of Georgia to federal district court as a result of Marshall vs. Georgia, 1984. It is defined in Georgia Board Rule 160-4-2-.32.


    Why is there a renewed emphasis on SST? The 2004 authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) affirmed that a Response to Intervention (RTI) methodology should be used it identify Specific Learning Disabilities. An achievement-ability discrepancy can no longer be used.


    The 1997 re-authorization of IDEA emphasized that students with disabilities should receive the maximum time appropriate in the regular classroom. Those teachers often need support with specialized teaching methods.


    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act has been emphasized by the federal government as applicable to the schools' handling of students with physical and mental disabilities. SST documentation can meet most Section 504 requirements.


    Educators realize that conditions beyond mere academics are often pivotal for students at risk of failure. Collaboration across agencies can be valuable.


    School-based management and team problem solving have become recognized successes in the national education reform movement.


    Increased concern about school safety has called for more effective classroom behavior management. The collective wisdom of SST members can help school personnel improve student behavior and school safety.


    Who makes up the Student Support Team? Membership varies from school to school. Three is the minimum number of SST participants as defined by Georgia Board Rule 160-4-2-.32. These may include an administrator, counselor, regular education teacher, special education teacher, school social worker, parent, ESOL teacher, school psychologist and others, as appropriate for the case under review. Leadership of an SST can take numerous forms, yet a few aspects are common to each team. Team leaders, whether representing the entire school or only one of several teams, assume substantial duties beyond their regular jobs. Extra hours, organization skills, accessibility, and good communication skills are essential to the success of the team.


    Who may request assistance from the SST? The expertise of the SST is for the benefit of the entire school. Any unresolved problem that impedes learning may merit a request to SST by a teacher, administrator, parent, or student. However, the decision to apply the SST process is made by the team after careful consideration of the student’s needs.


    What happens when SST addresses a problem? A brainstorming process is used to generate recommendations for solving the problem. These recommendations are documented in SST records and given to a teacher to implement with the student. The team then meets periodically to review the student’s progress and determine the need for further intervention.


    How long is the SST strategy implemented? This depends on the specific problem. In most cases, 8 to 12 weeks of intervention is recommended. This is usually sufficient for determining whether the strategies and modifications will succeed. The team must then determine whether to continue with the same interventions, formulate new interventions, or explore other options. Some cases are of short duration, yet some at risk students may be followed by SST for their entire school career.


    Should the SST refer all students for a hearing/vision screening? Yes. Difficulties with hearing and/or vision have a profound impact on a student’s learning. It is often beneficial to complete a screening early in the SST process. Any problems should be addressed immediately and the impact of the problem on the student’s learning should be carefully considered.


    What other types of evaluation should be conducted as part of the SST process? Each team should decide on a case-by-case basis whether formal testing will be a part of the SST process. Collection of progress monitoring data, behavioral data, district and state benchmarks, existing standardized test results and anecdotal information are usually sufficient to meet the needs of the child. Decisions of whether or not to refer a student for a psychological evaluation should never be made solely on the basis of test scores.


    Is parental consent required for screenings and evaluations? Consent is required for any screening or evaluation in which a student is singled out from his/her peers. Hearing and vision screenings given to every student in a particular grade do not require consent and can be used as part of the SST process.


    Can the SST refer students for evaluation for special education consideration? Yes, but only after: 


    1. Reasonable classroom interventions of sufficient duration have been carefully attempted, without success; and 


    2. The cause of the problem is suspected to be a disability that cannot be resolved without special education services.


    Do all referrals for special education need to go through the SST? Generally speaking, all referrals should go through the SST referral process, including referrals of speech and language services. The SST interventions can be bypassed for students for whom it would be detrimental or for students whose difficulty is so severe or so unusual as to render the SST of no help. This is a decision to be made by the school with parent input. Also, preschool children and students who have a current IEP or Section 504 plan may bypass SST. In any case, a bypass of SST interventions needs to be justified and documented in writing in the minutes of the SST meeting.


    Can students with limited English proficiency be served through the SST? An ESOL student may be referred for any available, appropriate program, including services of the Student Support Team, with no time restrictions. When an ESOL student’s case is considered by the Student Support Team, the ESOL teacher should be a member of the team. If concerns persist in spite of interventions and/or participation in alternative programs to assist the student and there is concern that the student may have a disability, the SST may consider a referral to special education. If the ESOL student is not found eligible for special education services, the SST will continue to serve as a resource and to provide support to that student. However, the team should keep in mind the difference between cultural characteristics and the presence of disabilities.


    Can students served through the Early Intervention Program be considered by SST? Students may be considered for difficulties that would normally warrant an SST study. Placement in EIP should not be considered the basis for an automatic request for SST.


    Must parents be invited to all SST meetings held on their child? Yes. Student Support Team Rule 160-4-2-.32 requires that parents be invited to all SST meetings held on their child.


    Must parents give consent for an SST meeting? Although parents must be invited to all SST meetings, they do not have to give consent for the SST meeting to take place or to give consent for the SST plan to be implemented. Every effort should be made, however, to help parents view the student support team process in a positive light and to understand that this process is not a special education placement.