April 5, 2016

To Whom It May Concern,
It is a pleasure to write this letter of recommendation for Rachel Harper who is applying for a
position in your school/district. I have had the opportunity to work with Rachel in several
capacities, including as an instructor in our comprehensive literacy methods class taken during
the Internship year and as the Faculty Program Coordinator for the Special Education Program
at Michigan State University. In this letter, I would like to provide you with a glimpse of the
professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions our students will bring to your faculty, while
also speaking directly about this applicant.

Department of
Educational Psychology,
and Special Education

Richard S Prawat
Michigan State University
447 Erickson Hall
East Lansing, Michigan
FAX: 517/353-6393

MSU is an affirmative-action,
equal opportunity institution.

We believe that the special education program at MSU is providing comprehensive and cutting
edge professional preparation. Specifically, we have tried to prepare our teacher candidates
both broadly to encompass the many roles that special education teachers now play in schools,
but also with depth and quality within these critical roles. Special education teachers today
must be able to participate in at least four areas, including (1) providing remedial instruction
for students who have may have significant skill gaps, (2) participating on any number of
collaborative problem-solving teams, such as Response to Intervention, co-teaching, IEP’s,
pre-referral teams, and multidisciplinary evaluation teams, (3) provide access to the general
education curriculum within inclusive settings (i.e., instructional, behavioral, and social
interventions, accommodations, differentiated instruction, Universally Designed Learning), and
(4) transition programming, including key skills related to self-determination, self-advocacy,
and self-regulation as students make transitions throughout the lifespan (grade level and
school-to-post secondary).
Looking across these four areas, we have tried to develop significant depth and breadth in each.
Our students are prepared to teach non-conventional readers and writers using a variety of
instructional methods and approaches. Our students are prepared to conduct comprehensive
assessments in the core areas of literacy and mathematics and use data to inform instructional
planning for students. One of the hallmarks of our preparation has been to have teachers utilize
evidence-based interventions in their practices. We fully expect that Rachel can fulfill a widerange of expectations you may have for your special education faculty, whether that is to
improve IEP students’ basic skill levels in resource settings, delivering Tier II or III instruction
as part of a larger RTI initiative, or providing access to the general education curriculum
through a variety of learning-to-learn strategies, instructional accommodations, or cognitive
strategies. Our graduates also have had an entire course devoted to technology, so bring this
technical expertise to their teaching.
One of the things that Rachel will bring to your faculty will be a professional disposition to be
a team player that has a broader role in the building, through participation on a wide range of
collaborative problem solving teams. Effective communication and collaborative skills are
vital to the special education teacher’s success in the building, whether interacting with
parents/families, general education colleagues who are the primary teachers for most students
with disabilities, or through ancillary personnel who provides services to a child with an IEP
(i.e., school psychologist, social worker, physical therapist, speech and language, paraeducators). As districts move into school wide programs like Response to Intervention,
Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports, or Universal Design for Learning, the premium
on effective collaboration skills is heightened. Rachel is ready to assume this challenge and

brings knowledge of both the collaborative process and can play a key role in providing direct
service within these system approaches. The successful implementation of these programs
requires faculty with both skill and will—and Rachel is positioned to assume key roles as a
member of these comprehensive teams as an intervention specialist, behavioral specialist, or
co-teaching partner. Whether thinking about how to better implement the Response to
Intervention system in general education classrooms or providing intense, tailored
interventions to individual students, we expect our graduates to become valued and valuable
members of any collaborative problem solving team.
Rachel is currently a student in my CEP 804a Literacy Methods course. At MSU, students
have three literacy methods courses throughout their program. This final course focuses on
providing teachers with a balanced approach to providing instruction across the five core areas
of reading identified by the National Reading Panel (phonological awareness, phonics,
vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension), writing instruction, and teaching learning-to-learn
strategies to help students access core curriculum in content areas (e.g., science and social
studies). In addition to developing a comprehensive literacy assessment system, students
completed projects in reading, writing, and inquiry. A goal of the course is to engage students
as active learners who can be in search of knowledge, not just consumers of isolated skill
instruction. To accomplish this goal, Rachel developed an inquiry unit on sports to support a
larger focus on where she engaged her students as “researchers” or “experts” in understanding
this informational topic. Rachel provided scaffolded support across the entire research process,
including helping students to Plan their inquiry, identify main ideas and supporting details,
organize information from many different sources (books, interviews, video, data charts), and
then draft ideas into coherent text. One of the features of the inquiry process is disseminating
the results of one’s research to an authentic audience, something that is quite rare in schools.
This shift in focus positions students as active learners in search of information. I sincerely
hope that a prospective employer can view Rachel’s inquiry unit, as it will give you insight into
a teacher who understands her students deeply and then provides appropriates scaffolds and
supports to work in each child’s zone of proximal development. In a nutshell, Rachel is
simultaneously providing direct, explicit, and scaffolded instruction on specific cognitive
strategies, while also helping her students to become metacognitive of the research process.
This is a very complex piece of teaching, but one that is emphasized more than ever with the
new Core Curriculum Standards.
I also think it should not be lost on the search committee to look carefully at Rachel’s
experiences and training. Though a new teacher, Rachel has a rich range of experiences, with
an outstanding balance between urban/suburban, general and special education, and young
elementary students and high school students. Rachel has worked in among the most
challenging elementary schools in Lansing, Michigan, while also had the chance to experience
the opportunity to immerse her students in general education curriculum. This range of
experience have no doubt honed her skills to work with a wide range of students, including
experience working with refugees who have recently come to the United States.
Beyond the content of a comprehensive curriculum, I believe there are intrapersonal and
interpersonal skills that mark Rachel as an outstanding colleague. Rachel will display a very
even and professional disposition, all characteristics of excellent collaborators and problem
solvers—my sense is that Rachel maintains a level-headed approach, even when under duress.
Rachel displays a positive energy that is contagious—she is positive, goal focused, and
thoroughly enjoys learning about things that may benefit her students. Finally, there is an
important difference between young teachers who want to “help” and those who maintain high
expectations through personal responsibility. I believe Rachel is in this latter group—and this
is a key disposition for new teachers to develop. Rather than creating a kind of co-dependence
where too much support is provided and not removed, I believe Rachel holds high expectations
for all of her students and expects effort from every child. If I were building a school from the
ground up, I would want people like Rachel—people who are focused on improving the lives
of their students through rigorous learning, high expectation, and able to share their expertise

with others in professional learning communities of all kinds.
To conclude, I believe Rachel would be an important addition to any faculty. In this letter, I
have tried to provide some detail about the professional skills and dispositions that our students
develop as part of their teacher preparation program. We believe that Rachel will be an
outstanding team player, will be highly accountable to your students, provide instructional
expertise to many, and can help serve your school by participating in the multiple roles
expected of today’s special education professional. We are extremely proud of our teacher
candidates and confident that Rachel Harper will make a good school better. As the Director
of the Special Education Program at Michigan State University, I believe we are preparing the
top special education practitioners in the nation. This is a bold statement. If you interview
Rachel Harper, I believe you will see evidence of why I believe this to be true. Of course, if
you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write (mariaget@msu.edu) or call (517) 4321981.
Troy V. Mariage, Ph. D.
Associate Professor
Program Coordinator
Special Education Program
620 Farm Lane, #339 Erickson Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: 517-432-1981
Email: mariaget@msu.edu