Ambitious Teaching: A Beginner’s Guide

Are you preparing the next generation of early childhood educators and leaders? How long has it been since you critically examined your syllabi and teaching practices? Did you know you may be widening the research to practice gap by making higher education – a place of evidence-based professional development – a hostile and unwelcoming environment?

Existing literature suggests that power relations and issues of expertise limit the extent to which faculty engage students in the design of their own learning and listen or respond to their needs (e.g. Mihans, Long, & Felton, 2008). In your work, examine and challenge the culture of higher education and the role of student-faculty interactions within and beyond the classroom. These interactions are crucial to the development of higher education students’ self-concept, motivation, and achievement (Komarraju, Musulkin, & Bhattacharya, 2010).

You can engage in critical conversations about the expectations placed upon pre-service practitioners. Through ambitious teaching, taking risks pedagogically and reconceptualizing teaching and learning for teachers and learners, you can facilitate dialogue around the extent to which the traditional “status-quo” of educator preparation truly teaches the behaviors we want to see.

Presume competence, rethink relationships, and trust the students you are preparing for the workforce.

Let’s Get Started

  1.  Evaluate your beliefs.  I’m talking, back to the basics.   What do you believe about your learners themselves?  Do you believe they are generally committed and hard working or do you believe they are aloof, uncaring, lazy?  What do you know and believe about how people learn?  About how learning is assessed?  About how we can make learning visible?  This step takes work and time and reflection!  You can use this to get started.

If attendance and compliance count toward their grade, ask yourself what your grades reflect.  Do they reflect progress toward content mastery?  If students can demonstrate mastery on your assessments without attending class, what does that tell you about your course content, your assessments, your pedagogy?  These are just a few thoughts to get you started in unpacking your pedagogy

2.  Deconstruct your syllabus.  Take a good look at your policies, procedures,expectations, and language.  Does your syllabus invite and welcome learning?  Does it provide choice and flexibility?  What values does it communicate?  We compiled some tired and wired syllabus language for a poster presentation at the Division of Early Childhood conference.  The “wired” language prioritizes feedback and social learning theory.  Ask yourself if the beliefs you identified in Step 1 are reflected in your syllabus and if not, how can they be?  Jesse Stommel (jessestommel.com) has provided so much thought provoking content and syllabi language that helped us get started.  Also, we understand many universities and programs have required syllabus language.  We have both created an “official” syllabus for those purposes while providing a infographic syllabus to guide our work with students.

3.  Be transparent.  When I began on my journey toward a more ambitious and authentic pedagogy, I failed to include my students in my process.  Because I wasn’t as transparent with them about the how and the why of my approach, it was an unnecessarily difficult code switch for them.  I now introduce my expectations for participating in your own learning, for engaging in self and peer reflection, in revision and resubmission, etc on the first day of class.  We talk about it every course meeting.  I acknowledge it can be very uncomfortable as they’ve become so accustomed to working for points and providing work directly aligned with rubrics.  This kind of engagement requires trust and transparency.

4.  Trust your students.  Which leads us back to number 1.  We have to trust our students.  We have to encourage them to trust themselves.  They often feel so insecure in their own learning and their own knowledge, asking “is this what you want?”  We must consistently remind them that their work, their learning, isn’t for us, it’s for them!  And we trust them to learn it, know it, own it.

5.  Find your people.  This work is isolating, pushed back on, and quite honestly, harder.  Meaningful, intentional feedback, coming up with an individualized response including behavior and academic specific praise and constructive critique is exhausting.  So, find your people.  The ones that let you say, “I tried this new thing, here’s how it made me/my students feel, help me process this” and “I’m trying this and I’m getting this push back.”  It’s such deeply vulnerable work and we don’t know if it’s the right or best way.  But we do know that the traditional approaches do not work for us so we have to trust our gut and start here.  We have to talk about it, keep tabs on the evidence of what is effective, contribute to the research, and grow our practice.  That takes everyone working on it together.

This is a pedagogical journey.  We are on this journey together.  Each semester, we learn from our students and from each other.  We get just a little bit better, a little bit clearer, a little bit more trustworthy, a little bit more confident that what we’re doing is creating a community of lifelong learners, nurturing curiosity, and valuing knowing.

 

Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline

When Chrissy (@buzzingwithmsb) approached us to contribute to this blog series we didn’t hesitate. We are continuously looking for ways to contribute to, engage in, and learn from conversations around bias, racism, and social justice. As white females in higher education, we recognize our privilege and believe that it is our duty to contribute to these conversations and encourage our students, our colleagues, and our friends to do the same. Engaging in these conversations and learning spaces are what enables all of us to gain a greater awareness of our own biases and understand how they impact the students, children, and families whom we work with daily. 

This post is in memory of Ivan Filiberto Manzano.   Ivan was one of eight Mexican citizens killed in the mass shooting at an El Paso Wal-Mart.  Ivan had a wife and two preteen children.  He was a devoted husband, father, and son, an entrepreneur, and a business owner. 

Related image

Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline

The school to prison pipeline is a term used for the militarization of schools funneling kids from classrooms into the criminal justice system.  Discretionary violations – those where punishment is not mandated – disproportionality impact Black students overwhelmingly leading to persistent involvement with law enforcement.  

What is disproportionality?

Disproportionality refers to the “overrepresentation” or “underrepresentation” of a particular demographic group relative to the presence of this group in the overall student population.  In education, there is disproportionality in special education (Cruz & Rodl, 2018), in gifted programs (List & Dykeman, 2019), and in suspension and expulsion data (Mizel, Miles, Pederson, Tucker, Ewing, & D’Amico, 2016).  While there is much controversy around how we define under and over representation, the data are clear that teacher bias, both explicit and implicit, influences recommendations of suspensions and expulsions as early as preschool (Gilliam, Maupin, Reyes, Accavitti, & Shic, 2016) and that Black boys are three times more likely to receive those suspensions and expulsions than white students.  That’s just one way disproportionality shows up in schools and it has dire, life altering consequences for far too many.

Explicit Bias.  These are the biases that we generally think of as racism (a belief that members of specific ethnic and/or racial groups are inherently inferior).  These biases are consciously held and slow to change. People with explicit biases toward specific ethnicities, races, or gender norms tend to support punitive punishment structures such as zero tolerance (McIntosh, Girvan, Horner, & Smoklowski, 2014).

Implicit Bias.  These biases are unconscious, deeply held, and often do not align with our declared beliefs (Kirwan Institute, 2018).  These are the biases that are activated involuntarily. Everyone has implicit biases! We come to them from our upbringing, our lived experiences, and our professional training.  We must work to bring our implicit biases into our consciousness in order to diminish the negative impacts on our learners, our colleagues, and our communities.  

The Obama administration passed a regulation designed to ensure children of color were not disproportionality suspended, expelled, or identified for special education.  However, the Trump administration’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, delayed implementation of this regulation until just now when a federal court ruled it must be put into effect immediately.  This is a consistent and documented reality for kids and families in our educational system.

What does this look like in our schools?

First, let’s consider what the (pre)school to prison pipeline looks like in our schools.  The pipeline can be seen in the School Resource Officers flanking the front doors and walking the halls of schools.  It can be seen in zero tolerance policies and mandatory suspension/expulsion guidelines. It looks like moving kids to self contained classrooms with labels of emotional behavior disability without then providing them with access to the general curriculum and meaningful, intentional supports for self regulation. It can be found in calling families to come pick up their child early from school or telling preschool families their child “isn’t a good fit” for the program. It is evident in statistics showing that 70% of the students involved in school-related arrests or who were referred to law enforcement were Latinx or Black or that Black students were three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers (Lewin, 2012).School-to-Prison Pipeline: School disciplinary policies disproportionately affect Black students

 How can educators interrupt this school to prison pipeline?

We’ve come up with a place to start, a set of teacher guidelines. We recognize that this is only a beginning but we also know that change has to start somewhere. Change is gradual and pushing back against injustices is work that takes time and brings great challenges. We are here for the marathon, not a sprint. 

Teacher Guidelines for Interrupting 

Recognize, Reflect and Reframe Biases.

Recognizing your own biases and viewing experiences/interactions with students as opportunities, rather than challenges, can help shift or reframe your mindset (Hill, Newton, Williams, 2018). When you shift your mindset and seek out opportunities for learning and growth alongside your students, you will find it easier to build stronger and more effective relationships with your students and their families.

Teach!

You may have heard the phrase “education not incarceration.”  We have to teach academics, but we also must teach behavior, emotional regulation, self care, and boundary setting. Zero-tolerance policies do NOT teach. Instead we must recognize that students need to be explicitly taught the expectations and retaught with consistency. Instead of punishment consider providing school-based supports for struggling students whose behavior repeatedly seems to disrupt learning and engagement. Determine the function of the behavior.  The key to interrupting the behavior cycle is replacing the undesired behavior with an acceptable alternative that still meets the learner’s needs.  We have to teach the behaviors we want to see.

Stand Up, Don’t Be a Bystander. 

If you hear or witness an act or micro-aggression (think back to explicit or implicit bias) interrupt the comment, action, or incident. Help the victim of the micro-aggression by making sure they are safe (physically and emotionally) and then be sure to address the other person(s). Remember, these are teachable moments. Be willing to learn.  Your colleagues may call you in on your language too!  That’s good – take the opportunity to grow!

Advocate. 

Build trusting relationships with your students. Advocate for them and help them learn to advocate for themselves. Honoring the humanity in each of our students is evidenced in our advocating for them.  Let them know relentlessly that they are worthy of being taught.

Focus on Strengths.

Every child. Every family…has strengths. Find them, embrace their strengths and build upon them. By recognizing your own biases, you are better able to reframe, find strengths, and stay clear of “cultural deficit thinking.”  Remember just because your own experiences are DIFFERENT,  doesn’t mean they are better or worse. 

The school to prison pipeline is ours to dismantle.  We must actively question punitive policies, our own implicit biases, and our deficit framings of kids and families. Here are some resources to learn more.

https://www.tolerance.org/learning-plan/school-to-prison-pipeline-20

http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/racial-disproportionality-in-school-discipline-implicit-bias-is-heavily-implicated/

https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/responding-to-microaggressions-in-the-classroom/

https://www.tolerance.org/professional-development/test-yourself-for-hidden-bias

https://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/2017-06/TT_Social_Justice_Standards_0.pdf

Mental Health Awareness

We are consistently advocating for the mental health needs of our students.  We attempt to be as supportive as possible to the complex lived experiences of our students and to acknowledge that they have full lives outside of our course/program.  That’s not to diminish the value of the learning experiences we are providing but to develop self care skills in our learners now that they can carry with them into their work as educators.

We’re also often met with resistance.  “You can’t just call in sick over a break up when you’re an employed teacher.”  But, the thing is, you can.  And you should if that’s what you need to get yourself together.  This burnout culture is unhealthy and we all perpetuate it in one way or another.  Glorifying busy.  Shaming absence.  Self care isn’t always convenient or well scheduled.  Sometimes it must be addressed regardless of other obligations.

Which leads me to question why or how we came to dismiss the traumas invoked or perpetuated at school.  Why do we persist the myth that “middle school is the worst” instead of implementing the many evidence-based practices (intentional social skills curriculum, active preventative teaching, for example) with consistency and fidelity.  Middle school does not HAVE to be “the worst” – we allow it to be.

Tropes like “mean girls” persist because we allow them to persist.  Intervene.  Teach.  Relentlessly.  Kids need our guidance in learning how to navigate the world – socially, online, in all spaces.  We must take responsibility for teaching.

If kids are experiencing trauma at school or their trauma is exacerbated at school, that is on us. If we believe in self care for ourselves, we must model it and teach it to our learners.  Self care is for everyone.

Ambitious Teaching

Dr. Chelsea T. Morris and I presented a (what we thought was) cool poster at the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division of Early Childhood’s annual conference.

The first panel asked the participants to indicate how they evaluate student learning, if participation should be included for a grade, if attendance should be included in a grade, if and which social media accounts they use in their teaching, and how they handle late work.  Overwhelmingly, participants indicated they do include “participation” in grades.  There was more variability in if the participants include attendance in student grades although the majority indicated that yes they do include attendance for a grade.

There was interesting conversation around the “How do you evaluate student learning” boxes as many said they’re required to use letter grades but they incorporate a lot of ongoing, formative feedback.

Our second panel was the first one layered over the next one with the doors cut open to show the examples of “tired” and “wired” syllabus language underneath.  The literature provided in the middle provides some evidence for instructors moving toward learner-centered syllabi and more humanized course design.  Many participants reflected on the “tired” syllabus language as similar to the language in their own syllabus and noted that they had not really considered what their syllabi were communicating to their learners.  Which makes sense!  We also heard from many faculty and instructors who said their syllabi are inflexible due to requirements by their department, college, and university.  We, of course, considered a syllabus with all the required components (aligned professional preparations standards, state standards, university policies, etc) posted to the learning management system and then a learner-centered and/or co-created learning plan to direct the specific content for the course itself.  It also raises questions of academic freedom – particularly for tenured faculty but that’s for another post.

 The final panel invited participants to make note of what Ambitious Teaching means to them.  The words on the left say:

Dear faculty,

Are you preparing the next generation of early childhood educators and leaders? How long has it been since you critically examined your syllabi and teaching practices? Did you know, in contradiction to DEC leadership recommendations (L1, L4, L6, L8, L11), you may be widening the research to practice gap by making higher education – a place of evidence-based professional development – a hostile and unwelcoming environment?

Existing literature suggests that power relations and issues of expertise limit the extent to which faculty engage students in the design of their own learning and listen or respond to their needs (e.g. Mihans, Long, & Felton, 2008). In your work, examine and challenge the culture of higher education and the role of student-faculty interactions within and beyond the classroom. These interactions are crucial to the development of higher education students’ self-concept, motivation, and achievement (Komarraju, Musulkin, & Bhattacharya, 2010).

You can engage in critical conversations about the expectations placed upon pre-service practitioners. Through ambitious teaching, taking risks pedagogically and reconceptualizing teaching and learning for teachers and learners, you can facilitate dialogue around the extent to which the traditional “status-quo” of educator preparation truly teaches the behaviors we want to see.

Presume competence, rethink relationships, and trust the students you are preparing for the workforce.

Constructing a Learner-Centered Syllabus: One Professor’s Journey

Can a Learner-Centered Syllabus Change Students’ Perceptions of Student–Professor Rapport and Master Teacher Behaviors?

How are making your teaching ambitious?  We want Teaching Is Intellectual to be a space for ambitious teacher education.  For rethinking, reimagining, and redoing traditional (and largely ineffective) teaching and learning paradigms.  Tell us.  Let’s revolutionize teacher education together.

Fonts

A quick browse Teachers Pay Teachers is all the evidence you need that fonts are very popular.  In doing a little digging into the literature on the use of fonts and literacy learning and accessibility, I found some interesting facts.  I’ll post some resources here.

Retrieval-induced forgetting: evidence for a recall-specific mechanism

 

Simultaneous Renewal: An Inclusive Approach to Collaboration and Teaming

We have a new article out today.  I hope you’ll check it out!

Abstract:  Collaboration goes beyond direct service provision. It is critical for effective personnel preparation and professional development as well as high-quality program implementation to close the gap between research and practice in early childhood contexts. Simultaneous renewal provides a framework for continuity from teacher preparation, inclusive teaching practices, and professional development to engage all stakeholders in teaming processes that promote child outcomes and improve teacher practice simultaneously.

Individualized Education Programs

We’re kicking off a new series on IEPs!

Starting with the basics to ensure we have a mutual understanding of what IEPs are and are not.

The IEP is a legal document and every component of special education (beginning with the fact that it exists at all) comes through litigation and advocacy. We are accountable for the things we agree to and despite the fact that oversight and accountability is severely lacking, we, as professionals, must enter into IEPs with integrity and good faith.

IEPs are specific to the child. The tendency is to write goals (more on goal writing later) that are specific to the person responsible for the goal. So we have a “speech goal,” two “OT goals,” and two “academic goals.” We get it . . . BUT is that functional? Does speech operate in isolation from academics? Does OT matter if it isn’t applied to a skill of independence or context? The objective would be for us to build collaborative, functional, shared goals supporting the child’s access to the general curriculum.

Remember, an IEP is not a curriculum. It’s a plan for the services and supports the child needs to be success accessing the general curriculum. Yes, we offer adapted curriculum to some kids but an IEP in and of itself is not an adapted curriculum.

It’s also not a behavior plan.

When I teach IEPs, I have the students work through writing one on themselves. On their present levels, current needs, what supports and services would help them be successful. It helps to personalize the language we use, to focus on strengths, to shut down the deficit framing, because when it’s time to write one on a child, we need to see ourselves and the IEP as a support, not a fixer.

What questions do you have about IEPs?

We can’t get into goal writing without working on our PLAAFP/PLOP/PLP writing. All good goals start as clearly written PLAAFPs.

The words “functional performance” are important here. Working together as a team (WITH families) to ensure we’re addressing functional needs rather than isolated skills is truly the heart of the IEP.

I get lots of messages about how, yes, that’s ideal but not practical or what happens in practice. And I know. However, when we know better, we can do better and advocate for best practices. Here’s to the ones shaking it up out there!!

Lots of requests for goal writing strategies so we are working on some resources for that but in the meantime, what are IEP goals? Are they written for specific academic skills based on assessment data and deficits? Or are they written for providing the missing foundational skills the individual child needs to gain access to the curriculum? This is exactly why general ed teachers need to know about goals, IEP specific data collection, and accommodations and modifications. Supporting learners is all of our work!

This gives the IDEA charge for goals. The words here are important.

IDEA has four purposes. 1) equality of opportunity 2) full participation 3) independent living, 4) economic self sufficiency

It helps to keep the big picture in mind when writing goals.

More on this to come but for now, what have you found helpful in writing meaningful goals?

 

IDEA Disability Categories

Remember, we talked about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the 6 principles of IDEA.  Now, we’re going to add the legal definitions of each of the 13 disability categories with a little info for each.

 

 

 

Autism is considered a clinical diagnosis. It is determined by a team of qualified professionals generally including a developmental pediatrician, psychologists, and/or neurologists.

If learners present with communication impairments, difficulties in making and sustaining relationships, sensory sensitivities, repetitive or nonproductive motor movements, they may meet the eligibility criteria for autism.

Using terms like low functioning and high functioning communicate more about how the learner’s autism impacts those around them rather than how the learner with autism experiences their autism. Changing our language to reflect the amount of support learners need in specific areas is more beneficial in meeting the learner’s unique needs.

Some states/districts allow school assessment teams to make eligibility determinations of autism without a medical/clinical team assessment.

The needs of a learner with autism are unique to the child themselves. Presuming competence, using the child’s interests to provoke engagement, and putting the child’s strengths in the forefront are critical components of supporting and teaching kids with autism.

Deaf-blindness is considered a low incidence disability as about .03% of those served in special education are eligible under this category.

Approximately half of those .03% have Usher Syndrome. Each child has their own unique combination of hearing and vision loss. It’s not necessary to experience total vision and/or total hearing loss to be eligible in this category.

Strategies will utilize touch cues, assistive technology, Braille, screen readers, TDD with Braille, and more!

The American Association of the Deaf-Blind is an excellent resource!

Deafness is it’s own IDEA category – separate from hearing impairment because the strengths, needs, values, culture, interventions, and decisions of Deaf children are unique. Families engage in complex decision making when raising (D)deaf children and professionals must partner with families and honor their decisions and priorities in terms of language, medical interventions, and educational goals. 

 

Let’s take a look at this category carefully, shall we?

I know it’s wordy! It’s important to see the words included in the law’s definition – and those NOT included.

Emotional disturbance (ED) is an umbrella term. Many many medical and psychological diagnoses qualify for services and supports in this category. Anxiety disorders (🙋🏽‍♀️), eating disorders, depression, mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, conduct disorders such as oppositional defiance disorder, and the rare childhood onset psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

This category is often overapplied in particular to black and brown children and to children living in poverty. The characteristics of children with ED (hoping this category is renamed very soon!) are characteristics exhibited by most children at points along the developmental continuum – the difference for learners with ED is the persistence over a long period of time.

We are challenged with considering the WHY before rushing to an ED determination. Highly qualified child psychologists and mental health experts are necessary partners in determining ED as a primary category.

This is an example of when educators wield great power over the lives of young children. We must be sure we are using that power for the good of the child focused on services and supports for the child’s success.

Why is hearing impairment its own category? Because hearing is COMPLEX!

There are a variety of ways in which hearing can be impaired – conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, mixed, and central hearing disorders are all types of hearing loss.

And the extent to which a child’s education is impacted by their loss is complex and unique to the child!

Sound is measured by loudness (decibels) and frequency (hertz). Hearing impairment can occur in just one or both as well as in one or both ears. Do you know we have two ears to allow us to locate sound in space? Loss in one ear makes it very difficult to tell where sound is coming from!

Loss is described as slight, mild, moderate, severe, or profound based on how well a person can hear and differentiate sounds at intensities most common in speech.

Services and supports vary so never assume that one child with a hearing impairment who used an FM system means the next child with a hearing impairment will!

About 7% of kids receive services and supports under the category of intellectual disability. This (like all?!) category is also complicated because there are some genetic disorders, issues during pregnancy, birth complications, and health conditions that result in intellectual disabilities. Background information coupled with multiple means of assessment in cognitive and adaptive development provide the data necessary for eligibility in this category.

Developmental delay (or significant developmental delay in some states) provides an eligibility category to serve and support young kids before age 8-9. This gives time for loads of evidence based intervention before determination of an intellectual disability.

Due to the highly biased and problematic nature of intelligence testing (IQ tests), we have the responsibility to be aware of how kids may be underperforming on assessments for reasons unrelated to their cognitive abilities. Multiple means of assessment in a variety of modes and environments are critical. If we fail to provide a child with a highly qualified teacher and an evidence based curriculum, we cannot make a determination of ID.

Kids with intellectual disabilities can and want to contribute to and be a part of your classroom and school community. Meaningful inclusion is critical. Learn as much as you can about ID and about the individual learners in your classroom and school. Chunking, task analysis, and extended time for learning and engagement are just a few of the many strategies teachers use effectively with kids with ID. Partner with special educators to meaningfully support and include kids with intellectual disabilities in your classrooms and community. Everyone benefits when we do.

 When it’s not possible or reasonable to determine a primary eligibility criteria, IDEA gives us the “multiple disabilities” category. The key to this category is that the combination of two or more eligibility categories are causing the student to have significant educational needs.

Every single kid in this category is unique. This is an eligibility determination only. Now it’s time to learn about all the strengths and needs your learner has!

**story time**
When I was a first semester/first year faculty member in my very first tenure track position out of my doc program, I was teaching in an inclusive early childhood program. A colleague asked me to come in to her course and present on how to include “kids in wheelchairs and whatever.”

This is an extremely low incidence category for PK-12 because remember a couple of things. 1) the child’s education must be adversely affected by the disability. 2) we have ADA and Section 504 of the Rehab Act to cover environmental access issues and limitations 3) wheelchairs and walkers and standers and all the amazing accommodations we have available to give kids access to the curriculum, to their friends, and to their environment.
Less than 1% of kids receive services and supports under IDEA in this category. It is more frequently a concomitant category in the multiple disabilities category.

I asked the class how they would welcome and include a child who uses a wheelchair to access their world. They said the right things – ensure tables are the right height, adequate space between tables, accessible supplies, books, etc. Then I said physical inclusion is not meaningful inclusion and that disabilities that affect a child’s educational opportunities are rarely ones we can see. Ensuring every kid has access to their educational environment is only one of three critical components of inclusion (the other two are participation and supports).

It’s another umbrella term for a number of medical concerns and needs. This one is tricky because the diagnosis of one of the named disabilities or disorders does NOT ensure services and supports under IDEA (remember – it has to adversely affect the child’s education) AND a diagnosis other than the ones named within the law COULD result in services and supports under IDEA. Totally clear, right?

Let’s use ADHD as an example since we’re probably all familiar with it. Child is diagnosed with ADHD. Child is achieving as expected in school, on assessments, and showing adequate growth over time. Does the child qualify for services and supports under IDEA?

It’s usually not that easy but in this clean example, no. If the child needs more breaks, some environmental supports built in, a 504 plan is a better option. This child’s education is not adversely affected.

There are also medical diagnoses not stated that may fit under this category – mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. How do we determine if a mood disorder like bipolar disorder should be categorized under OHI or ED?

OHI allows us to serve and support kids who are experiencing a variety of health and medical needs. It does not mean we HAVE to qualify them under IDEA. Remember – adversely affects the child’s educational performance.

Say it again – adversely affects the child’s educational performance.

Speaking of umbrella terms . . .

First, specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

That last one is important.

There’s so much to say on SLD, more than we can say here, but know that the discrepancy model (significant difference between achievement and ability) is no longer used and that kids no longer need to fail in order to get support. Eligibility determination can be made through the RTI/MTSS process.

The lack of an appropriate evidence based curriculum or highly qualified teacher cannot be a determining factor in determining if a child has a SLD. Nor is learning English as a second language.

The word SPECIFIC is important too. When we say, “she has a learning disability” we are failing to communicate specific needs we can support. SLD is broad and encompassing category but kids served in this category have SPECIFIC learning and intervention needs.

Speech language impairment is the second most prevalent category under IDEA! (Do you know which is THE most prevalent?)

Communication is critical! No matter how kids do it – words, pictures, gestures, signs, apps, assistive technology, a mixture of all, communication is everything. Make your SLP your best friend and learn with them!

There is no right way to communicate. Whatever works for the child to get across their wants and needs, use it! Keep it always and readily available if it’s a device or a picture book. Not just for direct instruction or teaching time but always! Keep kids voices at their fingertips.

“Traumatic brain injury applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. Traumatic brain injury does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma” (Sec 300.8(c)(12)

The key here is ACQUIRED. This category is specifically for kids who acquire brain injuries after birth. TBI range from mild to severe and the effects of the injury are unique to the individual.

Concussions are traumatic brain injuries.

Keep in mind that the emotional trauma of such an injury is also affecting the child. We can’t just focus on academic and behavioral supports but also emotional supports for navigating the world post-injury.

EVEN WITH CORRECTION

Kids served in this category account for less than 0.5% of kids receiving special education services and supports. It’s referred to as a “low incidence” disability because of how infrequently it occurs. This is important because if you are a teacher educator asking students to create modifications and/or accommodations for kids with specific disabilities and you use visual impairment, TBI, and a child who uses a wheelchair as your target children, you’re doing it wrong.

Kids with visual impairments, including blindness, have unique mobility and orientation needs and skills. Use your resources! Learn from mobility and orientation experts on how to set up your classroom routines in ways that include and support independence for your learner.

Additionally, visual impairments are widely variable – people experience vision in a variety of ways. So, again, teacher educators, stop using blindfold simulations and sighted guide simulations as that is ineffective and inaccurate in representing the experience of impaired vision.

Learn from the child and family! Ask! Ask more! Use color and shade and all the cool adaptations the mobility and orientation experts have available!

This is our 13th and final IDEA category. I know it hasn’t been super exciting but it’s critical we get this right. It’s the work of ALL educators to support and include kids with disabilities in our schools and communities.

What should we talk about next?

Make Parenting Great Again!

Parenting has changed, huh?

Let’s see . . . take me back . . . when was parenting “great”?  Was it in the early 1900s when kids were working, earning?  Was it before child labor laws and child welfare laws?  Was it when many kids didn’t persist past 8th grade?  When teachers were simply high school graduates themselves with no specialized training?  Was that the time we should aspire to return to?

Or was it post-WWII when families were adjusting to the industrialization of America and women in the workforce?  Or was parenting great when moms stayed at home in “traditional” gender roles with men coming home to dinner on the table and quiet children?  Is that your image of when parenting was great?  When we didn’t have compulsory education for all kids so many simply did not attend and no one cared?

Was parenting great in the 60s, 70s, 80s when kids like me were raised on TV, parents who smoked in the house and in the car, and largely ignored us?  We didn’t wear seat belts, no one read to us or played with us?  Yes, we left our house from sun up to sun down but do you have any idea what was happening to us when we were banned from our houses for that idyllic childhood you so romanticize?  Was that when parenting was great?

Remind me how parenting has changed for the worse?  Remind me when it was so great?  Families have ALWAYS struggled in this country.  Kids have long been neglected and abused.  Generational poverty and making ends meet is a struggle for far too many.

Now parents are TOO involved or not involved enough.  Very rarely just the right amount of involvement, apparently?  What motorized device are parents today?  Are they helicopters or lawnmowers?  Oh wait is it tiger?  It’s hard to keep all the categorizations of ways in which parents aren’t doing it right straight.  Maybe . . . just maybe . . . we could stop creating these flawed and insulting categories and start partnering with the families we have.

Don’t tell me parenting has changed.  It is incredibly hard to make it in this world and teachers, who are also working side hustles and second jobs to make ends meet, must be partners with families and communities.  We don’t make progress when we demonize each other.  Fight the systems.  Fight the policies.  Not each other.

Discipline, Suspension, Expulsion, and the School to Prison Pipeline

On to Week 2!  Articles will be posted here, updated throughout the week.  My students are also watching the documentary Resilience this week which is based on the ACES study and the work of Nadine Burke Harris.  You can watch her TED talk here.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline- Disproportionate Impact on Vulnerable Children and Adolescents, 2017

Justifying and Explaining Disproportionalityy 1968—2008- A Critique of Underlying Views of Culture, 2010

Alternate Realities- Racially Disparate Discipline in Classrooms and Schools and its Effects on Black and Brown Students, 2016

An Evidence-Based Approach to Reducing Disproportionality in Special Education and Discipline Referrals

A Decade of Disproportionality

Breaking The School-To-Prison Pipeline for Students with Disabilities

The Gestalt of the School to Prison Pipeline

Race_Is_Not_Neutral_A_National_Investigation_of_Af

Action steps using ACEs and trauma informed care- a resilience model