Are You Shifting to a Lower Gear?

Special Needs Topics with Don PeekThis post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to


Wow, it’s already May.  Where did the school year go?  During the 20 years I spent in public education, the end of the year was a tough time for me.  I had a tendency to want to shut down early.  I had to really fight the urge to waste a lot of the last month of school.

I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite, but as someone with a lot of experience in education, I want to encourage the teachers, administrators, and parents who read this blog to fight the urge I had, and so many of you still may have, to slack off during the last month or so of the school year.  It’s not fair to any students to do that, and it’s certainly not fair to special education students, many of whom are already far behind and will get further behind during the summer break.

Here’s a big part of the problem.  The students who need to continue working the hardest are the very ones who will encourage you to lighten up, take more breaks, and have more free days.  Unfortunately, we can’t take our cues from these students who are already behind and don’t understand the harm that it does to them when we slacken the pace during the last few weeks of school.  We have to be the professionals and the parents who have the experience to know that May is not the time to let up in school.  In fact, it may very well be the time to keep your students busier and more focused than ever.

First, if students haven’t met all the goals in their IEP’s, you need to make sure they accomplish that first and foremost before any slacking up occurs.  Second, even if they do achieve all their goals, that still leaves many of them far behind their peers.  This last month may be a time to help them catch up as much as possible. Third, unless you keep your classroom fairly structured and goal-oriented, you may lose some of your students completely.  They may not meet goals, and they may actually lose ground even though they attend class every day.

There are several other benefits to you as a teacher or administrator to keep students focused and engaged.  If you start expecting less from your students, you may get a lot more talking and mischievous behavior in your classroom.  Many students simply can’t handle less structure and loosely planned activities.  Once they realize you are expecting less, they may fill the time with unacceptable activities of their own.  To counteract these possibilities, your lesson plans need to get stronger and more detailed, not weaker and more general.

It’s also important that parents do everything they can to convey the importance of ending the school year by working hard and being present every day.  If parents feel that not much is going on during the last few weeks of school, they may have a tendency to let students stay home a little more readily, or make light of the work that is going on in the classroom.  It’s important that parents understand that the class will do meaningful work right up until the day the students are dismissed for summer vacation.

Don’t forget that there’s still a month or more of school to go.  That’s between 10-15% of the entire school year.  That’s simply too much time to waste when many students with disabilities are falling further and further behind every year that they attend school.

Be a conscientious and caring teacher, administrator, or parent.  Keep students busy achieving as much as they possibly can achieve until they walk out of that school house and begin their summer break.  Resist that overwhelming urge to let up even a little bit as we approach the last weeks of this school year.  In the end, you will feel better and your students will know more and be able to do more because you toed the line and made them do the same up until the very last day of school.


Grant Name:   Our Military Kids Grants

Funded By:   Our Military Kids

Description:  Our Military Kids provides grants for sports, fine arts, camps, and tutoring programs. The activity is eligible for a grant if it falls in one of those four categories.

Program Areas:  After-School, Arts, ESL/Bilingual/Foreign Language, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Social Studies, Special Education

Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  Ongoing

Average Amount:  $500.00

Telephone:  703-734-6654



Availability:  All States

** This post is brought to you by Achievement Products® for Special Needs

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