Testing for Special Education Students

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS

Last time, I talked about blended learning environments for special education classrooms. With this learning model, we might want to talk about testing for our special needs children; are there new technologies that help teachers work with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) at testing time?

iStock_000016212768XSmall

I remember in the late 90’s when we were starting to embrace learning standards and develop new high-stakes tests. We heard a loud shriek throughout the land from teachers and parents who were sure their special needs children were going to be relegated to academic Siberia and required to take the same tests as “regular” children. It was a justifiable shriek; it seemed no one had really thought about this thorny issue, at least not very thoroughly.

We’ve calmed down since then, and now realize that requiring special needs students to take and pass high-stakes tests is just the equivalent of raising standards and expectations for all students, and providing the least restrictive environment—which is always a good thing. We’ve developed accommodations for children who need extra support at test time.

According to the law1

Testing accommodations are neither intended nor permitted to:

  • alter the construct of the test being measured or invalidate the results
  • provide an unfair advantage for students with disabilities over students taking tests under standardized conditions
  • substitute for knowledge or abilities that the student has not attained

The testing accommodations most frequently required by students as indicated in their IEP’s are:

  • flexibility in scheduling/timing
  • flexibility in the setting used for the administration of assessments
  • changes in the method of presentation
  • changes in the method of response

The key here is “in the IEP.” We have found ways to include many accommodations for special needs children in their IEP’s. We have struggled to find methods of assistance that don’t alter the tests or invalidate the results.

The NCEO (National Center for Educational Outcomes) provides a helpful bibliography of research-tested accommodations for testing. They also provide a nice description of differences among accommodations and discussions on test validity and reliability. There is considerable variability among states for the development of accommodations. Over time, states have developed alternate assessments that align with alternate state standards. We have also struggled with providing support for ELL students who have special needs.

teacher little girl

Where does technology step in to help us out with all these delicate balancing acts? A practical discussion of different ways classrooms can manage accommodations can be found at http://drscavanaugh.org/assistive/technology_accommodations.htm.

Teachervision has been one of my favorite sites over the years. They apply teacher speak to most of the ideas they present, and this article on assistive technology for students with mild disabilities is an example of that. Adaptive technologies may or may not be carried over into the testing environment. Remember the IEP? It may be allowed in the IEP, but here are some resources to help you sort this out.

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) provides some guidance on using adaptive technologies for testing. PARCC is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.

But, I digress. There are as many organizations, companies and others who are interested in creating and providing testing materials and guidance as there are stars in the sky, and for obvious reasons. There is a great deal of money to be made. Rather than insert my opinions about this, I’ll provide you with some (hopefully) unbiased resources to help districts with assistive technology make decisions as they relate to testing.

Education Week

University of Texas at Austin (study)

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

Wikipedia on CAT

One Parent’s Opinion (NY Times)

Indiana University (Assistive Technology and Assessment Center)

Let me know how your district has evolved on the subject of testing and the use of assistive technologies.

1Text taken from: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/policy/testaccess/guidance.htm, New York State Education Department.


Grant Name: Teacher Art Grants

Funded By: P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education

Description: The P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education aids and supports teachers who wish to establish an effective learning tool using the arts in teaching children who learn differently. They look to support new or evolving programs that integrate the arts into educational programming.

Program Areas: Arts, Special Education

Eligibility: Public School, Private School

Proposal Deadline: 9/30/2015

Average Amount: $250.00 – $1,000.00

Address: 152 P. Buckley Moss Dr., Waynesboro, VA 22980

Telephone: 540-932-1728

Website: P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education

Availability: All States

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Testing for Special Education Students Part 2: Aligning to Common Core State Standards

ABC learningby Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS

Last time, I talked about testing accommodations for special needs students and new technologies that can assist at test time. Once IEP accommodations are devised, teachers are wondering how to align lessons and classroom tests to CCSS (Common Core State Standards)? Now that most states have adopted common standards, and we’ve gotten over the shock of needing to line up and adopt them at the micro level, how do we do that? Check out the CCSSI site itself for a look at alignment for students with disabilities.

Despite initial emotional resistance to moving to the new standards, I’ve been able to see that CCSS can actually be a useful tool as we create new lessons for special needs kids. Blended learning environments are available if we plan for them, and they offer additional technology assists for our lesson planning processes. One obstacle seems to be the availability of teacher training to bring technology to life.

This acceptance did not happen overnight, but I didn’t need a twelve-step program to come to acceptance level after all. We all want high standards for all children, they need something to aim for, and the stars are a good target. One could argue that the CCSSI is not the stars, but that’s a subject for another day.

I’ve found the best place to start in the alignment process is to consult my state department of education website for guidance. I use this resource all the time, but it’s fair to note that some state sites are better than others. Here is a link to the California site’s section on special education and CCSSI just to show an example.

They link to symposiums and other helpful events, but there is a tab for “assessment”. There is an organization, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and a California site to show how it all works. SBAC is national but not all states have joined the consortium. Your state department of education will provide similar links to SBAC if they are members. On their site, we can learn about achievement level setting. It seems others have walked this path before, so let’s let our colleagues help us. There is an organized way to migrate to CCSS in special ed classrooms. There are also technology assists for moving to an online testing environment.

In SBAC’s own words,

Achievement level setting, also known as standard setting, is the process used for establishing one or more cut scores on an assessment, making it possible to create categories of performance. Smarter Balanced Governing States are using a three-phase design for achievement level setting, which involves an online panel, an in-person panel, and a vertical articulation committee.” Through these ongoing panels, schools are learning how to adjust their existing classrooms to CCSS and testing for special needs students.

This is where I jump in and decry the level of commercial enterprise at work throughout the CCSSI environment. Or, do I? I no longer have a big problem with companies popping up to make a living with software, products, consortia, symposia or other packages of services to help schools navigate these enormous new challenges. Have I gone to the dark side?

I’m not entirely ready to question whether the public sector (corporations) should be handed the reins for all education related issues, but it’s worth looking at the options. State and federal departments of education are struggling to keep up with new regulations and protocols. I know, they should have thought of this before, but let’s back off a little and let some commercial enterprises in to help them out.

More resources to help sort it all out:

I’m hoping this blog stirs a response from you, makes you mad, or indignant, thrilled, or something. Even if you completely agree with my line of thinking, can you let me know what you think? We’re all trying to answer the question, “How do I align my curriculum to CCSSI”? Moreover, is it worth it?


Grant Name: USGA Alliance Grants

Funded By: National Alliance for Accessible Golf

Description: Grants support organizations which provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to learn and enjoy the game of golf and its inherent values. The Alliance and the USGA share the belief that the game of golf is exceptionally well-suited to allow individuals with disabilities to participate in a recreational or competitive activity with participants who have various types of disabilities as well as those who do not have disabilities. We encourage inclusive programming – opportunities that allow participants with disabilities and participants without disabilities to learn and play the game side by side.

Program Areas:   Disabilities, Health/PE

Eligibility: Public School, Other

Proposal Deadline: Ongoing

Average Amount: $1,000.00 – $20,000.00

Address: 1733 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Telephone: 812-320-1126

E-mail: accessolutions@gmail.com

Website: National Alliance for Accessible Golf

Availability: All States

Blended Learning in Special Education

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS

child teacher computer

Blended Learning Environments – Using technology and traditional SPED classroom instruction to facilitate learning.

There’s a buzzword that’s been gaining momentum in all education spheres these days: blended learning. Basically, (don’t wince—this is very basic) it is adding technology to existing classroom lessons to increase motivation and engagement in learning. It can include video, podcasts, streaming content from providers, interactive exercises, asynchronous and, increasingly, synchronous lessons. Grab one of those iPad labs the district is handing out; don’t be left out in the techie cold.

With blended learning, the student is the star with the teacher on hand for support. Some part of the lesson delivery is online using a learning management system (LMS) that includes a database to keep track of student assessment, attendance and achievement gains (the LMS does the heavy lifting). Assessment is just one way technology will facilitate student learning.

The shift to blended learning from a traditional special ed. classroom or resource room model should not be difficult. Traditional lesson planning strategies will overlap blended learning with a new way of looking at things. The best way to describe blended learning for a teacher who would like to understand the model might be to look at a blended learning lesson plan template. Can you select the lesson plan steps that will stay the same as your current plans?

ABC learningLesson Plan Template for Blended Learning Environments

  1. Alignment with Common Core State Standards (CCSS):
    Standards-based instruction for special ed. students remains number one; objectives must be aligned to the standards you have selected in your timeline and skills rollout.
  2. Objectives:
    In a special ed. model, you will be prepared to plan formultiple  Each student works toward his own goals. Students move continually forward, the pace is driven by assessment results that are part of the learning management system.
  3. Data Analysis:
    The guiding light in instruction is the careful analysis of the data provided by the LMS and your own formative assessments.
  4. Scheduling (blocking):

This is one of the challenges teachers face; the schedule and rollout of instruction for any standard will look very different at the elementary level from instruction in high school. In a SPED environment there are no heterogeneous groups, but lessons remain flexible so individuals can step out and move quickly through skills they grasp, while others will stay and repeat certain skills until mastery is achieved. You can arrange the class into somewhat flexible groups.

  1. Setting:
    Blended learning provides multiple environments to reassure students and accommodate for different learning styles. One environment for learning will be online and technology based. You may have a small group with several learning environments: computer labs, tablet labs, teacher led lessons, special tutoring and study carrel assignments. All of these can be modified for a resource room.
  2. Activities:
    You can use existing successful lesson plans, they can still access their thumb drives with the best lessons from past years. You will become expert in finding the lessons and activities that reach into the depths of your special students’ learning. Hands-on project-based learning can continue.
  3. Timing:
    Within blocks and scheduling schemas, you may have different groups working through different skill sets at the same time. You can make learning one-on-one by adjusting students’ time in the various microenvironments according to different needs.
  4. Assessment and Testing:
    Assessments are determined in the planning stage as markers to guide further learning. The goal for the teacher is to measure when students have met their objectives within a given standard.
  5. Organization:
    There are many lesson plan templates that show how existing teaching styles can be honed and fine-tuned for the new special ed. blended learning model. Some resources include:

Your classroom may need to be rearranged to suit the needs of the learners. The school network specialist will need to keep the internet connection open. Your district may install its own learning management system through which students can access your classroom assignments; it will be useful for SPED classrooms too. This developing trend shows promise for security conscious administrators.

teacher little girl

A new model for learning always suffers growing pains. There will be new ideas coming online all the time, but the promise of raising special ed. student achievement through blended learning is exciting. It pulls together all the effective strategies that educators have developed to manage standards-based instruction on a large scale, right down to the individual and his learning needs.

Other resources:


Grant Name: Foundation Grants

Funded By: Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

Description: Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation supports innovative projects that help youth with disabilities develop the leadership and employment skills they need to succeed, particularly for careers in science, technology and the environment. MEAF will also consider projects to create tools that help break down barriers to employment and increase job opportunities for young people with disabilities entering the workforce, including returning veterans with disabilities.

Program Areas: Disabilities, General Education, Professional Development, Science/Environmental, Special Education, Technology, Vocational

Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline: 6/1/2015

Annual Total Amount: $400,000.00

Average Amount: $1,000.00 – $10,000.00

Address: 1560 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 1150, Arlington, VA 22209-2463

Telephone: 703-276-8240

Website: Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

Availability: All States

 

 

IEP Team and Materials Inspection

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

teacher timeLast time, I talked about treading the fine line between cutting costs and providing the best possible services to our kids within the constraints we see. If balanced properly, we can support our SPED kids to make sure their capabilities are maximized. That is our goal. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams we employ to study each child’s school environment are keys to finding these solutions.

To review: IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) describes the IEP team as including:

  • The parents of the child
  • Not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment)
  • Not less than one special education teacher of the child or, when appropriate, not less than one special education provider of the child
  • representative of the public agency who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities, knowledgeable about the general education curriculum and knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the public agency
  • An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results
  • Other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate (invited at the discretion of the parent or the agency)
  • The child with a disability (when appropriate)

I’d like to focus on the individual in the fourth slot who is “qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities.” Because this individual is key member of the team, we usually invite our curriculum director and, when practical, our library media specialists to supply this service. At first, the director was reluctant; they said they had many other jobs to do and attending IEP meetings was very time consuming. After attending a few meetings though, they understood how important it was to be sure our recommendations for SPED services were aligned with the core standards we are all embracing. The way to supervise specially designed instruction is to stay tightly linked to the standards and in turn improve the curriculum and instruction for all students. SPED curriculum offerings have become very sophisticated over time; they can help us fine-tune our instruction for best results.

I have cautioned about bringing in sales reps to sample new wares for teaching all kids. The truth is that there really is no other way to make ourselves aware of the best of what’s out there. Once a month or so, you might have a meeting with key people where companies can come in and show their products. Wearing lenses with nonsense filters helps, and we’ve all developed these as we have seen the best and worst come across our desks. The instructional analyst on your SPED IEP team might be a key person to coordinate the meetings.

The way to approach it is to isolate areas in the curriculum that are weak for all students based on your data (I keep going back to data, but it has become essential), prioritizing the areas and then inviting company representatives who can explain what their products can provide in these areas.

How do you know the best companies? Networking with other districts that have similar demographics and needs helps. A few phone calls to your counterparts in other cities can inform you of new curriculum offerings. Read reviews online. Department heads can help too. It may not be necessary to have them attend IEP meetings, but you can interview them to see what’s on their wish lists for books and software. A key person for evaluating books and programs is your library media specialist. Everything passes across their desk and he/she will be very helpful.

So, damn the budgets (at least for now). Let’s look at all that’s out there so our instructional team can find the best for our kids. Going in to an IEP meeting with a plan and decisions made about best practices in advance can save time for busy people. It’s always best to be proactive instead of reactive.

There are some good resources to help you evaluate curriculum products here:

Tell us if your district has a plan in place for reviewing SPED programs and materials and maintaining great educational services.


Grant Name: Foundation Grants

Funded By: Standard Charitable Foundation

Description: At The Standard, caring about people is a core value reflected in our commitment to the communities across the United States where our employees live and work. We provide corporate philanthropic support to nonprofit organizations working in the following four areas: Healthy Communities, Disability and Empowerment, Cultural Development and Education and Advancement.

Program Areas: Adult Literacy, After-School, Arts, At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Disabilities, Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Health/PE, Homeless, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)

Eligibility: Public School, Other

Proposal Deadline: Ongoing

Average Amount: $5,000.00 – $25,000.00

Address: Public Affairs P12B 1100 SW 6th Ave, Portland OR 97204

Telephone: 971-321-3162

Website: Standard Charitable Foundation

Availability: All States

Summative Assessment, an Unfair Imposition on Special Ed Kids?

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

Last time we talked about formative assessment, the daily measures of student
understanding we all use to stay on track. But what about summative assessment,
the (usually) annual state academic achievement tests imposed on all students?
The annual part of the bargain seems to be changing, there may now be
semi-annual online exams in some states. We can only hope school districts are
up to speed with their computer networks. There are alternative ways for
students to take exams if computers are outmoded but it’s just one more thing
for teachers to worry about.

question mark

In general, are the accommodations we write into our students’ IEPs sufficient in providing fair assessment to measure how we are progressing with students with disabilities? When IEPs are written in the fall, do we know enough about our students to include the right assists for exams being administered in the spring? Fairness for our kids is a complex and thorny issue. Lynn and Douglas Fuchs have written a thoughtful article on the subject of fair and unfair accommodations for testing.

In Massachusetts, there is an MCAS-Alt exam.

“MCAS is designed to measure a student’s knowledge of key concepts and skills outlined in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. A small number of students with the most significant disabilities who are unable to take the standard MCAS tests even with accommodations participate in the MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt). MCAS-Alt consists of a portfolio of specific materials collected annually by the teacher and student. Evidence for the portfolio may include work samples, instructional data, videotapes, and other supporting information.” Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 10/18/2013.

All states have devised similar systems for assessing our kids each year. Many resources have been devoted to solving system challenges and as far as it goes the alternative assessments provide useful information. But, shouldn’t there be a point at which severely disabled students are released from having to take these exams, a “test-free zone”?  How and where do you draw the line? Many minds sharper than mine have struggled with these questions for many years.

Resources for portfolio assessment.  ~  Authentic Assessment

This is not all academic; teachers should be involved in the politics of measuring student achievement. It’s fair to say that you, the classroom practitioner, should be involved at the highest levels in making decisions about who should be tested.

A school district (or teacher) could write and apply for a grant to bring in staff development specialists to assist a school assessment committee. It all becomes more complicated as we migrate to new Common Core State Standards. How do we align our curricula in resource rooms and substantially separate classrooms? We’ve got work to do. You can search for grants that are available to schools for this purpose at the Grants Database.

In a blog like this, I have the luxury of just tossing the questions out there. It’s up to governments and state leaders to come up with the answers. Get involved though, start with your own building, pull together some teachers with similar questions, do some research on who provides quality staff development in assessment and come up with ways to bring these folks to your school. Develop a grant funded long range plan to work through your district policies on assessment for special ed kids.

Stay abreast of the issues and become part of the solution in solving the thornier issues you find.

Comment on this blog, what do you think, how does your district approach testing for students with disabilities?

Grant Name: Foundation Grants

Funded By:  Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

Description:  Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) supports innovative projects that help youth with disabilities develop the leadership and employment skills they need to succeed, particularly for careers in science, technology and the environment. MEAF will also consider projects to create tools that help break down barriers to employment and increase job opportunities for young people with disabilities entering the workforce, including returning veterans with disabilities.

Program Areas:   Disabilities, General Education, Professional Development, Science/Environmental, Special Education, Technology, Vocational

Eligibility:  Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline:  6/1/2014

Annual Total Amount: $400,000.00

Average Amount:  $1,000.00 – $10,000.00

Telephone:  703-276-8240

Website:  Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

Availability:  All States

The State of Technology in Special Education

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

child teacher computer

Last time we talked about starting a new school year, taking an inventory of supplies and evaluating general environmental conditions in your classroom as you start the new school year. You’ll want to see what’s up with new technologies.

I could write 30 blog articles on this subject (and with proper encouragement I just might, please comment below). Technology is increasingly important in our special needs classrooms and this impact is being studied at many levels. All I know is, it’s only going to become more important as we proceed. If you need to brush up on technology skills (basic things like word processing), it’s in your best interest to find professional development offerings in your district. If you have a technology curriculum specialist in your district, give this person a call and make sure you are on her list for any seminars she might be planning.

There are too many software packages and online resources for special education classrooms to reveal in one blog. A comprehensive list of the most common programs for use on the internet or for your own district network, visit Education World’s Assistive Technology page, they have a nice breakdown of products and programs you can review.

Don’t have any time to learn new skills? To stay current with technology, you need to make time. I have mixed opinions about online degree programs, the jury is going to be out on the efficacy of these programs for a long time. I’m very leery of getting a degree in my bunny slippers. However, for adding specific tech skills to your repertoire, online training is a good place to start.

Check with your state department of education to see what programs they endorse for teacher technology training. I randomly selected Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to see how they share this information with teachers. They have started a completely new division at the state level to provide professional development and a clearinghouse for classroom resources. I’ll make a guess there is something similar in your state. It’s becoming too important to ignore.

I found an online professional development organization that is endorsed by many state departments of education for providing brush-ups on basic skills and overviews of emerging technologies. KDSI has many courses online for special educators. In an attack of full disclosure, I can tell you I have no direct affiliation with this company but I can share that I have taken a couple of courses with them. I feel more knowledgeable as a result and the experience encouraged me to explore educational technology much more thoroughly. They seem to be committed to attracting some of the most active educators in many areas of learning who provide courses through their interface.

Be proactive with your district technology person for hardware and networking. This person can make sure your classroom is properly wired (or wireless which is becoming more common). I recently learned that one of the most exciting technologies to be explored by educators has to do with sound. Studies have revealed that in many classrooms up to 30% of what teachers say is lost to students because of bad acoustics. There are some fairly inexpensive solutions to this problem; some speakers placed in strategic corners of your room might do the trick. Who knew??? The point is, technology exists in many forms.

Start by educating yourself; don’t try to climb the mountain in one leap. You don’t need to be a computer programmer to integrate technology into your classroom experience.

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Let’s ALL Play Partnership from the National Inclusion Project. Let’s ALL Play brings an inclusive recreational experience to children with disabilities. As a national leader in the movement toward full inclusion, the National Inclusion Project is proud to partner with community organizations that are seeking to programmatically open doors for ALL children to learn, live, and play together. Through training, consulting, and funding, the Project will meet organizations where they are and help them to implement quality programs that impact children and families in their communities.

States: All States

Average Amount: $10,000.00

Address: 104 T.W. Alexander Dr, Bldg 1, PO Box 110104 RTP, NC 27709

Contact: Aron Hall

E-mail: aronhall@inclusionprojects.org

Website: http://www.inclusionproject.org/for-programs/lets-all-play/

Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Program Areas: Disabilities, Special Education

Deadline: 7/31/2014

School’s Started, Time to Focus on What’s Important

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

girl classroom

You were probably in your classroom a few times this summer. You wanted to assess things like seating plan, ready to use supplies, classroom library, and to let the custodian know if there were any maintenance issues. There is nothing worse than starting up in the fall with chewing gum blobs under the desks. Ick!

You will be working with the minds of students with learning disabilities and with challenging behaviors. Having the right tools is important. A concept that might take days for a student to grasp can sometimes be understood in minutes if you’re using the right materials. There is also no escaping the fact that technology is rapidly revolutionizing the way we assess and work with our kids. You want to make sure your professional development calendar has technology seminars included. You want to know what’s new, affordable and available to bring you up to speed.

Let’s say you’re teaching an LD reading class with 12 students. Only 5 of those students are on the same level.  You may need books and materials on 7 different levels.  Some students may require large-print books. One needs an audio book. Will there be a PC for every student? Or a tablet or other mobile device? Check in with your building or district IT person to make sure your network connection is the best it can be, he or she may be able to upgrade your wireless connection. Sometimes special education classrooms are left out of technology upgrades in schools. It’s not deliberate, it’s possible the technology folks think you don’t need the hardware. Be proactive and make sure you’re on the updater list.

Check with your Library Media Specialist to see if she has leveled libraries set up for guided reading. If not, work with her to create reading lists using existing collections so you can save time when you stop in to pick up baskets of books for your students. I just have to share this website with you, a teacher has created the ultimate guided reading library right in her own classroom. Wow is it ever great! Be sure your LMS bookmarks it on her teacher terminals. Keep track of what’s new in professional development for  teachers for RTI.  Response to Intervention is becoming the accepted protocol for schools throughout the country. If it is properly implemented it will benefit you immensely. At the very least it should cut down on unnecessary SPED referrals.

You may be teaching one 4th grade LD reading class, but essentially you need the right tools for seven different grades. Do you have the tools you need to teach your students the skills they need? A resource for purchasing the best of the things you need can be found at Achievement-Products.com.

I’ve spent some time studying the various types of materials and tools available to special education teachers. Proper tools are available to teach almost any skill at any level. Your most important resource, your own experience, needs to be upgraded along with your supplies and technologies.

Does your budget allow you to purchase all the tools you need for your classroom? I  include a grant opportunity each time I write this blog. Some will apply to your school and your situation. Others will not.  You should always take a look at the grant, however, to see if your situation is a fit. You can also find a free grants database to help you in your search for just the right funding opportunity for your needs.

Let a smile be your best tool for behavior management this year, it’s amazing how many unpleasant situations it can disarm. Good luck in 2013-14. Stay tuned to this blog for more great ideas and pep talks.

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Grant Name:  Serves Grants

Funded By:  United States Tennis Association (USTA)

Description:  Grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations that support efforts in tennis and education to help disadvantaged, at-risk youth and people with disabilities. To qualify for a USTA Serves Grant, your organization must: Provide tennis programs for underserved youth, ages 5-18, with an educational component OR Provide tennis programs for people with disabilities (all ages) with a life skills component for Adaptive Tennis programs.

Program Area:   Disabilities, Health/PE

Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  10/18/2013

Annual Total Amount:  $800,000.00

Telephone:  914-696-7175

E-mail: materasso@usta.com

Website:  http://www.ustaserves.com/

Availability:  All States