As I reflect on 2020, I am amazed at how quickly things can change while at the same time stay the same. In the wake of vaccines that are being promoted as the miracle cure for the COVID-19 pandemic and a renewed sense for a return to normalcy.
Normal…I’m not even sure that I remember what that looks like and the things that I do recall about pre-Pandemic life I am not sure that I want to go back to. I don’t know about you, but I have grown fond of my new Pandemic pursuits—focusing on family, putting together jigsaw puzzles with my husband, and writing educational tips for each of you.
What pre-pandemic professional routines have you scrapped or started during the “new normal”?
Are there any that you are still working to improve?
I have been reflecting on my life and how we educated students prior to March 12, 2020.
If asked to choose just one, I would say that I believe that the inclusiveness of online instructional environments still needs to be calibrated. These pursuits have been nothing short of amazing!! While excited, I can’t help but think about those students who may have been lost in the shuffle. I must admit that I worry about students with exceptional needs during this time.
My fear is that we are spending so much time attempting to synchronize and calibrate what online instruction looks like we haven’t devoted enough attention towards personalizing and differentiating instruction within the online environment.Tweet
Norman Kunc notes that when inclusive education is fully embraced, we abandon the idea that children have to become “normal” in order to contribute to the world. We begin to look beyond typical ways of becoming valued members of the community, and in doing so begin to realize the achievable goal of providing all children with an authentic sense of belonging.
According to LDA America, learning disabilities are result from genetic and/or neurobiological factors which change brain functioning in a way which modifies one or more cognitive methods associated with learning.
Learning disabilities differ in seriousness and may affect a child’s ability to the attain and progress in one of the following:
- oral language
- learning to reading
- written language
- foundational mathematics
When considering learning disabilities, it is important to note that oftentimes students exhibit different characteristics which makes them difficult to pinpoint. For this reason, many students often spend many years attending schooling without receiving the services or accommodations needed to achieve academic success.
Did You Know….
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities:
- 1 in 5 students has been diagnosed with learning and attention issues.
- Learning disabilities, LD, make up the largest (39%) of the 13 disabilities categories covered under special education law.
- 1/3 of students with LD have repeated at least one grade level.
- 7 out of 10 LD students spend 80% of their school day in regular ed classes.
- Students with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended than students who do not have a disability.
- 18.1% of LD students drop out of school. This is 3x the rate of their regular ed peers.
Which of these statistics were you the most surprised by?
What are your current processes for ensuring all learner needs are being met?
How do you rate your level of professional development on this topic?
As we move forward consider the following to help meet the needs of all students who learn differently:
- One Size Does Not Fit All- Many students with disabilities when provided with the slightest adjustments listed within their Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) are able to keep pace and in some cases surpass the progress of their regular ed peers. It may take some outside of the box thinking, but they should be offered academically appropriate courses in all content areas. Having a disability in one area should not influence decisions and placement in all content areas. For instance a student could have a disability in Math, while at the same time be gifted in English/Language Arts. Educators should consider all data related to students abilities and use it to place the student in coursework to support his/her academic growth at the appropriate instructional levels in both areas.
- Keep an open mind-We will have the best possibility of creating a truly inclusive environment if we throw out preconceived views and create new practices for educating students in the virtual, hybrid environment. Have you and your team truly had time to sit down and flesh out the systems for students who learn differently? If not, how could you begin to help your school or team begin this process?
- Promote Personalized Learning: One way would be for you to become a cheerleader for unique or personalized learning experiences. Bayse and Grant (2014) define personalized learning as that which is “specifically tailored to each child’s strengths, needs, and interests while ensuring the highest standards possible” (p. 1). Personalized learning allows students to progress through an individualized path of learning. By allowing students to progress through standards and courses based on their academic level would help to close the achievement gap, help to combat learning loss, and help to motivate and encourage students who may not have been successful within the traditional learning environment. To learn more about personalized learning options click on the following link: Here’s What Happens When Every Child Gets a Personalized Learning Plan.
- Infuse the Use of Assessment Data into the Instructional Planning Process: Benchmark and Diagnostic tests provide a wealth of knowledge about students. When examined, educators can determine what knowledge students have and if educators take the time to talk to students about their approach or thinking regarding assessment items, teachers will be able to determine how each student learns. How deeply do you examine assessment results? What lens are you currently using to analyze assessment data? There are so many pathways for getting to know students. By looking at assessment data as a means of getting to know your students better, it will cease to look like one more thing to do. Perspective and mindset regarding data makes all the difference.
These are just a few suggested strategies providing an inclusive environment for all learners. I have included a list of possible resources that you and your school could use to move towards providing personalize learning plans for every student in your school. Customizing educational opportunities should be the goal of every educator. Don’t be afraid to promote something unique and wonderful because it just may be the one thing that your school needs to ensure academic success all levels of learners.