Proving the Effectiveness of Adaptations

Proving the Effectiveness of Adaptations

proving effectiveness

The Story: A Distracted Student

Rosie is a departmentalized fifth-grade science teacher who has built her classroom around hands-on learning opportunities for her students. Because she believes so strongly in the importance of her subject, she’s been working to find even more ways to get the most from the students, especially those with special needs, in her engaging class. As a result of her unique class, Rosie observes different needs from her students than her colleagues so she is able to plan appropriate adaptations for her class that may not be needed in other settings.

One student in particular, Oliver, has difficulty staying engaged during learning because he is easily distracted by others. This looks like Oliver often getting in trouble, not completing hands-on assignments, and getting lower test grades. To get the most from Oliver, Rosie knows she needs to put an accommodation in place but given the busy nature of her classroom, she needs to be certain her efforts are working.

The Context: Data Makes Your Time Count

Nobody, especially a busy hardworking educator, wants to waste time or energy on fruitless efforts. Collecting data is the best way to verify which actions and adaptations work best for each student (not to mention, data collection in special education is required by law).

What’s the best data to collect? With six types to consider, Rosie might collect the following:

    • Duration data to determine the amount of time Oliver works without distraction or how long his distraction lasts.
    • Frequency data to identify how many times Oliver gets distracted in a class period or how often Oliver completes an assignment.
    • Accuracy data to see if the accommodation changes his performance on tasks and tests.
This easy-to-use form allows you to collect the data you need for students with special needs.

The data Rosie chooses to collect depends on both Oliver’s needs and the accommodations she plans to implement. And, because she’s implementing the accommodation in her own room and not as a part of the entire IEP team, she can also select a method that fits well in her classroom.

The Point: Verify Adaptations are Working

To verify an adaptation’s impact, follow a process that:

  1. Identifies the presence of a need
  2. Determines data to be collected
  3. Collects baseline data
  4. Collects implementation data
  5. Proves or revises the effectiveness of your effort

The Story Continues: Time Well Spent

Rosie decides she will start with two accommodations to support Oliver: B6-Seat student to reduce distractions and B5-Seat student close to a positive role model.

To verify how well the adaptations work, Rosie decides to collect data on the number of redirections (frequency) she provides to Oliver each period. Collecting this data type is a fluid activity for Rosie, as she always circulates the classroom while her students are working.

Before implementing the accommodations, Rosie begins by collecting baseline data that shows 4.7 redirections each period when averaged per day for a week. She then meets with Oliver to explain the accommodations and how she believes they will help him to focus during class.

After implementation, Rosie collects the same frequency data and notices that her redirections dropped to 1.5 per class as a weekly average! Rosie knows the accommodations she’s using to support Oliver are working so she shares her data with the rest of the IEP team! Even more impressive is that she notices Oliver’s grade in her class has also improved because of his ability to complete assignments.

Be Action Driven!

  1. Research and explore the types of data you may collect.
  2. Jump into Accomods and explore our new Adaptation Data Form. Don’t have an account? Get one here!
  3. Learn more about the adaptations data collection process.
  4. Share your data with others!
Three Tiers of Effective Adaptations

Three Tiers of Effective Adaptations

Support all students in your classroom.

The Story: A Frustrated Teacher

Two fifth-grade teachers, Zach and Jessica, had just dropped their students off at lunch and were walking down the hall. With a frustrated look, Zach turns to his colleague: “Scott is so frustrating; he’s so disorganized. It takes ten minutes for him to find his homework in his backpack; if he does it at all!” Jessica replied: “He’s definitely a bit scattered in my class, but he usually has his homework done and is typically ready to go with the rest of the class. That’s odd that he doesn’t do your homework because he always tells me he likes math more than reading.” “Are you serious?” Zach replies. “What’s up with that?”

The Context: Sharing Classwide Support

In education, we get so stuck in our classrooms that we become unaware of our colleagues’ practices, even just across the hall. The use of appropriate accommodations to support our students is a perfect example. Action Driven Education has been working to help teachers recognize that accommodations can be used in three tiers: universally for all children, in small groups for a handful of students, then finally, as individualized support for one student. Frequently, teachers utilize an accommodation universally in their classroom to support their students. This support helps minimize all students’ needs, including those with a more pronounced need. In the absence of these class-wide, universal supports, teachers may see their students struggling to find success. By first recognizing the presence of these needs, we can begin to identify their prevalence in our classrooms. If we see many students struggling in the same area, it may be appropriate to consider implementing a universal accommodation to support all students around their needs. If you observe a need that seems to be impacting a few students, a small group accommodation may be necessary. Finally, if you observe only one student demonstrating a need, implementing an individual accommodation is the ticket!

As we discussed in our Spring 2022 Newsletter, there are two important tiers to supporting children who are demonstrating a need. First, we plan how to support a child, or even a full class, around their need through the use of an accommodation. However, we can’t stop there. We also need to be planning ways to empower the child through their need by working to build their skills. This Through-and-Around Process is how we effectively eliminate students’ needs.

The Point: Use Three Tiers of Support to Meet All Students’ Needs

Educators should remain alert to the needs of their students. By recognizing the presence of a need in the entire class, small groups of students, or a single child, we can address these needs before they reach the point of frustration. Through the use of universal, small group, or individualized accommodations, we can ensure that all our students are engaged in our class, instruction, and assessments in meaningful ways!

The Story Continues: Teachers Share Thier Practices

Jessica and Zach head to their respective classrooms to eat their lunch. As she eats, Jessica reflects on the practices she uses in her classroom regularly that may support Scott’s disorganization need. She always posts her homework assignments in the same location on her board and gives her students a minute at the end of class to record them in their assignment books. She also provides her students with a yellow folder for them to hold their assignments, and she makes a digital copy of homework assignments available in her Google Drive with details to help students understand them when they are working from home. Put together, these strategies are likely meeting Scott’s needs making disorganization not an issue in her classroom.

Lunch quickly comes to an end, and it’s time to retrieve their students from the cafeteria. As the colleagues walk down the hall, Jessica shares the strategies she uses with Zach. “My goodness, I don’t do any of those things. Maybe that’s why Scott struggles so much in my class,” Zach replies. “Thank you so much for sharing!”

After reflecting on his practices, Zach realizes that Scott isn’t the only student struggling to complete assignments consistently. He begins taking a minute at the end of every class to permit his students to record their assignments. He also starts a Google Drive to share a digital version of all assignments. Finally, he meets with Scott and provides him with a green folder to be used to keep his math papers together. These universal and individualized accommodations support Scott, and several other students, around their organizational challenges. Zach realizes that he also needs to help his students to develop organizational skills, so he begins highlighting the effective strategies he observes other students using to help them to organize their day. By highlighting these practices, he’s helping all students to become organized. Zach also begins individually checking Scott’s assignment book to reinforce and support him as he works to develop effective organizational skills.

Be Action Driven: Things To Do

  1. Learn more in our Fall 2022 Newsletter – The Shapes and Sizes of Support. Be sure to sign up at the bottom of this page to receive future newsletters.
  2. Reflect upon, and share with others, the universal accommodations you use in your classroom.
  3. Remain diligent in watching for where a need may be impacting your class, a small group, or an individual student. Plan for ways to support them both through and around the need.
  4. Schedule a meeting with Action Driven Education to discuss our Through-and-Around Process further. You can schedule this digital meeting from our Calendly link found here.
  5. Dive into Accomods to explore ways you can support ALL of your students!
Two Simple Tiers – One Result: Student Achievement!

Two Simple Tiers – One Result: Student Achievement!

How to teach and increase student achievement.

The Story: A Related Problem

Danny is your typical 12-year-old who loves fishing and dreams of owning a fly-tying business. However, Danny is not doing well in school and fights with his mother every morning about going. You see, Danny has a writing disability, and, among other things, he struggles to take notes during class. Poor notes mean he’s not doing well on tests and struggles with his homework.

The Context: Plan To Support “Through” and “Around”

Every day millions of children demonstrate learning or behavioral needs. These children may be formally identified with a disability, be participating in pre-referral interventions, be an unidentified child who has experienced a learning gap from COVID, or be silently struggling to reach their fullest potential due to an unrecognized need. In all cases, this child can benefit from a two-tiered structure designed to support them “through” and “around” their needs. It’s a simple concept that holds tremendous educational power.

So, let’s explore the tiers of this Through-and-Around Mindset™ in more depth.

The goal of the “through” tier is to improve the child’s skills. You’re addressing the child’s needs head-on by working to improve deficits and skills in the area where they struggle. Elements of this tier are strategically designed based on the child’s need(s) and are data-driven and intensive. Legally, and as a best practice, this tier should be built with the general education classroom serving as the foundation. Therefore, a targeted and intensive intervention plan should be designed and implemented to supplement the general education classroom and curriculum. Quality supplementary efforts to improve a child’s needs may include IEP goals, Specially Designed Instruction, participation in intensive acceleration and remediation programs, opportunities for additional practice, etc., all with the goal of rapidly improving a child’s needs. Schools have historically done a fantastic job of implementing “through” strategies in Title I, IST, MTSS, Special Education, and other program-based interventions.

But there’s a problem with the “through” tier: it takes time!

This is where the “around” tier comes into play because it produces rapid results. The goal of the “around” tier is to continue meaningful progress in an age-appropriate general education classroom and curriculum by supporting the child around their need(s). This second tier works to prevent the child from losing ground within the general education curriculum and supports schools in meeting the Least Restrictive Environment portion of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

Similar to the “through” methodology, “around” interventions should be strategically designed based on a child’s need(s) and be data-driven.

In our course, Tools for Effective Inclusion, we discuss in detail how “around” interventions are built using appropriate accommodations and modifications. Accommodations should be selected based on a child’s strengths, needs, and degree of need. The degree of need serves as the data point to select and verify the effectiveness of all “around” interventions.

Action Driven Education’s Accomods is designed to serve as a companion to teachers as they work to develop and implement effective “around” interventions.

The Point: Two Tiers Make Special Education Work

The overarching goal of the two-tiered process is to sustain data-driven, individualized, “through” and “around” interventions with the child until a point is reached where the two elements converge. In other words, their needs have improved to meet their ongoing, meaningful participation in age-appropriate instruction. This convergence point emphasizes the importance of maintaining the child’s meaningful participation in general education while finding creative and intensive ways to improve a child’s skills.

The Story Continues: A Plan Comes Together

Mrs. Haggerty, Danny’s social studies teacher, notices that he isn’t doing well on exams because he struggles to take good notes in her class. So, she arranges a meeting with Danny, his mother, his English teacher, and the school’s principal. During this meeting, the team discusses various ways to support Danny through and around his writing need. “Through” interventions are developed and include providing access to an online remedial writing program that Danny will work on at home and during homeroom. Additionally, as Danny works to improve his writing skills, his teacher supports him “around” his need by providing word-for-word sentence fill-ins in social studies class. Finally, to support Danny both through and around his need, he is provided the opportunity to individually review, edit, and revise all written assignments with his English teacher before submitting them for grades.

Be Action Driven: Things To Do

Learn more about Action Driven Education’s Through-and-Around Mindset™ and discover how to develop effective “around” interventions in our Tools for Effective Inclusion course!

Snowflakes, Children, Classrooms: Every One is Different

Snowflakes, Children, Classrooms: Every One is Different

Every student is different and learns differently.

The Story: An Engaging Teacher

As you walk into Ms. Jackson’s class, her pronounced teaching style hits you almost immediately. Her classroom is beautiful, and with something unique covering nearly every inch of wall space, you can’t help but feel excited and motivated. The bell rings, and Ms. Jackson instantly jumps to her feet, anxious to launch into a rich class discussion. In last night’s reading assignment, the students learned that Brutus, Cassius, and others had stabbed Julius Caesar! The discussion always leads to an incredible opportunity for her students to make predictions which turns into a week’s-long chance to practice making predictions and citing evidence from the text to support them. As expected, the rich discussion was enthralling and engaging to all of the students, except Danny. As usual, Danny paid attention for the first ten minutes then fell asleep. As the bell rang, Ms. Jackson quickly scrawled tonight’s homework assignment on the previously blank chalkboard as the students left in a buzz of excitement.

The Context: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Ms. Jackson is a creative teacher, and her personal style plays itself out in her classroom. This is good because her classroom feels natural, and the children thrive on her approach. However, it can’t be expected that her natural style will work for all of her students and, in Danny’s case, it isn’t. Ms. Jackson could easily interpret Danny as a child that doesn’t like English class or hates Shakespeare, but in reality, his needs aren’t being met. This fact does not mean that Ms. Jackson’s class isn’t of the highest quality; it only means that her learning environment isn’t meeting Danny’s needs.

The Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates the involvement of a general education teacher in a child’s IEP. The purpose behind this mandate is because each teacher, their classroom, and the needs a child may demonstrate in their environment are different. Danny is a visual learner and may also have auditory processing needs. These needs may not be present in science class where Danny’s teacher uses graphics, movies, and other visual aids to present all content, but in English, where Ms. Jackson seldom writes a note on the chalkboard, it is disabling to Danny.

The Point: Individualized Support is Necessary

To support Danny, Ms. Jackson needs to consider an accommodation designed to empower him around his need. She needs to recognize the limitations of her natural style and, without changing their effectiveness, find a way to support the individual(s) that need something different.

The Story Continues: Perfect Classrooms May Still Need Individualized Support

At lunch, Ms. Jackson reflects with her colleagues, where she mentions how Danny is the only child in the class who doesn’t engage in conversations. Mr. Clarke, Danny’s science teacher, says, “that’s odd; Danny is one of my best students.” Through the conversation, the team discovers that Danny seems to respond well to Mr. Clarke’s visual style. This realization causes Ms. Jackson to reflect that she seldom includes any visuals during her class conversations. While her room is very visually stimulating, her lessons are quite the opposite. Ms. Jackson realizes that she needs to add some visual elements to her conversations. She begins using character maps, timelines, and other appropriate visual aids as accommodations to support Danny and other visual learners in her classroom.

Be Action Driven: Things To Do

  1. Think about your classroom. Do you have any struggling students? It is important to realize that this doesn’t mean that you’ve established a poor learning environment. Instead, this environment may be working against the needs of a specific student. Overcoming this struggle is where accommodations and modifications come into play. Remember, as we discussed in this video, they are the tools that empower a student around their needs. What needs is a child showing in your room? Log into Accomods now and begin exploring ways to empower them around those needs!
  2. When you find an accommodation that works, be sure to share it with your colleagues who may also have the same student. Sharing this insight is especially important if the child has an IEP! That’s why every teacher’s input is included in an IEP meeting. Be sure to share!
Overcoming the COVID Slide: A Two-Tiered Strategy for Success

Overcoming the COVID Slide: A Two-Tiered Strategy for Success

Combat the COVID slide for students with special needs.

As education begins to look past the challenges COVID has brought, schools find themselves needing to develop solutions to problems never seen on the scale they are currently experiencing. However, this does not mean history hasn’t provided a blueprint that can be tweaked to bring all students out of the COVID slide. Since the mid-1970s special education professionals have found success using a two-tiered approach to educating their students. For over four decades, this approach has effectively served students’ needs ranging from minimal to profound. Now, it most certainly can provide a blueprint for how to overcome the needs of any child.

Effective remedial/acceleration programs and instructional goals, or IEP goals in the case of an identified child, are central to the first tier, designed to improve the child’s skills and abilities. Teachers should work with parents and students to develop an understanding that the purpose of these programs is to support the student through their needs. Schools have specialized in the development of these types of programs. Systemically, RTII (Response to Instruction and Intervention) programs bring forward specific goals for each effort and intervention as data measures their outcome. While effective school-wide RTII programs provide a definitive framework for success, they are not necessary to achieve the goal. Schools can implement effective programs that are research-based and driven by data to verify success. The key rests in finding and supporting effective programs that accelerate the improvement of a child’s identified needs.

The second tier focuses on supporting the student around their needs so that they can learn and perform grade-level content. This tier takes place in the general education classroom and is firmly rooted in a planned, sequential, and often spiraled curriculum. Teachers should identify when a given need is causing a student to struggle and then plan ways to support the student around it. Think of a middle school student who struggles to take good notes while participating in a social studies class. Taking poor notes means the student isn’t doing well on tests and quizzes while also struggling to pay attention in class. This teacher can support the student around their writing need by providing the student with a word-for-word sentence fill-in, which permits them to record a few keywords to capture quality notes. This tier is achieved by implementing effective accommodations and modifications that should be selected and implemented based on the child’s individual needs in each unique learning environment. Action Driven Education has been working to support this tier through the development of Accomods, an interactive, online database of hundreds of accommodations and modifications designed to support teachers from selection through implementation of individualized student supports. We’ve discovered that by empowering teachers with the tools they need to implement the around mindset, we’ve effectively supported schools’ ability to implement the two-tiered approach.

This two-tiered, through and around approach has the capacity to accelerate the achievement of needs while maintaining a consistent pace of learning. It has worked for decades to meet the challenges of students with special needs; therefore, it lends its effective history to the current COVID challenge. As a special education teacher, I have experienced countless “ah-hah” moments where the two-tiers of student ability and grade-level content converge. Most importantly, it matches well with the routine of most schools, making it easy to implement while bringing familiar stability back to a system that has been rocked by challenges.

The Root of Discrimination

The Root of Discrimination

Empower children with disabilities, don't discriminate.

The Context: An Even Playing Field

Action Driven Education stands to empower children with disabilities. We believe that the vehicle to this empowerment comes through a diversity of educational opportunities and dignified respect and appreciation for individual differences. None of us are the same, and through this fact comes our collective strength. Our world needs to explore our biases, whether it’s learning bias in our classrooms or racial bias on our streets. At Action Driven Education, we are committed to empowering the individual differences that make us, us!

As I write this entry, June 1, 2020, the streets of our country are filled with protests. Voices demanding to be heard as they try to vocalize how discrimination is tearing their world apart. In my heart, I would like to believe that the policies, procedures, and practices that cause this discrimination weren’t intentional. However, my own experiences on a slightly different front tell me otherwise.

The Story: My Observations of Discrimination

As a special education teacher and administrator, I have seen discrimination firsthand. I’ve watched as policies, procedures, and practices marginalized children with disabilities. Unfortunately, I have conversed with people who believed that policies should be developed to prevent a child with a disability from becoming class valedictorian, that the use of accommodations and modifications, which are designed to empower a child around their disability, should prevent a child from being able to earn a grade higher than a “C,” or that a child with a disability shouldn’t be permitted to belong in their own public school.

As I reflect on the countless conversations of this nature in which I have participated, I have identified that, in every case, the general point of the discussion always boiled down to something being “fair” compared to another child or group of children. What a tough statement. It’s strangely ironic that “fairness” is what we are working toward, yet the argument against it is “fairness.” How is that even possible?

This puzzle is possible because we lose sight of the outcome. The outcome of education is supposed to be the “fair” opportunity for each child to acquire the knowledge and skills they will need to become an independent, happy, and productive member of our society. The outcome is NOT for a child to receive a higher “grade” or “advantage” over another so as to be able to compare one to another. In this comparison or drive for competition among one another, we create an environment where discrimination can flourish.

The Point: The Root of Discrimination

I’m not an expert on racism and can’t begin to grasp the scope and reach of the social change we need in order to make our society “fair” for everyone. However, given my experiences, I am confident that we need to reevaluate the intended outcomes of the policies, procedures, and practices our society has enacted in the name of “fairness.”

Be Action Driven: Things To Do

  1. Watch the movie “The Best of Enemies” to explore how racism and segregation were impacted by a small act of kindness toward a child with a disability.
  2. Explore the world in which you live and the areas of expertise you possess. Are there policies, practices, and procedures with which you’re most familiar that were designed to give one individual and advantage over the other in a competitive nature? If so, consider ways to change that by looking to adjust the outcome goal.
  3. We can’t all be experts or always fully understand the challenges faced by others. However, we can use what we know best to explore and develop a better picture of those challenges. Discrimination is all around us, and in some ways, we may all be contributing. Consider your world and some differences that may lead to discrimination such as race, economic status, disability, sexual orientation, age, and others. What understanding can you gain by considering the world you know best? Apply your knowledge of the biases you may hold to world events so that you can develop a better understanding. Then, once you have done so, make a change in your world. Reduction in discrimination at any level changes all discrimination.