Special Education Numbers are Increasing

Christina Samuels,  she specializes in writing about early childhood and special education, writes a great article discussing why special education numbers have been on the rise in the United States since 2012 after decrease each year since 2005.

It is a great read that summarizes the changes in statistics, reasons for the shift, and for why they numbers may be rising.   She also discusses funding special education and the impacts that the shift has on states.  Interestingly, it has been 16 years since the anyone has analyzed special education spending!

I find this alarming because what if there are better, more efficient ways to serve these students but as a country we do not know where, how the money is spent.  I am confident that each district tracks this information carefully but what if there was a more efficient way to distribute, allocate this funding and we are missing out on that opportunity?

Check out the article!

Here is a link to the Ed Week Special Education blog as well that provides tons of great information!

How to Share Data Effectively

Harvard Family Research Project (2013). Tips for Administrators, Teachers, and Families: How to Share Data Effectively. Retrieved from http://www.hfrp.org/var/hfrp/storage/fckeditor/File/7-DataSharingTipSheets-HarvardFamilyResearchProject.p


Data-driven organizations are found all over the world.  It is the data that drives decisions in banking, sports, and in recent years, schools.  It has transformed the way districts analyze scores, make decisions, and all of this has a direct impact on our students.  The question I have for you is are you sharing it effectively?

The Harvard Family Research Project provides us with their Tips for Administrators, Teachers, and Families: How to Share Data Effectively.  The article provides tips on how to effectively distribute, use, and communicate data to your teachers, students, and community.  I worked at a school that would provide me piles of data on paper, multiple websites with multiple log-ins, and then claim to be data driven!  They never sat down and talked with teachers to explain best practices is utilizing the data, how to share it with students or even how to share it with parents.  Do you work at a place like this?  This article is great and provides suggestions on how to get over these hurdles.

Here are some of the headlines from the article highlighting which scenario’s are discussed:

  • Creating a Data Sharing Culture Among Teachers
  • Helping Families Make Use of Data
  • Preparing to Share Data With Families
  • Talking With Families About Student Data
  • Preparing to Communicate With Teachers
  • Talking with Teachers About Your Child’s Progress

So often I see schools who claim they are data driven and then when you ask how they use it effectively they are not able to provide a solid response.  They are like one of the districts I worked at.  They can provide me lists of websites, benchmark tests, etc to collect the data but they do not have a plan on how to use it effectively.

Think of the things that are wasted when data is not used: money, instructional time, teacher planning time, etc.  “Recess!” My daughter would yell and you know what why not!?  Gathering data with benchmark tests bring stress, anxiety to classrooms across the country for teachers and students so when I see they are not used effectively it is disappointing.  Data alone has no value, it is what is done with it that matters.

So we have talked about ways to share the data so how did we get to this point?  Data has no value unless you use it appropriately to make decisions.  Here is a resource that highlights how to make data work and what you can do as a teacher, administrator and policy maker to ensure that data is useful.  If you are still wondering what specifically you could do here are 11 tips on How to Make Data Analytics Work for K-12.

Use these resources to inspire changes in policy and usage of data in your district or fine tune your methods.  In this ever changing world we always need to make sure that we are being efficient in our practices and data sharing is no different!


Want to Guarantee Your Children’s Success?

I recently came across an article put out by my friends business called Guaranteeing Success for your Child.  “Guarantee”caught my attention and has a father of 3 (8, 3, and 1) I was instantly curious what is the secret!

The article discusses the work of a man named Geoffrey Canada.  This man’s story is awesome and after reading this article I encourage you to do more research on his past and how he impacts children.  The purpose of this article though is to discuss the key to successful children and also, the key to breaking out of poverty.  Ready for it?


This blog encouraged me to research Mr. Canada and I am inspired of his desire to do the right thing, support families, and advocate for education.  He founded the Harlem Children’s Zone and The Baby College to help parents with children from age 0-3.  They teach the solution to poverty: READ TO YOUR CHILDREN.  These institutions have had AMAZING success.  You can follow the links above to read about them or watching his excerpt on TEDTalks (20 minutes) or 60 minutes (14 mintues).

How does has he had so much success?  Read the excerpt from the blog that highlights how he and his people are impacting our future generation.

“The more you introduce language to children, the more they grab it.  Middle and upper middle class parents typically know that, but in those 97 city blocks of Harlem, no one had previously stressed the importance of reading.

It turns out that the biggest difference between the haves and the have-nots is language acquisition, because that translates into verbal ability.

James Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago, found the difference in the sheer number of words that middle class parents speak to their child–as opposed to poverty class parents–differs by about 20 million words.  So, by age three, your middle class child has been exposed to 20 million more words than a poor three year old.”

Geoffrey Canada wants to provide children raised in poverty the opportunity to achieve success and his institutions have been wildly successful.  Do your research, share his story with everyone because you can be apart of the success of another child, and READ TO YOUR CHILDREN.

His schools have boasted 100% graduation rates and 100% college placement.  They continue to stay involved with these students post-graduation.  They “harass” them as a good parent should to be involved in their lives, preach that you can do it, and let their children know that they REFUSE to let them fail.

Kudos to you Mr. Canada and all that you are doing for our youth.  I am truly inspired by you and your work.

Why Reflection in Classrooms is Important

Great segment, on BAM Radio Network (A network dedicated to sharing the voices of the Education Village) with Starr Sackstein and Robert Pennington, that discusses why bringing reflection into the classroom is so important.

Starr does a great job explaining why using reflection is so important for the learning process but also how it can aid teachers in fine tuning their craft.  It is only about 10 minutes and she provides lots of great information for all teachers to review.

I love the idea of allowing students to have a voice in their education because this will help to create and generate buy in, even on those topics that you might “fail” to teach effectively each year.  Think about how much your students will learn about themselves if they are able to understand how they learn best.  Making a transition from school to college will be seamless if they know how they learn best.

As a teacher, you must be willing to make adjustments to your style based on opinion but also work to create a culture where you students realize that not every suggestion will occur OR that they must provide meaningful, useful feedback.  Once this is done and you are prepared to make adjustments, the sky is the limit for you, your classroom, and your students.

Some of the highlights…

Easy ways to have students reflect:


Gold Stars – MUST haves in order to do this effectively:

  • Growth Mindset – open mind – You have to value student opinion
  • Flexible – you must be willing to make changes to your lessons or units based on students opinions.


Tips to Share Ed-Tech Success

In today’s 21st century the digital classroom is now common place around the United States and is found in over half of our countries districts.  The next big thing is the idea of personalized learning and how to find ways to customize learning for each individual student.

So maybe your district has a 1 to 1 initiative and found a solid way to personalize learning – AWESOME! – but how do you share those ideas?  Maybe you are in the middle of the process and are looking to develop buy in across the district and community?  Have you found ways to frame your district successes share them with your community?

SunGard K-12 sponsored an article with District Administration that highlights the best ways to make sure that you are celebrating and sharing your success with others.  Here are the highlights:

  • Consider how to frame your district’s story
  • Get to know your local education reporters, as well as ed-tech trade press
  • Leverage other resources in your district to help spread the word
  • Keep it simple, avoid jargon and acronyms

Another way is to use social media.  Here are links also provided by SunGard K-12 that highlight ways to be successful on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


Powerful Podcast: Growth Mindset

Eduardo Briceno, is the CEO of Mindset Works, a company that specializes in creating a culture of learning that fosters student growth through the idea of the growth mindset. He participates in an great podcast where he explains why his company is built around it, how he implements the ideas, successes, and failures.  His company has been going for 9 years strong and he even has had to apply the growth mindset to his personal life and getting his company to grow.   He discusses how this process if developmental and it takes time to work.  It is not just a switch that is turned on.

I recently wrote a blog, Growth Mindset: Why Not?, because this is such a hot topic in education.  Some are believers, some are in the middle, while others believe that it is not effective and will not help enough to be a truly meaningful process.  My opinion was why not!?  As a teacher I experience far to many students who did not believe in their abilities or just had negative  views on life in general.  Even if this impacts them on a smaller scale, gets them to think outside the box, experiment, and think more positively, then this is certainly worth your time.

This podcast is a must for any who those discussed above whether you believe, no nothing, or are not a believer.  This gentleman has made a business out of it and found it to be very successful when done correctly.  He has done extensive research on the topic as well so I encourage you to follow up and look at some of his findings as well.

Happy listening and best wishes to all of you that are giving it a try!  Feel free to comment and add successes/failures that you have encountered with the growth mindset.

ESSA Committee Agrees on Testing Issues

Alyson Klein publishes an article that summarizes what it means for testing as the ESSA committee finally agreed on how to move forward.  Check out her article to see what the plans are!

Also, if you are interested in additional reading to how this process has progressed please select the hyperlink on her name and you can follow her articles throughout this process!

Amazing Study on Socioeconomic Status

“Students in racially and socioeconomically integrated schools experience academic, cognitive, and social benefits that are not available to students in racially isolated, high-poverty environments. A large body of research going back five decades underscores the improved experiences that integrated schools provide. And yet, more than sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education,American public schools are still highly segregated by both race and class. In fact, by most measures of integration, our public schools are worse off, since they are now even more racially segregated than they were in the 1970s, and economic segregation in schools has risen dramatically over the past two decades.

In this report, we highlight the work that school districts and charter schools across the country are doing to promote socioeconomic and racial integration by considering socioeconomic factors in student assignment policies.”

This article highlights the findings and also how these decisions can impact student learning and their educational experience.  They found that 91 districts/charters use socioeconomic status as a factor in student assignment.  This covers over 4 million students today and spans over 32 states.  These are some of the highlights of their findings so please click to continue reading!

Image is borrowed from The Century Foundation.


Principals Need Evaluated Too!

In this article, published by Peter DeWitt and guest written by Nathaniel Greene, Mr. Greene discusses a study he performs that show’s principals do not get evaluated enough.

Check it out to learn about some of the results of his survey and what he recommends principals do to gain a perspective on their performance from their staff.  Principals are the leaders of our schools, the face of the campus, and need to model best practices at all times.  Teachers are under the microscope and feeling the pressures of teaching more now than maybe ever before and they deserve to be lead by someone who is also doing their part.  Performance based reviews and feedback are a constant for most teachers so why not evaluate and offer feedback to those in charge of the campus?  It might begin and end with the teacher but the principal can make an huge impact on student growth if they do their jobs effectively and with passion.

Kudos to Nathaniel Greene for coming up with this fantastic topic and completing this project!