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Free for Download: The Updated Freedom Stick

July 22, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

It is time for Universal Design for Learning to be put in the hands of every student. It is time for every student to be given the opportunity to discover and experiment with a range of tools which can support their own individual differing communication needs - not just in school, but throughout their lives.

Schools, traditionally, have provided students one way to do things. If the class was supposed to read something, everyone had the same technology - paper with alphabetical symbols printed on it which students needed to “decode.” If the class was supposed to write, everyone had the same technology - usually a pencil or a pen used to create alphabetical symbols on paper. If the class was supposed to get “organized,” everyone had the same technology - an “assignment book” or perhaps the infamous “middle school planner.”

If students could not function well with that “one way” they either failed, or were diagnosed as being “disabled” and were prescribed a different “one way” to work - a way which would set them apart from their peers forever. Read the rest of this entry →

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by Jess

The Common Core Standards: How Will They Change Teaching and Assessment?

May 22, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

As of May 11, 2012, forty-eight states, the District of Columbia, and two American territories have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  That means, whether your state is one of the adopters or not, CCSS are changing the face of education.

So what are the CCSS and what does this all mean for your child?  The Common Core State Standards are a set of expectations for what students should learn during the course of their educational careers.   CCSS create a measure of continuity across state lines in the content that will be taught and, more importantly, raises the bar for students and teachers alike.  States and territories using CCSS are charged with teaching standards that are often more complex than most states’ current academic content standards—demanding a change in how teachers present information to their students as well as demanding a deeper level of comprehension from the students themselves.  How is this achieved?  CCSS requires a focus on higher-order thinking questions and skills.  For instance, in math class, rather than asking which numbers are even, students will be asked which numbers are even and how do they know that (i.e., the numbers are divisible by two, they have a pair).   English Language Arts (ELA) is now explicitly tied to history/social studies, science and technical studies, meaning that all of these content areas will require complex thinking and analysis rather than rote memorization. Look at the difference between these two questions: Read the rest of this entry →

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