How staff absences impact educator burnout

The average day in a K-12 school has little margin for error; educators have perfected the art of stretching resources. Yet the typical day rarely goes as planned. Staff absences are on the rise this year, and for each person who is out, others are asked to stretch themselves to make it work.

“We have staff who are consistently giving up prep periods to cover for absences, absorbing additional classes, and taking on higher caseloads,” shared one special education director who noted the extra strain staff are experiencing this year.

Research on school staff absences in the past has focused primarily on the impact on students, and the facts are clear that students suffer setbacks when facing chronic staff absences. These absences have been shown to be more prevalent in low income schools, a scary prospect when compounded with the other areas of disparate impact through the pandemic seen in reduced educational progress and increased mental health challenges in low income schools.…Read More

Virtual schools can serve students with special needs—and do it well

The pandemic brought special education to the forefront of the dialogue about education, with the media focus mainly directed at sharing stories of students separated from the in-school supports that they had come to rely upon, and parents struggling to plug the gaps.

While the challenges were undeniable, there was also a more quietly growing chorus of stories from parents whose children experienced virtual education for the first time and found that the personalization and environmental stability it brought led to positive outcomes. When it comes to serving students with disabilities, a fully virtual school experience may, at the outset, seem like a less than ideal or even an improbable concept. But there can be compelling benefits.

“When I first began working with students virtually, I was skeptical that the therapeutic environment could be replicated online,” said Robin Corder, EdS, NCSP, who won the Idaho School Psychologist of the Year Award in 2020. “I was very wrong about that.”…Read More

A fresh perspective on VR in special education

In early 2021, Spaulding Academy & Family Services applied for and received a technology grant from the Flutie Foundation for the purchase of virtual reality (VR) headsets. 

We are a small, nonprofit special education school serving students with a wide range of abilities, including many who are on the Autism Spectrum and/or have limited mobility, and it was very important to us from the onset that we use this technology to meet the needs of all our students.

Selecting a VR solution…Read More

Where do IEPs stand two years into COVID?

There’s no doubt that every student lost valuable in-person school time over the last two school years. But students with IEPs faced additional challenges keeping pace during remote or hybrid learning.

Now that students have generally returned to their school buildings, educators are preparing for customary IEP reviews and progress reports. However, they are likely juggling a caseload that includes students who were not able to get IEPs during remote learning, not to mention a backlog of new IEP referrals that stacked up while our students have been transitioning between in-person, remote and hybrid situations.

Fallout from the last two years includes students who have had no in-person education for 12-18 months and special education teachers who were unable to work face-to-face with many of their students. We’ve also seen the teacher shortage grow, with many retiring or moving into other careers because of the stress, or having to quarantine as new strains of COVID arise. The combination of these factors makes it difficult to keep up with a caseload under normal circumstances, adding to the frustration for everyone.…Read More

Aperture Education Expands its Research and Development Team

Charlotte N.C. (Jan. 28, 2022) — Aperture Education, the leading provider of research-based social and emotional learning (SEL) assessments for K-12 schools, is expanding its Research and Development (R&D) department to support product development as the company grows. The expanded department will direct and participate in research that can be translated into meaningful, applicable results for schools and districts. To lead the expanded team, Aperture has hired Dr. Evelyn Johnson, a former professor of special education at Boise State University, as the department’s new vice president.

“Aperture’s primary differentiation is the rigor of the research that goes into developing our products and monitoring their effectiveness. We have been working to expand our R&D capacity to handle the growing demands for SEL in schools and out-of-school time organizations,” said Aperture CEO Jessica Adamson. “Dr. Johnson has a wealth of experience and her vision aligns with our mission as a company. She is a great fit to help advance Aperture’s commitment to data-driven SEL.”

Dr. Johnson is an important part of an impressive R&D team at Aperture which has extensive experience in SEL. As part of the department’s expansion, Aperture also hired Dr. Joseph Mahoney as Senior Research Scientist. Mahoney previously served as assistant professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and senior research scientist at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Matt Buczek also joined the team as Research Associate. He has a master’s of education degree in Statistics, Measurement, Assessment, and Research Technology (SMART) and has been working in the research field for the past five years. Others on the team include Jennifer Robitaille, who has more than a decade of experience in research and evaluation to support SEL programs, Research Assistant Emily Parker, and SEL Strategy Developer Samantha Hagans. The team is supported by well-known SEL experts Paul LeBuffe, Valerie Shapiro, and Jack Naglieri, among others, who serve as long-standing consultants for Aperture.…Read More

Schools, at halftime, need to put funding into play for the second half of the year

As we enter into another winter season living with the pandemic, special education services are not where schools hoped they would be, with many feeling that they are still falling behind rather than beginning to catch up.

New York City recently announced delays to its academic recovery program for students with special needs. New York, like many others, is stretching limits to get programs activated, even allowing for educators not specifically trained in special education to staff programs. In addition to the urgency they are feeling every day to serve parents and children, there’s another good reason to expand programs right now: funding.

It was good news when states and districts received $190 billion in federal aid from three relief packages in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. But it’s a jaw-dropping amount of money, with limits on when and how to use it for special education. For once, the challenge on the ground for schools is not how to manage a tight budget. It’s how to manage the rush of money that’s available: when to get it, how best to use it, and how to be accountable for it.…Read More

Making Lemonade—Finding Edtech Best Practices From Pandemic Pivots

In this week’s Getting There: Innovations in Education, Editor at Large Kevin Hogan explores how education leaders are identifying the best practices that emerged from their COVID learning plans.

Best practices from pandemic pivots include:

  • Six pillars of online PD
  • New opportunities for special education students
  • How one district is coming out ahead of COVID

 …Read More

4 lessons I’ve learned about supporting all students

Over the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with many innovative student teachers and have taken advantage of several blended learning instructional opportunities in my building. These experiences have been the best thing to happen to my teaching practice.

Between the small group instruction and differentiation used in the special education classroom that translated perfectly to my inclusion and general ed classes, the new technologies I’ve learned about from my co-teachers, and my own constant pursuit of professional learning, I have been mindful that even as a 32-year classroom veteran, I must continue to evolve my approach and incorporate new strategies so I can be at my best for all learners.

The challenges we’ve faced as a profession throughout the pandemic have validated my thinking and reinforced the importance of being adaptive and always learning as an educator. With the new approaches I’ve implemented and with new technology, I’ve seen students achieve some marvelous things.…Read More

5 ways to help special education students manage testing anxiety

Testing anxiety shows itself in different ways for different students. It can range from refusing to do work, crying, hiding in the bathroom, and verbal aggression to physical behavior like flipping tables and desks or hitting school staff. Some students avoid school on test days, and many suffer from symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches.

In special education programs, many of our students’ disabilities are closely related to anxiety, and testing can be a trigger that heightens those negative thoughts and feelings.

It’s a common belief that testing anxiety affects only older students, such as those taking high school or college placement exams. However, testing anxiety affects students of all ages. In fact, studies have shown that test anxiety is actually the worst in the middle grades. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, this anxiety can stem from a fear of failure, negative testing experiences, or feeling unprepared.…Read More

PresenceLearning Expands Leadership Team

NEW YORK, August 17, 2021 – PresenceLearning, the leading provider of live online special education related services and behavioral and mental health services for K-12 schools nationwide, has made two key additions to the leadership team. The company has hired Louisa Balach as President, Therapy Essentials Platform, and has promoted Shanelle Reese to become the company’s first Chief People Officer.

The creation of the Chief People Officer role signifies the importance of people at the center of the company’s culture and strategy. With the rapid growth of the business in FY21 came significant growth in employee teams to support and ensure great service to schools and students. In this role Reese will lead all employee-focused aspects of the organization, including employee experience, talent acquisition, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, learning and development, and internal communications. In her previous role as Vice President of People, Reese led PresenceLearning’s organization-wide commitment to diverse hiring practices, driving significant strides in representation across all teams, with 74% of PL employees female and 36% non-white. Additionally the company has added employee programming including company-wide unconscious bias training, COVID-related programming and broader resources to support employees.

The creation of the role of President, Therapy Essentials Platform marks an exciting step in the development of the company’s software as a service therapy platform offering. The offering has experienced rapid growth as school districts turn to Therapy Essentials to expand the capacity of their special education teams to serve their students remotely, and to provide clinicians with flexible ways to innovate and grow their practices. With the recent launch of Therapy Essentials for Individual and Group Practices, even more clinicians will be able to access the PresenceLearning platform. Under Balach’s leadership, the company will continue to innovate its therapy platform with a mission to provide the ultimate suite of online tools to support the work of speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, mental health professionals and other clinicians.…Read More