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

3 ways to support students with disabilities post-pandemic

Students with disabilities tend to show greater learning losses over the summer, and at times grow at academically higher rates than peers without disabilities, according to a new study showing detailed insight on academic growth among students with disabilities.

The new research, Understanding differential growth during school years and summers for students in special education, comes from NWEA, a nonprofit research-based provider of assessment solutions and learning services.

Using a five-year cohort of 4,228 students (kindergarten through fourth grade) in 109 U.S. public schools that voluntarily provided student-level special education program information, the research study examined how academic achievement and growth in achievement compared between students with and without disabilities. (Disability category was not available at the student-level. The study used “ever being in special education services” as a proxy for students with a disability.)…Read More

7 ways to focus stimulus spending on students with disabilities

Schools and districts are poised to receive an influx of federal dollars that should support students with disabilities and make equity a priority, ensuring that outdated and ineffective special education systems are updated and held to high-quality standards, according to a new report from the Center for Learner Equity.

Students with disabilities and those with special needs are some of the worst-hit during the pandemic, with virtual learning preventing students from accessing vital in-school therapies and programs.

In March, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, which invests $130 billion into education–including $3 billion for IDEA–and gives schools and districts access to funds to directly meet student needs, including students with disabilities and those impacted by socio-economic constraints.…Read More

PresenceLearning Hits Three Million Teletherapy Sessions Delivered

PresenceLearning, the leading provider of live online special education related services for K-12 schools, reached the milestone of delivering more than three million teletherapy sessions to students nationwide. This comes at the one-year mark of schools dealing with learning during a global health crisis.

“This year districts across the country embraced digital solutions to ensure that students receive the continuity of care they so urgently need, and more and more school providers experienced firsthand how teletherapy can positively impact the lives of their students. As we look ahead, we’re excited to continue working with our school partners to address gaps in equity and access,” said Kate Eberle Walker, CEO of PresenceLearning.…Read More

CASEL Board Member Dr. Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl Starts as NoVo Endowed Chair of SEL at UIC

CASEL Board of Directors Member Dr. Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl has begun her tenure as the next NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair of Social and Emotional Learning in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The position was created in 2011 to support ongoing social and emotional learning (SEL) research at the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with support from the Novo Foundation. As the new NoVo Chair of SEL, Dr. Schonert-Reichl will take over for CASEL Co-founder and Chief Knowledge Officer Dr. Roger Weissberg, who held the post since its creation.

Known as a world-renowned expert in SEL, Dr. Schonert-Reichl was a Professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, and Special Education in the Faculty of Education at University of British Columbia (UBC) from 1991 to 2020. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious 2021 Janusz Korczak Medal for Children’s Rights Advocacy, and has been invited to participate in several dialogues with the Dalai Lama on the themes of cultivating compassion and educating the heart.

“It is truly such an honor for me to take on this new role as the NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair in SEL, and to join such an amazing group of faculty and students at UIC — a world-class university,” Dr. Schonert-Reichl said. “And, it is particularly meaningful to me to be returning to Chicago, where my interest and passion for SEL all began as a teacher. Indeed, it was during my years as a new teacher that my students taught me that the best learning happens when explicit attention is given to creating educational contexts that support and promote their social and emotional competence and well-being.”…Read More

Frontline Education Acquires SuccessEd

Frontline Education, a leading provider of school administration software for the K-12 education community, today announced that it has acquired SuccessEd, a Texas-based K-12 software provider. With this acquisition, Frontline enhances its commitment to serving the special education community.

“This new partnership between Frontline Education and SuccessEd brings a best-in-class relationship management and customer care model together with continuous technical innovation in product functionality,” said Mark Gruzin, CEO of Frontline Education. “Our combined organization will drive additional value and an enhanced client experience for our partners in special education management across the country.”

SuccessEd team members, most of whom are former educators, have worked on behalf of special education and special programs for over 25 years. This acquisition provides Frontline Education with an opportunity to further serve its special education and special programs clients through expanded levels of Texas state-specific domain expertise. As part of the Frontline Education family, SuccessEd clients will benefit from access to a broad portfolio of connected solutions that are purpose-built for K-12 schools and proactively adapted to the changing ways schools operate.…Read More