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WELCOME BACK TO SCHOOL And welcome to the back-to-school issue of AC&E. Accessibility, compliance and equity are top of mind for educators these days and they will remain that way for this school year and the foreseeable future. While the reasons for such high interest are heartfelt by each and every educator for each and every student, there are additional reasons—perhaps a bit more crass, but reasons nonetheless—in the form of lawsuits against school districts, educators and colleges who are not compliant with accessibility and equity. Oh yes, they are happening, and more and more frequently. Accessibility and equity impact student learning. Compliance affects schools and districts, and we all need to be well aware of the compliance aspects before we purchase or use any product or service, not just for students, but for faculty and staff as well. A great many educators, as an example, select (with the best of intentions, believe me) apps to use in their classrooms for student engagement and learning. Some observers like to refer to this as 'The Wild West' where every teacher is using anything that they, as professionals, think will work. Ask yourself: Is that app accessible to all? Is it compliant with your school's privacy rules? Does it protect student information? As much as your district tries to protect you, your personal selection of a product or a service could leave you wide open for a lawsuit... or bring your district into court.




I I Maia Appleby

Please look at our advertisers and connect with them. They've spent money to bring their messages to you because they want you to get it right. Why? Because they've invested time and resources in research and development to make their products and services right for you and your students. You're reading AC&E because you're in the decision-making loop. We write the articles for practical use by folks like you — today's professional educator — the people working each day to provide an equal learning opportunity for every student. Enjoy the issue. We look forward to hearing your feedback. Thank you, Larry Jacobs, Publisher

A SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS Linnette Attai President and Founder, Playwell, LLC | Tracy Gray, Ph.D. I Carolyn Jacobs

Larry Jacobs I

That's just one of the reasons we publish this journal. It's a brave new world, and learning means everyone has access. Equity means everyone has equal learning opportunities, and compliance makes it happen.


Keith Krueger | Fraser Shein. Ph.D., P.Eng. Wakefield





Back-To-School Accessibility Checklist ELIZABETH BARKER


7 Steps to Providing Smartphone-Based Education to Refugees VINOD LOBO


Creating Cultures of Accessibility, Compliance and Equity CHERYL SPITTLER


3 Things Teachers and Leaders Do to Personalize Learning MARTY CREEL


Promoting Accessibility in the Context of 21st-Century Higher Education EVAN SILBERMAN


Classroom Considerations for Students With Hearing Loss HEATHER STINSON


Challenge Mental Models to Move Districts From “Good” to “Great” GREG FIRN


4 Ways to Give Students With Dyslexia Remediation and Accommodation SHANTELL THAXTON BERRETT


Getting Started With Student Data Privacy Compliance LINNETTE ATTAI


Digital Accessibility: a Critical Component of Inclusive Learning TRACY GRAY AND ALISE CROSSLAND

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018

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BY ELIZABETH BARKER Nothing signals that the end of the carefree summerdays are drawing nigh like opening your child’s back-to-school supply list. In my case, wl need to stock up on the all the usual suspects — crayons, rulers, glue — to transition our son into fourth grade. But around the country, parents might notice some familiar items are missing, namely No. 2 pencils and paper. Welcome to the Digital Age, when more and more schools are replacing old-school paper and pencils with screen-time learning.


This digital curriculum switch comes with many benefits. Cool gadgets like iPads and Chromeboxes are loaded with accessibility features with the potential to maximize learning for all students, from those performing well above benchmarks to those with severe needs. Still, while accessibility might seem like it’s just an app away for young learners, these devices are only as accessible as the content they deliver to students. The roots of digital accessibility date back to 1998,

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018

when Section 508 was passed to update Section 504 Rehabilitation Act of 1973, requiring federal agencies to make information that is provided electronically accessible to people with disabilities. Unfortunately, today many schools and districts are unfamiliar with requirements of section 508 and, therefore, do not purchase curriculum or assessments that are accessible for students who will be using assistive technology or for students needing to utilize the accessible features on their own devices.

Whether your school or district is transitioning to fully digital or simply using COWS (computer on wheels), it’s a good time for educators to create their own back-to-school accessibility checklist. Put your vendor list to the test with these accessibility questions: Question 1 – Are your products Section 508 or WCAG 2.0/2.1 compliant?

Question 3 – Does your product have alternative text for pictures?.... graphs, charts and diagrams?

It’s a simple question. Don’t be satisfied with a simple “Yes” or “No response. A product may not be fully compliant, but if the vendor understands the deficiencies and is working towards compliance, their product could be a consideration. If your vendor says “Yes,” ask them to explain and to provide a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). A VPAT highlights all of the accessible areas and components of an online product or platform.

If not, ask how the vendor might provide alternatives. Describing images in words or with sound is vital for visually-impaired students.

Question 2 – Do you have keyboard navigation? Even though section 508 and WCAG cover keyboard navigation, the vendor representative may not be familiar with that terminology. Therefore, asking these next questions, 2-5 of the checklist, will become important. Keyboard navigation removes barriers and allows for flexibility. In addition, proper keyboard navigation has the potential to allow navigation with a switch, refreshable braille, screen readers, magnification devices and much more.


Question 4 – Are videos closed-captioned or do they provide sign language? Media with video is an important instructional tool and all students should have full access.

Question 5 – For curriculum and assessment providers: Have you conducted usability studies? If so, with students? With adults? Did any of them use assistive technology? Usability studies are important because even if a product is created to 508 standards, it could still not accessible. These studies help make a product more intuitive, more user friendly and - when done with accessibility in mind – accessible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Elizabeth Barker, Ph.D., began her career in education as an elementary and middle school special education teacher. She earned a master’s degree in special education from the University of Colorado and a doctoral degree from the University of Oregon with an emphasis on growth trajectory for students with learning disabilities in mathematics and reading comprehension. She serves as a Senior Accessibility Specialist at NWEA.

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018


7 STEPS TO PROVIDING SMARTPHONE-BASED EDUCATION TO REFUGEES When a San Diego nonprofit added adult education to its after-school program, its first step was to offer 24/7 access via a mobile app.

BY VINOD LOBO Helping refugees learn English and math presents unique challenges. The learners may not be literate in any language, and they may not have access to computers, home internet, or transportation to schools for classes. The UMI Learning Center in San Diego has found a new way to serve this population. This non-profit serves refugee and immigrant families, providing after-school programs for children. When the staff saw a


need for the parents to learn math and English, they developed an innovative model that can be used by a wide variety of adult education programs.

SMARTPHONES ONLY The center has no computer lab, but almost every adult they serve has a smartphone. The staff saw smartphones as an opportunity to give each adult a path to math success. The missing piece was a curriculum that would work on smartphones, keep their attention, start with basic reading

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and math, and move all the way up to diploma level. After a visit to a nearby literacy program, they discovered the Learning Upgrade App, which contains 600 math lessons and 300 English reading lessons within 15 courses aligned to College & Career Readiness Standards.

ONBOARDING The adults who visit the center daily are primarily mothers of the children served in the after-school program. The center organized the adults into a class in January 2018. The staff put on

an onboarding event where each learner took out their smartphone, downloaded the app, received a username and password, and signed in for the first time. Each learner was enrolled in the first math course and English course, with the goal of moving through the first few lessons in person to build confidence.

START WITH THE BASICS The first lessons had learners identifying letters in the alphabet


and counting animals and objects, moving items around the phone screen with their fingers, and putting them in the right place visually. Through songs, videos, and games with immediate remediation through voice and animation, the app helped learners to ease into the learning progressions. Because a smartphone provides a high level of privacy compared to a public computer lab, learners avoided embarrassment as they covered basics at lower levels than their children were learning at school.

INFORMAL LEARNING CIRCLES As usage away from the center took off among learners, the time at the center became an informal learning circle. Parents, speaking both in English and in their native languages, were talking about what lesson they had reached, how far they were from a certificate, and their ultimate goals for the future. Learners were even talking about moving all the way through the 10 math courses to prepare for a diploma test. Given

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018


an average of 25 hours per course, this goal requiring about 250 hours of work shows how far ahead they were thinking in their conversations with others.

LEARNING EVERYWHERE By dividing content into small chunks of learning (about 10 minutes per lesson) learners can work through lessons whenever they have a small window of time. Users have reported completing lessons while at the laundry, in line at Walmart, at the doctor’s office, on the bus, and during breaks at work. Learners also do “binge-learning” sessions similar to Netflix binge-watching, which typically occur late in the evening after their children are asleep.

EMPOWERING WOMEN A key aspect of the learning community that UMI Learning Center has built is the empowerment of women. Many of their learners come from families where a women’s education is not encouraged or valued. By working on their own smartphones, the women bypass traditional barriers to learning and taking control of their own futures. Also, they set an example for their own children to follow.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS Just 10 weeks after onboarding their learners, the center had a celebration where certificates were distributed. More than 45

certificates were handed out, with most learners earning at least one math and one English certificate. As each learner walked up to receive a certificate, applause broke out from fellow students. Some had completed two math and two English certificates and done more than 100 hours of work on their smartphones in just 10 weeks! UMI Learning Center with smartphone reading and math instruction demonstrates how adult education can transition to mobile learning. Through inclusive onboarding, creating vibrant learning communities, and celebrating success, a wide variety of programs can offer their learners a path to success.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Vinod Lobo is the founder and CEO of Learning Upgrade, which publishes online courses and smartphone apps to teach English, reading, and math through songs, video, and games. He is the team leader for the Learning Upgrade team that is a finalist for the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE. In 1998, he brought together educators, musicians, artists, and programmers to produce innovative, engaging lessons designed to support struggling students in reading and math. Learning Upgrade has helped more than 1 million students find a new path to learning success. 8 Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018


(We knew that would get your attention!) But seriously, the work you do is incredibly important. We’re honored to be part of this movement with you. Follow us to keep in touch and stay informed about articles, interviews and the fall issue of AC&E.



“The one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our job a little better?” - Steve Krug BY CHERYL SPITTLER In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the Elementa-ry and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as an approach to the “War on Poverty” (McLaughlin, 1975). This law created a landmark commitment to equal access to quality education, and it has evolved into what we know today as the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.


O cation include the P.L. 94-142 Education of the Handicapped Act 1975 and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA was developed from P.L. 94-142 and expanded special education to include services for infants, young children, students on the autism spectrum and indi-

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018

viduals with traumatic brain injury. Another product of IDEA is access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). FAPE mandates schools to include special education students in general education classrooms as much as possible. So with this in mind, alongside the imperative need to have education

accessible, compliant and equitable how do we create cultures that fuel a cycle of continual improvement regarding these critical components?

deeper into the application of accessibility, compliance and equity in education we need to reflect on the current culture and climate of our schools.

As educators, we are great at using educational jargon, but we don’t always know what it looks like in action. For example, the idea of accessibility, compliance and equity.

According to the National School Climate Center (NSCC), “school climate reform supports K-12 students, school personnel, parents/guardians and community members learning and working together to promote pro-social education.”

The word “access” indicates allowing someone the same opportunity or experience as others. The Office for Civil Rights with the U.S. Department of Education explains accessibility as, “When a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally integrated and equally effective manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use.” “Compliance” involves following legal requirements and rules, while “equity” addresses fairness and inclusion. Fairness addresses the need for making sure that personal and social circumstances are not an obstacle to achieving educational potential. Inclusion, on the other hand, involves ensuring a basic minimum standard of education for all students.

WHAT DO THESE 3 COMPONENTS LOOK LIKE IN ACTION? How does your school culture and climate create or destroy these vital components? In order to dig


Effective school climate reform creates cultures of accessibility, compliance and equity by designing environments that are safe, supportive and engaging. School climate reform also increases student achievement, enhances school connectedness, lowering high school dropout rates, prevents bullying as well as other forms of violence, and improves teacher retention rates. The culture of a school refers to the values, beliefs and norms of a school and the climate is the byproduct of the culture. Taking time to reflect on current values and beliefs needs to begin with an examination of the current systems in order to establish a baseline for improvement. Teaching/learning, safety, interpersonal relationships, and the institutional environment: each of these areas requires a close look at current practices. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, teaching quality is recognized as the most powerful school-based factor in student learning. There is

an unyielding need to improve teaching and learning quality to provide accessible and equitable opportunities in our classrooms.

A FEW TIPS: • Build collective capacity for strong collaborative structures including mentor teachers, common planning times, and high functioning professional learning communities. • Focus on core instructional strat-egies while implementing teaming strategies for rigor. • Plan systems for supportive communication with a principal or department chair. • Implement a quality induction program and provide continual focused professional development.

SCHOOL SAFETY The level of safety in our schools is critical in providing accessible and equitable education. School safety is a never-ending process and involves four phases: prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. According to Gary Sigrist of Safeguard Risk Solutions, there are five levels to school safety which include: emergency management, staff training, exercises, hardware/software, and positive school culture. Positive school culture is the most important and least expensive layer of school safety. A positive school culture creates an environ-

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018


ment where every student has the opportunity to connect with at least one significant adult at school.

• Provide training for teachers on how to intervene with bullying to provide consequences for the bully and support the victim.


• Incorporate digital citizenship education in elementary school and revisit every year thereafter.

• Assess your school climate to identify areas of focus (bullying, harassment, behavior management, student behaviors, etc). • Survey students to determine how connected they feel to school, how much bullying is taking place and how safe they feel. DO NOT LET THIS DATA SIT IDLE!!


DAILY HABITS TO ADOPT: Greet your students at the door with a high-five, hand-shake, or some other method of greeting as a part of your daily routine.

As adults in the building we need to seriously consider our conversations in the hallways, staff lounge and in the classroom.

Have a positive presence and practice “coffee cup” diplomacy. Get out of your office/classroom in the morning and greet students with hello!

Students have great “B.S.” detectors and they pick up our attitudes, actions and behaviors. Get to know your students. All of them.

Practice the 2x10 strategy where you talk to two students for two minutes, ten days in a row.


Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018

THE ENVIRONMENT OF THE INSTITUTION ITSELF What is the appearance and feel of your building? Your classroom? Do the adults in the building pick see it? Years ago, there was a Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo commercial that stated “you never impression”. This is very true in relationships as well in our buildings. In 1982, James Q. Wilson and George Kelling proposed an academic theory called “broken


windows theory.” If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break more windows. If our hallways have small pockets of litter or vandalism that are not taken care of, more vandalism and littering will occur. As the adults in the building, we need to model respect for our own institution and encourage others around us to do the same. Accessibility, compliance and equity are substantial issues in education. In order to have educational environments with optimal opportunities for accessibility, compliance and equity, we need to begin at the root of the experience; a positive culture which

yields a positive climate. This work implementation of second order change. Our student population will continue to evolve; will our schools evolve with them? Or will we strive to exceed expectations for the good of our students… our future?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR For decades, Cheryl Spittler has worked with high-risk youth, having served as a lead trainer in the redesign of the Bureau of Indian Education Curriculum integrating the Common Core State Standards. Her curriculum work ranges from rural and urban school districts and from single schools to entire districts. In addition to developing curriculum/instructional design, Spittler, now a doctoral candidate, has worked as a classroom teacher, university professor of special education, and is an expert in classroom management. She currently serves as an instructional facilitator at the Albany County School District 1 in Laramie, Wyoming. Connect with her on LinkedIn: Cheryl Spittler.

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018


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What exactly is personalized learning, and how can it be used by both teachers and educational leaders to empower students to access their full potential? An experienced educator spells out the milestones that matter for personalized learning. 16

The students in Sarah Johnson’s third period Algebra hunch over their desks working through the mysteries of Pythagoras. The room quietly echoes the sound of pencils on paper and the occasional desk squeak. From her perch in the back Mrs. Johnson reflects on how similar they all seem when testing. But having dealt with adolescents for longer than most of them have been alive, she knows this is an illusion. Twelve are boys and thirteen are girls. Each one is different. Even the “identical” Franklin twins are very different. Ali Franklin loves mathematics and is excited

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018

about what he will learn this year in Algebra. Abram is an excellent student, but he’s really nervous about how he’ll do in Algebra because mathematics has never been his best subject. Mrs. Johnson’s superintendent has been telling parents that the district is working to personalize learning and she knows that her students could really benefit from instruction that meets them where they are. She’s been through differentiated instruction workshops and has tried her hand at a number of learning apps, but in the hush of 25 students working, who, by the way represent only one-fifth of her total students, she wonders: What exactly is personalized learning?

WHAT IS PERSONALIZED LEARNING? Like many terms in education, personalized learning suffers from ambiguous definitions. Some proponents of personalized learning go to great lengths to distinguish among differentiated instruction, individualized instruction, and personalized learning. Others view personalized learning as an umbrella term

that includes differentiation and individualization of instruction. For some schools and districts, personalized learning refers to what

others call blended learning (combining some form of online instruction with more traditional classroom instruction).

IN MOST CASES, PERSONALIZED LEARNING IS A 3-PART PROCESS • Instructional planning that promotes deeper student learning • Understanding of each student’s learning needs and interests • Provisioning of appropriate learning experiences that match each student’s unique learning profile The 2016 National Education Technology Plan states, “personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) all may vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, and often self-initiated.” ACE-ED.ORG

While different educators mean slightly different things when they refer to personalized learning, most seek to leverage technology to manage the learning needs of all students and to engage students as active participants in setting goals, identifying learning pathways, tracking progress, and determining how learning will be demonstrated. From the teacher’s perspective, there are three guideposts that mark out the road to personalized learning:

1) REDEFINED ROLES FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS In traditional classrooms, teachers make most of the important decisions about learning. They select instructional materials, decide which assignments students will complete, and determine when the assignments are due. On occasion, teachers will build some aspect of student choice into their lessons, but even then the teacher is usually seen as making the important decisions while giving students some limited choices. In personalized learning, teachers help students know how they learn best and where they are in a progression of learning goals and objectives. Teachers then work with students to determine specific learning targets and suggest a variety of learning activities that match the mutually agreed-upon targets. Begin by encouraging your students to choose the activities in which they have the greatest interest and to design a plan for how they will complete agreed-upon assignments.

Build ongoing assessment into the plan so that students will be empowered to adjust and modify the learning plan. Research has shown that empowering students to make more decisions about how and what they learn is associated with higher student achievement. In a personalized learning environment, teachers facilitate learning and work as partners to maximize the learning of each student.

2) FLEXIBLE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS A very consistent characteristic of personalized learning is expanding where and when students learn and making greater use of digital resources. If students have mobile technology, they can watch the video clip at home and come to class with a list of questions that they wish to discuss with their learning teammates. Students with mobile technology can complete practice exercises on their device while they are sitting on the school bus and going home. The goal is for students to learn everywhere and anytime. When learning is personalized, students can pursue their interests and continue to learn well beyond the traditional school day.

3) COMPETENCY-BASED LEARNING PROGRESSIONS AND PERSONAL LEARNING PATHS Okay, this is probably the hardest part of personalized learning. Historically in education, we have held time constant and allowed learning to vary. In competen-

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cy-based learning, students continue to work on a given learning target until they are able to demonstrate mastery. The curriculum will have to be carefully rearranged into competency-based learning progressions. This will allow students to work on some topics in different order and still master expected standards within each unit. In fully rearranged curriculum materials, students may even be able to develop proficiency with the same set of skills using very different resources. It’s best to go down this part of the road with several partners – either find comrades to share the load of developing learning progressions for a unit or two or purchase a service that has already built curricula based on learning progressions. The Instruction team at Discovery Education has begun this work for middle school math. Fully realized, personalized learning seeks to use different contexts to help students develop the knowledge and skills they are responsible for learning. Students, in consultation with the teacher, may select learning resources that match their interests, current skill level, and preferred learning modality. And at the end of the unit, students have choice as to how they demonstrate what they have learned. One student may demonstrate mastery by creating a new learning resource and another may write a more traditional paper. From the educational leader’s perspective, here are three ways to


facilitate and support the movement to personalized learning:

BEGIN WITH A VISION Collaborate with community stakeholders to create a shared vision for what your school/district means by personalized learning. Given the broad definition of personalized learning, it is essential that your district set clear goals to work towards. What strategies should be used to support personalized learning? How heavily does this vision rely on technology and what needs to transpire to ensure that we have the infrastructure to support these technology needs? With limited access to technology, what strategies should be used to support the use of digital content in the classroom? Do we have adequate digital content resources accessible in our schools? If not, what are we doing to enrich our bank of resources?

CULTIVATE A LEARNING COMMUNITY Support the development of a learning community on personalized learning. While there are a lot of questions related to technology, the heart and soul of a personalized learning initiative is about teaching and learning. It is essential to bring school-based and central office lead-

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ers together with teachers to learn about 21st century approaches to teaching. The learning community members will need to decide how personalized learning aligns with other initiatives within the district. The learning community provides the perfect opportunity for district leaders to demonstrate the power of “walking the talk.” Partner with other stakeholders and decide together what you need to learn. Get to know the staff members as learners. Give learning community members clear targets for what they are expected to know and be able to do and then give them lots of choice about how they move toward those expectations. Give them choice as to how they will demonstrate their knowledge. Explicitly show staff members how leaders are using the principles of personalized learning within the learning community model.

DEVELOP A PLAN Encourage learning community members to develop an action plan for implementation. Implementing a personalized learning initiative is a major task. Lots of activities need to happen and the team needs a plan to guide the implementation. Instructional leaders must communicate the vision and be prepared to support the acquisition of resources, while

giving stakeholders primary responsibility for making decisions about a lot of the specific details.

teachers to feel that those who work in the central office are forcing another major change on them.

Those closest to the students are the ones who need to understand in detail what this will involve and they need to see how it will benefit their students. Every teacher understands how different the students in her classes are and every teacher in her heart understands that personalized learning has the potential to improve learning for the students she works with every day.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina underwent a careful process of defining and planning for personalized learning. You can see the plan and definitions they created here:

But teachers also need to understand how this will impact them and the work they do. They deserve the opportunity to be a part of the design of the initiative from the beginning. Now is not the time for classroom

Our students use digital resources all the time and they already know how to use them to learn more about their personal interests. Our job is to bring together their natural curiosity, their interests, and natural learning prefer-


It’s an exciting time to be in education. Finally, the digital resources exist to make personalized learning a reality.

ences to empower them into realizing their full potential.

THAT’S AN AWESOME CHARGE. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: With more than 26 years of experience as an educator, Marty Creel leads Discovery Education’s innovative curriculum and instruction team. Marty began his career as an engaging social studies teacher known for creative use of technology to deepen learning. As a district-wide curriculum, instruction, and professional development leader in a large urban/suburban school system he was the architect for a thoughtful transition to instructional standards that empower teachers and principals as instructional leaders.

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018



RoboKind, the creator of cost-effective humanoid robots, is working to directly tackle one of the biggest challenges in STEM education for all students, and ultimately the workplace: the critical shortage of students who say they want to pursue careers in technology. The use of robotics has the power to create equity and inclusivity for a wide range of students including gifted, underserved populations, and those with disabilities. The humanoid robots Milo and Jett, along with their accompanying robots4autism and robots4STEM curricula, have a variety of benefits for students, including:


Creating access and opportunity for neurodiversity:


Innovating and expanding access:


Accessible learning activities that create learner agency:


Flexible, inclusive learning spaces:


Engaged and networked communities:


Software flexibility:

The CDC recently announced the number of students identified as on the autism spectrum is rising, and 70–75% of those individuals are either unemployed or underemployed. Individuals with autism often thrive in process-driven, repetitious settings, which aligns with skills needed to learn coding and programming. Jett and Milo give a number of traditionally underserved groups the access to coding, STEM, and social-emotional skills they need to prepare a rewarding career. Jett brings coding to life, even for teachers with no background or training in coding. Milo allows therapists, teachers, and paras to provide more frequent, high-quality one-on-one instruction. robots4STEM and robots4autism put students in a safe, non-threatening environment to empower them to explore and grow. Students learn in different ways. Jett and Milo embrace this flexibility and provide structured, self-paced, competency-based lessons that students, teachers, and parents can implement and repeat at any time. Rather than focus on the test score or destination, education communities need to focus on the journey of learning—like the process of learning new skills while working with robots. When you purchase a humanoid robot from RoboKind, you can run either the robots4stem or the robots4autism programs on the hardware. The diversity of this cost-effective tool puts it in a class of its own.

Sign up for a free trial or demo today today to see how Milo and Jett are revolutionizing SEL and STEM education for all.

You’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Educators enter the classroom to engage, excite, and empower each student to be successful, but the ideas we carry about “how to educate students” are deeply rooted and can hinder our ability to provide students with a quality education. To give all students the best possible chance to succeed, we need to redefine our thinking about educational structure. Change is hard, but transformation is harder! Here are five keys to begin a shift in your school’s thinking.






Access requires opportunity, but opportunity has become the enemy of access. If opportunities are not clearly defined, then access is impossible.

Think about replacing the word “compliance” with “commitment.” Commitment is empowering, decisive, and suggests a “doing whatever it takes” attitude, whereas compliance is conforming to a minimum standard.






Empower educators to take risks and incorporate new tools into their classroom regimen. RoboKind’s facially expressive humanoid robots and accompanying curricula provide educators with the tools to provide students new experiences and inspire them to learn and grow.

Civility includes the behaviors and courtesy we show when we interact with one another. At a minimum, civility requires a common level of respect in our thoughts, words, and actions.

We have long confused equity with equality. Equality works against equity. In practice, pursuing equity is not about compromising standards, but about taking action to dedicate resources to address the different needs of each learner.

Contact RoboKind for a free trial or demo of Milo or Jett to start transforming education in your school or district!



BY EVAN SILBERMAN (Originally published as "Promoting Accessibility in the Context of 21st-Century Higher Education," in Transforming Higher Ed, an EDUCAUSE Review blog, on March 9, 2018. ) One of the emerging frontiers in postsecondary education is digital education. In 2015, President Obama announced America's College Promise (ACP), a program aimed at providing two free years of college to all Americans. Beneath the public conversation about free and affordable access


to education is an implication that institutions are prepared to serve all students, including those with physical or cognitive disabilities. The imperative to make colleges and universities more widely available further speaks to emerging ways of teaching and learning, because, as noted by Dan Berrett in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, "technology has embedded itself in the everyday classroom, in hybrid courses and through the learning-management systems used in face-to-face settings." However, online learning is implicit

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in Berrett's article — and it presents additional challenges for supporting students with disabilities. Yet in this new age of higher education, not all institutions are compliant with guidelines for digitally accessible learning. Many institutions are providing the necessary accommodations when students with disabilities come forward with a need, but developing technologies and learning environments to be accessible would be a better approach. In August 2016, the

When it comes to digital education, how can postsecondary leaders ensure a more inclusive and accessible experience for all students? United States Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation against the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley). According to the DOJ, UC Berkeley was in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for producing inaccessible content in their public MOOCs (massive online open courses). Title II is designed to protect persons with disabilities in public institutions. In this case, videos were not prepared for users with visual or hearing impairments. The DOJ action also highlighted inequalities within the existing accessibility policy for UC Berkeley's online content. Similarly, in February 2015, Harvard and MIT were sued by advocates for the deaf because those institutions were not providing captioning for videos. Such lawsuits are becoming common, and they raise awareness about the challenges and importance of providing inclusive education. They also highlight the responsibility of the institution to meet compliance needs for different types of students across varied learning environments. One recent piece of proposed legislation that might benefit access to higher education for


persons of any ability is the Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (TEACH Act), which, according to one analysis, is "intended to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to instructional technology used by a postsecondary school." More specifically, it directs the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) to develop accessibility guidelines for electronic instructional materials and related information technologies — especially digital content and online learning platforms. This proposed legislation provides the kind of thoughtful leadership necessary to make education available to the broadest possible audiences. While the TEACH Act represents a great step forward, it remains in committee review. What the above lawsuits and proposed legislation underscore is the importance of accessible learning environments in the new world of postsecondary education, where online education is ascendant. However, it seems that institutions are operating from laws with outdated (and sometimes vague) guidelines that are not intended for distance education. Policymakers must continue to advocate for changes

to existing law and push higher education institutions to adequately address the needs of students with disabilities in 21st-century learning environments. Furthermore, institutions have a responsibility to adopt new policies and procedures while lawmakers improve legislation. Despite a good-faith effort to be accessible, some universities are often unprepared to support students with disabilities online. While policy is a guiding force, institutional will is equally as important; as such, measures such as designating a university accessibility officer, working with instructional designers, organizing awareness training for faculty and administrators, and implementing technology that meets compliance are other vital considerations for practitioners. Colleges and universities will benefit from an accessibility roadmap to further guide policy and practice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Evan Silberman serves as Director of IT Partnerships and Community Relationships at New York University. © 2018 Evan Silberman. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY 4.0 International License.

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018


CLASSROOM FOR STUDENTS BY HEATHER STINSON Although hearing loss is considered a low-incidence disability, occurring in only 1.7% of newborns according to 2016 CDC data, with Universal Newborn Hearing Screenings, early identification, early amplification and early intervention, more and more students with hearing loss are receiving education alongside their hearing peers in mainstream classrooms. For many of these students, their assistive hearing technology is barely noticeable and their speech and articulation are on par with their peers. Especially for young early elementary students, any delays or differ-ences in educational performance could be deemed developmental and brushed aside by professionals thinking these students will eventually catch up. However, students with hearing loss have unique learning needs and with some thoughtful planning, these students can be successful both academically and socially in mainstream classrooms.

ASSISTIVE LISTENING TECHNOLOGY Understanding hearing technology is the first step in meeting the needs of students


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CONSIDERATIONS WITH HEARING LOSS with hearing loss. Unlike the way that eyeglasses repair vision, assistive listening technology does not “fix” hearing loss. Cochlear implants, hearing aids, and BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aids) provide access to speech sounds, but do not ensure comprehension or repair the damaged hearing organs. Because background noise is amplified, students with hearing loss need to work harder in a mainstream classroom to tune out unwanted noise and focus on the desired signal (e.g. the teacher or a peer’s voice). Students with unilateral (one-sided) hearing loss or an asymmetrical loss may have difficulty localizing sound in a classroom setting, even with assistive technology, preventing them from participating fully in class discussions and putting them at risk of missing information and developing gaps in understanding. Many students use Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT systems, formerly referred to as FM) to combat the effects of distance and background noise. A HAT system brings the teacher’s voice directly to the student’s ear, reducing the signal-to-noise ratio and perceptually making the teacher’s voice louder than the noise. All amplification must be checked


daily to ensure it’s working properly, which requires some training by a professional familiar with the assistive devices. Teachers should seek support from an educational audiologist or teacher of the deaf to ensure that the equipment is being used correctly throughout the school day in order to maximize access for the student with hearing loss as each system is different.

LISTENING FATIGUE Listening fatigue is a common concern for students with hearing loss due to the extra effort required throughout the school day to auditorily attend to periods of instruction. Times that are generally considered breaks for students (such as recess, PE, and lunch) are actually the hardest for students with hearing loss. The fast pace of conversations, quick changes in topics, multiple speakers, and lack of clear instruction, as well as the addition of background noise, make these “down” times that much more challenging. Many students may not know that they are experiencing listening fatigue. Behaviorally, listening fatigue can look different in each student. For instance, students might: • Visibly “space out” or appear distracted or

like they’re not paying attention. • Display silly, “class clown” type behavior • Become aggressive or argumentative • Dominate conversations or class discussions (it’s easier for students to participate when they are controlling the conversation and are therefore familiar with the topic) Teachers can help these students by thoughtfully planning listening breaks during the course of the day, providing quiet time when students are not required to attend to and process spoken language. Social and self-advocacy considerations are important educational components for students who have hearing loss. Students must be able to understand and explain their hearing loss and assistive technology in order to confidently advocate for themselves in the classroom. Peers often ask about hearing aids, cochlear implants and HAT systems out of curiosity. To develop a strong sense of self, students with hearing loss should be able to respond to these questions with age appropriate explanations such as, “My cochlear implants help me hear” or, “That’s my HAT system. It helps me hear the teacher’s voice.” When students feel confident and supported at school, they are able to form and maintain real friendships, are more motivated to

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come to school and are more ready to learn. Specific language instruction is critical for all students with hearing loss, and especially for elementary students. Many students appear to be on par with their typically hearing peers in the early grades because everyone is learning to read and write. As the expectations for written work increase, students with hearing loss can start to fall behind. As written work becomes core to classroom work and students are expected to express their ideas in writing, the written language of students with hearing loss is often less complex than that of their peers. For example, they may need direct instruction in specific written language structures. Responses to complex or inferential questions may not be accurate or in some cases, may even be the exact opposite of the correct response. Students may contin-ue to write in simple sentences, omitting temporal language or complex clauses even though they are writing longer paragraphs. Modeling the type of written and spoken language required for compari-son, cause and effect, persuasive, and other complex writing is necessary as students with hearing loss often do not pick this up incidentally.

ing the impact of hearing loss on learning. They can offer students direct support in the areas of language, reading and writing, and self-advocacy, as well as consultation to the entire educational team to ensure optimal access throughout a student’s school day. They are experts in how a student is accessing information, and through classroom observations, they can identify potential challenges and offer strategies to classroom teachers. If your student does not currently have a teacher of the deaf, consider including this professional on the team. Classrooms are increasingly diverse, and students with hearing loss are part of that diversity. With thoughtful planning and preparation, each of them can be as successful in the mainstream classroom as their typically hearing peers!

Teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing are critical service providers for their students. These educators have received specific training to understand the unique access, social/emotional, and educational needs of students with hearing loss. They have experience in the related areas of speech, language, and audiology but are different from speech pathologists or audiologists. They are focused on assessing and support-


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher. Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.


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A former superintendent shares his model for creating a school environment that serves all students. BY GREG FIRN Full disclosure: I do have an ulterior motive. Underpinning my thoughts and insights is a call to action. It is time for those who are leaders and those who aspire to lead to step up and embrace what is right, true, and good for each learner. Moving from pithy and often trite statements to practical action requires more than words. It requires a fundamental shift in our thinking before any shifts in behavior. The problem is that we seldom challenge or question our thinking. The power of mental models—the pictures and processes we carry around with us that help us make sense of things—can also work against us. When Jim Collins in his salient work GOOD TO GREAT posited that the “enemy of good is great,” conscientious educators considered the implications for their classrooms, schools, and school systems. Yet, how many took the action necessary to create and sustain “great” schools? It wasn’t money or resources. It wasn’t policymakers or leadership. It wasn’t the teachers. Not to oversimplify, it was and continues to be the mental models that reside below the surface.


THE SHIFT BEGINS WITH MENTAL MODELS Until we challenge our mental models, we will again look back at the calls for innovation and see only isolated pockets of success, not improvement at scale. Unpacking and confronting these mental models is neither simple nor easy. They are deep-rooted and, in most cases, have become institutionalized. Though many have been proven false or antiquated, they have become so normalized in our thinking and practice that any attempt to expose them, let alone change .

SO WHAT? Change is hard and transformation is harder! It can, however, be realized. Integrity, character, and bluntly, sustaining authentic change. The core of your values about teaching and learning will be challenged. Your convictions about the worth, potential, and mental model that underpin the practices and programs that most need to be reformed.

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When I was a superintendent, I served in a rural, poor, minority-majority county school system that at the time was one of the lowest-performing school systems in the state. I asked our organization how many of us wanted each of our learners to be successful. The answer was a resounding and unanimous yes. I then asked, “How many of you believe that each learner can and will be successful?” Their silence was deafening. Our organization knew that the “right” response was wanting all learners to be successful, but when it came to actually believing they could, all sorts of mental models presented reasons why they couldn’t: poverty, home environment, lack of motivation, the bell curve, to name just four. We spent months painfully unpacking these and more, culminating in a community-wide “reset” of our mission to “All means all.” We focused on one question: “If we were accused of being an organization where ‘all means all,’ what evidence would our students, staff, guardians, business, faith, and civic community present to convict us of such a crime?” We had to transform the what and how of our thinking before addressing our actions and behaviors.

THE DARTBOARD MODEL OF EDUCATIONAL CHANGE To ensure a level of ownership without pointing conversations about our dissatisfaction with current or past performance. Taking care not to make it personal, we began the arduous task of determining which of these dissatisfactions was within our control and which was not. Interestingly enough, most of the frustration was with decisions and conditions over which we had little or no control, such as state-level mandates for testing and accountability or the fact that many of our students lived in poverty. O dissatisfaction, we moved to identifying our vision of what could, should, and would be. C you know what isn’t working. The challenge is when you associate the vision with values. What are the values—or, in this context, the mental models—that frame the vision? Picture a dartboard with a bull’s-eye in the center with inner and outer rings. Most change initiatives focus on the outer rings of an organization: structures such as instructional day, bell schedules, and grade . the day really don’t drive enduring change to a school or school system. The next layer I call “practices and processes.” These include instructional practices such as project-based learning, differentiated instruction, or learning by design. The rings closest to the bull’s-eye are the


professional and corporate beliefs and values . institutional beliefs, a shift in practices and . The really, really hard work of creating and actualizing a vision is making it resonate with others’ personal values and beliefs so that they have a level of ownership and personal commitment that empowers them to address structures, practices, and programs that have not met their expectations. The really, really hard work of creating and actualizing a vision is making it resonate with others’ personal values and beliefs so that they have a level of ownership and personal commitment that empowers them to address structures, practices, and programs that have not met their expectations.

FROM COMPLIANCE TO COMMITMENT With deference to the publisher of this magazine, “compliance” is not the concept I would choose as a school leader. If I were king for a day, I would replace the word “compliance” with “commitment.” Compliance is externally imposed and doesn’t engender ownership, whereas commitment requires a decision and therefore a deeper level of personal responsibility to meet or exceed. Commitment is empowering and suggests a “do whatever it takes” attitude whereas compliance is conforming to a minimum

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standard. Returning to Collins, let me posit three constraints that undermine authentic discussions and necessary actions regarding compliance, access, and equity: Compliance is the enemy of commitment; Opportunity is the enemy of access; and Equality is the enemy of equity. The best example I can think of with respect to how adversarial compliance is to commitment is from the military’s expectation that when an order is given, it will be fulfilled. The success of an order largely requires a subordinate to feel a sense of ownership of the order. When the order is “owned” or “internalized,” it becomes theirs, not someone else’s. The order then becomes personal and therefore much more likely to be carried out with fidelity. We need commitment, not just compliance, to the work we must do to ensure that all learners have the highest standard of teaching and learning.


Opportunity has become the enemy of access. Absent intentionality, defined purpose, or structured planning, opportunity is by chance or coincidence. Access requires opportunity. Yet, if opportunities are not clearly defined, then access is akin to emperor with no clothes. It’s not real. We have long confused equity with equality. The bane of our existence is sameness. We have a storied and arguably controversial past of fighting for and recognizing equal rights, equal standing, etc. Yet, we have failed to understand, appreciate, or take the necessary steps to build the requisite capacities to ensure access, opportunity, compliance, and commitment work in concert, not in conflict with one another. Equality works against equity in the sense that there are situations and circumstances that warrant, different resources, different strategies, and different timelines. In practice, pursuing equity is not about compromising standards, expectations, or outcomes. Rather, it is recognizing and taking action to dedicate resources to address the different needs of each learner. The

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practice of customizing or individualizing resources to the needs of each learner is in direct opposition to the mental model of sameness.

CONNECTING THE DOTS School and school system leaders need to champion access, commitment, and equity for each of their learners. To do so requires a careful examination of their own mental models that may interfere with authentic, transparent, and sincere actions in their organization. Confronting mental models is not easy, but it is necessary. If mental models, especially as they pertain to access, commitment, and equity, go unexamined, we will not move forward. In fact, we will become a footnote in the history of American education that reads, “The more things changed, the more they remained the same.”


Dr. Greg Firn is the COO of RoboKind and a retired superintendent. Follow him on Twitter @BestOfClass.


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4 WAYS TO GIVE STUDENTS WITH DYSLEXIA REMEDIATION AND ACCOMMODATION New California guidelines help educators identify and support students with dyslexia. BY SHANTELL THAXTON BERRETT In California, about 220,000 students with dyslexia are being served in special education, but that’s only a fraction of the estimated one-million students in the state who have the learning disability. How can educators help the 800,000 students who aren’t in SPED classes but might benefit from remediation and accommodation? Here are some ideas.

1) INDENTIFY STUDENTS EARLY USING SCREENERS “Phonological processing” was recently added to California’s guidelines for identifying dyslexic children for special education services. Phonological processing is the ability to attend to, remember, and manipulate sounds at the sentence, word, and syllable levels. It’s a pre-reading skill, and students with dyslexia have an impairment in this area that affects their ability to read. Phonological processing can be assessed even before students are reading, enabling educators to recognize students with dyslexia earlier.

The current thinking is to assess students for phonological processing as early as kindergarten, and certainly by first grade. That way, educators can recognize students like my son, who never qualified for special ed but who certainly needed support, and would have benefited from early targeted instruction.

One of the challenges of universal screening in early grades is distinguishing between dyslexia and a developmental issue. My son, Tylerhas dyslexia, and his teachers often told me, “Just wait, just wait, it will come.” Waiting can be damaging, though, because then we've lost time to make vital connections in the brain.

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2) KEEP STUDENTS CONNECTED BY KEEPING THEM IN MAINSTREAM CLASSROOMS California law states, “If a pupil who exhibits the characteristics of dyslexia or another related reading dysfunction is not found to be eligible for special education and related services pursuant to subdivision (a), then the pupil's instruc-

tion program should be provided in the regular education program.”

also be students.

Meeting the needs of students with dyslexia in mainstream classrooms is ideal. because it allows them to have feel included and connected. These students will require a mix of remediation and accommodation which may benefit all students in the class.

Students with dyslexia may also have executive function deficiencies that require accommodations. What does this mean to educators on daily basis? Students with dyslexia need simple directions, not multiple steps. They need to have a visual cue to guide them and they need help with prioritiz-ing.

3) BRING REMEDIATION AND ACCOMMODATION TO THE TABLE As much as students’ overall reading skills may improve with remediation, there are other parts of the brain that are affected by dyslexia. That’s where accommodation are called for. For example, their processing speed is going to be different; they’ll always require more time than their peers to complete their work. A structured literacy approach that is based on Orton-Gillingham principles of instruction and includes systematic, multi-sensory, sequential phonics is essential for students with dyslexia— but can





4) HELP THEIR FELLOW STUDENTS UNDERSTAND THE EFFECTS OF DYSLEXIA When my son was in 5th grade, he had to do a book report every month, but his teacher allowed different ways to present that report, for example, inviting a guest speaker or creating a a video presentation. When it came time for my son to do his first report, he said, “Mom, I want you to be the guest speaker. I want you to help those kids in my class understand what I see, what it’s like for me.” I came to his class and he read some of his favorite quotes from the book (title?), and he shared

what it was like for him. And then I talked about the brain and how we all process things differently. And I said, “How many of you are good at soccer?” Some raised their hands. “How many of you are good at basketball?” Some raised their hands. Then I asked, “Does that make you better?” We talked about how we all have things we’re good at, but that doesn’t make one person better than another. After that class, I had parents call to thank me, saying they had other children who had struggled. And when I asked Tyler at the end of that year what that was like for him, he said, “Mom, it was the first year I haven't been made fun of.” the That same year, teacher assigned Tyler a note-taking buddy to help him capture the important parts of what the teacher was saying. Those students became a collaborative community where they supported each other in their weaknesses and strengths. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen occur in a classroom.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Shantell Thaxton Berrett is the lead professional development and dyslexia specialist for Reading Horizons. She has a B.A. in English teaching and an M.A. in education, with a reading science concentration and dyslexia certification.

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An Integrated Approach to Teaching Students Who Learn Differently While many colleges offer special programs for students with learning disabilities (LD) and other learning challenges, Landmark College is one of the only accredited colleges in the United States designed exclusively for students who learn differently, including students with learning disabilities (such as dyslexia), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

in weekly academic advising sessions while engaged with the advising curriculum. As students progress in their coursework, they become increasingly independent and meet with their advisor less frequently. Students pursuing their bachelor’s degree work with degree specific advisors. The academic advisor is central to the system which supports individual student performance.

For almost 40 years, our combination of research-based learning strategies and academic support has proved successful in preparing students for the rigors of college-level work. As the field of learning disabilities and differences expanded, our approach to working with students has grown more varied, but always with a constant unyielding mission to provide best practices for all.


Landmark College offers the same range of student services found at any college—from counseling and health services to student life and athletics. The difference at Landmark College is that these professionals, like our faculty and academic advisors, bring specific expertise in, and a passion for, working with students who learn differently. Working together, we help students discover their path as confident, empowered, and independent learners. We integrate our innovative learning strategies into everything we do.


In addition to classes, students in their first year at Landmark College participate


Landmark College’s Centers for Academic Support offer unparalleled support to students who learn differently, at no additional charge. The Drake Center for Academic Support is the first place students turn for help with reading, writing, and study skills. Academic support centers within individual departments offer drop-in support and one-on-one scheduled appointments with Landmark College faculty.


Counseling Services are available to provide support to students dealing with stress and other personal, social, or academic difficulties. Health Services offers support for physical issues.


The office of Educational Technology Services helps students take advantage of the wide array of technologies that support the needs of students who learn differently.


Through the office of Coaching Services, Landmark College’s Professional Certified Coaches work with students who have a variety of learning profiles and struggle with executive functioning. 34

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Students with autism who are academically prepared for college may still face significant challenges navigating the social curriculum and adjusting to the more fluid routine of the college student. Landmark College recognizes the need to provide additional programming to assist students with autism to meet their college goals. Our integrated services model for ASD support services provides a structured living and learning environment that combines an effective pedagogical approach with tailored social and other programmatic supports.

Initial courses are offered at non-credit and credit levels. This allows students to be placed in classes where they are able to succeed, from the start. Due to our rigorous academic standards, more than 50% of incoming students begin in non-credit courses, with most moving into credit courses after one or two semesters.


The Landmark College Library offers walk-in assistance as well as one-on-one appointments with students to assist them with their research projects and with developing information literacy. The Library building offers a welcoming space conducive to individual and small-group study, as well as resources to support students’ curricular and extra-curricular needs and interests.


Originally founded as a two-year college, Landmark College began offering four-year degrees in 2014. We now offer an array of associate degrees, with optional minors and concentrations. Landmark College offers a diverse selection of courses in anthropology, English, business, communications, humanities, philosophy, psychology, history, literature, math, science, foreign languages, theater, video, music, art, physical education, and other disciplines. For all entering students, the curriculum sequence begins with skills-development courses, designed to address the key areas of writing, reading, communication and study skills. Self-management, as well as the development of self-understanding and self-advocacy, are also important parts of this first-semester curriculum.



Landmark College offers several Open Houses on Saturdays each semester. You can also schedule a visit with our Admissions office any week day during regular business hours by calling 802-387-6718 or emailing

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018



WITH STUDENT DATA PRIVACY COMPLIANCE BY LINNETTE ATTAI The 21st-century classroom is a rich ecosystem of diverse technologies that create a dynamic learning environment for all of our students. However, taking advantage of the opportunities that technology provides results in an increase in the complexities around how student data is collected, used and shared. As a result, it goes hand in hand with the requirement to build a student data privacy compliance program or to improve on an existing program. Such a program is part of the fundamental responsibility of care that school systems have for their students. It is no small challenge to deliver on that requirement in a


way that is comprehensive and measurably reduces risk. It requires knowledge and commitment. It also requires implementation of new policies and procedures to guide changes in employee behavior and to manage technology providers, as well as new ways to clearly communicate the compliance efforts to parents. To get started, it helps to have a road map to guide you through it all.

1) START WITH THE LAWS There’s no way around it: Education data is subject to special legal protections, and the privacy laws are complex and varied. In addition, when it comes to data privacy, the context in which we are collecting, using and sharing data matters, which means that binary rules and

ccessi ility, Compliance and quity in ducation


procedures to comply with the laws often fall short of the mark. Leverage trusted resources such as the materials available at the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Data Privacy website to start building your fluency.

2) GO A STEP BEYOND The laws are just a starting point. To understand what a data privacy compliance program should look like in your school system, spend some time considering how your use of student data aligns with your school system’s mission and vision. Consider community norms, sensitivities and parent expectations, then establish not just what the laws require, but also what you can and should do with data in align-

ment with the local sensibilities.




Before putting pen to paper on policies and processes, know where your gaps are. A privacy impact assessment will help you uncover where your greatest risks lie, which in turn allows you to prioritize remediation efforts. It’s impossible to address all the issues at once, so take the time to map out an action plan to tackle problems over time, in accordance with risk level and existing resources.

Employees interact with student data every day. Training on student data privacy laws, policies and procedures is critical if they’re to be able to implement the compliance program. Training should explain both what is expected in terms of behavior and why, so that everyone understands the context for the requirements. Training doesn’t have to happen all at once or overnight. The point is simply to get started, roll it out over time if you have to, and stay consistent.

A compliance program impacts all facets of an organization, so building it requires that leadership spearhead the effort. Remember that a compliance program is there to manage all forms of risk, including legal, financial and reputational harm. This is not something that one individual or team can effectively build and implement from the ground up unless leadership sets the tone, makes it a priority across the organization and provides the necessary resources to make it happen.

MAKE THE CASE If your leadership isn’t yet engaged or aware of the risks, build a compelling case to help them appreciate the responsibility, and partner with them to bring the program to life. Even when leadership is engaged, remember that the compliance program will impact everyone in the school system. Introduce the effort across the teams to lay the groundwork for cooperation and participation later on.

ESTABLISH NEW NORMS Document policies and procedures for teams to follow around collection, use, sharing and destruction of student data so that old issues are not re-created in the future. Remember that policies are not the laws. They’re behaviors you expect employees to engage in to keep the school system in compliance with the laws, as well as in alignment with your mission and community norms. Also create a procedure for each policy, so employees will know not just what is expected at a high level, but also how they are supposed to implement the policy to meet those expectations.

BE ACCOUNTABLE Any good compliance program must include a system for auditing to ensure that policies and procedures are implemented consistently and are effective in meeting the intended aims. Auditing also helps identify gaps in compliance, and where policies and procedures may need to be adjusted to work more effectively within a particular school system’s environment. How will you monitor your program? Who will be responsible for reporting? Give some thought

ccessi ility, Compliance and quity in ducation



to this before rolling out your program, and document the accountability measures you’ll put in place to measure your success.

COMMUNICATE Help your community understand how you are acting to protect student data privacy. Provide clear, comprehensible information on the program. Make sure that your teachers can explain the work to parents, as they are often the face and the voice of the school system in the community.

BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING Compliance is not a “one and done” proposition. It’s a living, breathing function that’s constantly moving forward, evolving, improving and growing stronger. When you’ve implemented the program,

go back to step one. Where can you learn more? What else can you bring to the program? Is your school system’s mission providing a touchstone for employees to refer to when making decisions about data or writing policies? What area of data collection and handling is ripe for a privacy impact assessment? Have you reviewed the policies and procedures recently? Do any require updating? How can you expand on your training program or refresh it? A compliance program is about ongoing improvement. Keep moving through the cycle, building stronger with every turn. Stay positive and stay focused. Building a compliance program is akin to building a muscle: You need it for survival, but getting it where

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you want it to be takes time, energy, knowledge and consistent effort. It doesn’t happen overnight. But the results are worth it every time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR For more than 25 years, Linnette Attai has been building organizational cultures of compliance and guiding clients through the complex governance obligations governing data privacy matters, user safety, and marketing. As the founder of PlayWell, LLC, Linnette advises private and public companies, schools and districts, trade organizations, lawmakers, and policy influencers. She serves as a virtual chief privacy officer and data protection officer to select clients, and speaks nationally on data privacy matters. She is the author of “Student Data Privacy: Building a School Compliance Program.”

LEADER IN ACCESSIBLE INNOVATION: QUILLSOFT USER-FRIENDLY TOOLS DEVELOPED TO HELP ALL LEARNERS BECOME INDEPENDENT, CONFIDENT, EFFECTIVE WRITERS At Quillsoft, we research and create literacy software catering to all walks of life—recognizing the many different needs of our customers from elementary, secondary and post-secondary students, to working professionals. We promote effectiveness in communication by helping people become independent and confident writers, no matter their age or academic level. While still prominent and a pioneer in special education literacy software we have developed strategies and technology that can benefit all writers. Our goal is to enable students to unleash their reading and writing potential on their own, with guidance from teachers and assistive technology including our WordQ, iWordQ, ThoughtQ and ReaderQ software across Windows, macOS, Chromebook and iPad platforms. We want writers to concentrate on content, quality, and originality rather than just correcting spelling and grammar mistakes. Our software supports the writing process by offering practical strategies that take advantage of state-of-the-art word prediction, speech feedback,

proofreading, enhanced topical web searches, and unique plagiarism reduction technologies. All of this is done to support current UDL environments recognizing the importance of pedagogy and integration of assistive technology. Teachers/instructors can focus on helping students work and learn more independently—making them effective writers in the long run.

communication in emails and reports. WordQ’s proofreading support is one of several key strategies that ensure that people can read and understand what you write.

Following on our three decades of R&D experience, Quillsoft remains focused on delivering simple, easy-to-use tools for effective communication. Students benefit from using our tools daily without being overwhelmed by complexity. In some cases, technology is not even necessary; for example, students can apply our proofreading, paraphrasing and plagia-rism reduction strategies anywhere.

ThoughtQ is a Chromebook application as well as a new feature incorporated within the latest WordQ 5 desktop products. It suggests related words and phrases that the writer may not have considered. This makes researching and writing about an unknown topic much easier and definitely more interesting. The ReaderQ Chrome extension guides writers to actively read, take notes and paraphrase while working with web pages. ReaderQ also works with non-web pages and PDFs using the clipboard function where writers can copy and paste text from other documents. This ultimately reduces plagiarism and enables the user to understand the content rather than copying and pasting large chunks of information and promptly forgetting about it later.

ESL and ELL students (second-language learners) benefit from our approach as well, because with ongoing use of our software, they become more comfortable with writing in English. Further, working professionals use our tools to achieve a competitive advantage in business and in life through effective

While teachers are most familiar with word prediction and speech feedback functions, we would like to highlight our latest tools, ThoughtQ and ReaderQ.



Think. Write. Go! SWKNNUQHVEC


Wichita Falls, Texas

Wichita Falls Independent School District (WFISD) knew they had a problem: nearly half of their students enter kindergarten unprepared with the basic skills they need to be successful in school. Doctor Travis Armstrong, Director of Early Learning for WFISD, is intimately familiar with the struggles families can encounter

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with early learning and equal access to quality PreK education.

"Children who aren't technically enrolled in the school district, they're at home, but they have a need. They have a need to be educated, they have a need of building that foundation before they enter kindergarten, but potentially there's some barrier there." When families don't qualify for a government-funded preschool program, he says it's incredibly difficult to turn them away because

"You're not just turning down that family, y ou're turning down that child."

Superintendent Michael Kuhrt stresses the importance of children being properly and


equally prepared for kindergarten: "We know where the starting line is, we know where the finish line

is, and we want every student starting at the same

starting line."

The district understood they needed to reach more students before they enter kindergarten and needed to increase early education access to help families who don't qualify for a PreK program, can't afford private preschool, or are in rural areas where programs simply aren't available.

Accessible Early Childhood Education Kuhrt spearheaded an effort to bring more PreK options to the district. After hearing about Waterford,

the district launched a pilot of Waterford UPSTART, offering the program in the homes of 91 qualified




Waterford UPSTART is an at-home kindergarten readiness program that is provided at no cost to

children and families. The adaptive computer program engages students with educational activities and fun characters while teaching them math. science, and, most importantly, reading.

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018

"Our kids have to be literate," Dr. Armstrong explains. He is passionate about prioritizing early education, starting with literacy; "Learning to read is the first step" in a child's education, he explains. "The main goal is every four-year-old in our community has the opportunity to learn what they need to learn before they come to kindergarten. The program beautifully fills that gap." As a nonprofit, Waterford works directly with local legislatures and school districts for implementation while grants and donations help fund the program. Qualifying families even receive a computer and

Internet at no cost to ensure the participants of low-income and rural households have every opportunity to receive PreK education.

Students who complete the program prove to be ahead of their peers in kindergarten and even through the fourth grade. WFISD is optimistic their children

who graduate from Waterford UPSTART will enter kindergarten with the skills they need to start out on the right track.

Early Education Equity in Schools Despite the district's best efforts, they know that many children still will enter kindergarten without attending

preschool or receiving PreK education like Corena

One family using Waterford UPSTART is the Crawfords. We spoke with Debra Crawford about the progress

her daughter Carena has been making since beginning Waterford UPSTART, including learning her letters, the

sounds they make, and recognizing them outside of the program.

Beyond the lessonďż˝

Corena has gained experience with technology and computers she wouldn't have otherwise had.

"Before Waterford UPSTART, Corena had never even used a mouse," Debra said.

Another family selected for the program is the Humphyreys. Charisse Humphyreys is the parent of

four-year-old Nathan, who latched onto the program. Charisse says he feels confident because "It's not mom's. It's not dad's. It's not brother's. This is his program, and he's going to gain from it what he puts into it."

The Waterford UPSTART program includes updates

from personal care representatives who keep families on track through phone calls, emails, and progress reports. Both families expressed appreciation for those updates.

"As a parent," Charisse explains, "I think he knows everything, so when I get those reports each week, I'm actually able to see where he struggles, where he needs a little more help, and then it also gives


me what he's doing great, so I can praise him for those things."

and Nathan, so many schools in the district have early education programs to catch up those students.

Along with Waterford UPSTART, the district also

launched Waterford Early Learning in several of their elementary schools, a PreK through 2nd grade early reading, math, and science program. Elise Fox teaches four and five­

year-olds in the district and has been impressed by the progress her students have been making since beginning Waterford Early

Learning. She loves sitting down with the parents of students who were struggling to show them the improvements their children

made over the months.

Dr. Armstrong is the point of contact between the

district and Waterford and explains how beneficial the partnership is for the district as well. To make a

case for early education funding, the district needs to prove it works, and "The data component is huge,"

Dr. Armstrong explains. "The reports that we have have shown ... that students are consistently mastering the objectives that they're assigned to master in reading, in math, and in science."

Teachers and administrators are encouraged by the progress their students are making in just a few short months and by the potential positive impact their efforts will have on the coming years.

WFISD's investment in children and their education is taking important steps so all students begin at that

same starting line, helping to ensure no child falls behind in their education and has an equal fighting chance for success as the rest of their peers. â–

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018



A CRITICAL COMPONENT OF INCLUSIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS BY TRACY GRAY AND ALISE CROSSLAND WHAT IS DIGITAL ACCESSIBILITY? A growing number of teachers, administrators and policymakers recognize that digital accessibility is essential in their efforts to provide equal educational opportunity for all students, particularly those with disabilities. The concept of digital accessibility includes the design of materials (e.g., curricula, tests and resources), hardware (e.g., tablets and smart phones), software, and platforms (e.g., websites and online learning opportunities) to meet the needs of students (and families) with a wide variety of abilities and skills. The idea of accessible design and practice of accessible development ensures both "direct access" (i.e., unassisted) and "indirect access" (supported with


assistive technology devices like screen readers, augmentative and alternative devices, wearables). Digital accessibility ensures that users with disabilities can navigate, perceive, and interact with content. Digital content that is inaccessible violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and hinders our ability to provide equal educational opportunity for all learners. Content that is designed to be accessible and inclusive benefits all students, including English language learners and struggling students. With the use of accessible technology, embedded supports such as closed captions, text-to-speech, word prediction and adjustable reading levels can help the teacher differentiate and personalize instruction to adapt to needs of the learner. In combination with assistive technology supports,

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018

teachers and students can employ appropriate accessibility features to improve access across the spectrum of student challenges that can affect learning, including cognitive, visual, auditory, neurological and physical disabilities. We can see the power of accessible technology in action with Ms. Snyder’s fifth grade classroom in Minneapolis, when she clicks on the “CC” icon on the YouTube video that starts the closed-captioning at the bottom of the screen. In addition to providing access for her student with a hearing impairment, her students learning English use the captions as an extra support to help them connect the audio with the visual representation of text. Her struggling readers grow their skills with the additional exposure to text, as they follow along on screen while listening to the audio. Her students with difficulty processing auditory information use the captions to reinforce what they’re

hearing. With the simple addition of one accessibility feature, Ms. Snyder has made her learning environment more inclusive, and differentiated the lesson for a wide variety of learners.

INCLUSIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS Creating accessible and inclusive environments without barriers enables teachers and students to focus on the main objectives of learning, skills development and confidence building. While there will always be the need for specialized accommodations, there is growing recognition that the supports necessary for accessible learning can be incorporated in hardware and software from the onset of the development process. This approach, known as “born accessible” is based on the architectural principles of universal or inclusive design. As with closed captions, the often-cited example of curb cuts or ramps is used to illustrate an accommodation that was initially intended to help individuals with disabilities, but is useful for bikers and families with strollers. While this feature was initially designed as an accommodation for a wheelchair users, it has since become a standard that benefits everyone. Applying this concept to creating inclusive educational environments, we see the increased recognition and integration of universal design for learning (UDL). UDL promotes the development of materials, tools, practices and services that are usable by people with the broadest range of abilities, operating within the widest range of educational settings. The three guiding principles of UDL focus on ensuring accessibility and strengthening teaching and learning through multiple means of: 1. Representation so that students can approach


information in more than one way (includes digital books, websites, hardware, software and screen readers that may feature text-to-speech, availability of different reading levels, changeable color contrast, alterable text size, or a combination of these features. 2. Expression so that all students can demonstrate and express what they know. This includes options in how students express their learning, when appropriate, such as writing, videos, speech-to-text programs and online concept mapping. 3. Engagement to stimulate interest in and motivation for learning. This includes offering students the option across different learning activities or content for a particular competency or skill and providing opportunities for greater scaffolding and collaboration. These UDL principles should guide the development and refinement of digital learning tools and resources so that accessibility features are integrated from the start. In a similar vein, many of the learning materials used in today’s classroom are created by teachers and staff. This practice has been made possible by the availability and improved ease of authoring tools. Teachers and staff need to be encouraged to look for tools that include options for adding accessibility and follow standards such as those offered in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG serves as the international standard for making web content accessible and is the foundation for many national accessibility laws, including Section 508 in the U.S. Following these guidelines, there are numerous user-friendly tools to develop or enhance content so that it is accessible for the widest range of students, such as: • Captions for videos • Alt-text (that is, an inserted word or phrase to

describe an image) on websites and in e-books • Standard headers in websites, forms, e-books and documents • Adjustment of text colors and background contrasts • Text-to-speech, speech-to-text, dictionaries, and glossaries As more educational content, products and services are made available in digital formats and delivered online, the issues of accessibility need to be front and center as part of the development and procurement process since it is a key component in the delivery of equal educational opportunity to meet the needs of all students.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Tracy Gray, Ph.D., is a managing director at American Institutes for Research (AIR). She has led four national technology centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. She is national expert on leveraging technology to enhance teaching and learning, with an emphasis on students with disabilities. Alise Crossland, M.S. Ed., Ed.S, is a senior researcher at AIR with more than a decade of experience identifying and assessing digital learning technologies for both general and special education. Together, Dr. Gray and Ms. Crossland have led technical assistance activities for states and districts (LEAs) through the The Center on Technology and Disability, and PowerUp WHAT WORKS, focused on supporting educators in integrating accessible technology tools to facilitate access to academic content for all students, particularly those with disabilities. They also led the development of the 2017 National Education Technology Plan for the U.S. Department of Education.

Accessibility, Compliance and Equity in Education | Fall, 2018


One more message before we go...


like you understand that people died for your right to do so. - Your friends at AC&E

AC&E - Fall, 2018  
AC&E - Fall, 2018