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RETHINKING EDUCATIONAL SOLUTIONS 7 Keys To Managing Difficult Behavior in Students The New Wave Of Speech-Language Therapy Perspectives On Extended Day Learning


I T I S I N T H E S P I R I T O F PA R T N E R S H I P that our

organization, Learn It Systems, created this magazine, Bridges. I find the name especially appropriate because, as I see it, Learn It acts as a bridge, connecting students with their natural curiosity and the actual capabilities they hold within themselves. I also believe that Learn It is a bridge for administrators, linking them to new solutions and a collaborative, customized approach that can impact their schools.

We are dedicated to those with whom we work and want to see both the schools and their students achieve their true potential.

Our goal at Learn It is to actively support our clients, whether they are public, private or charter schools. Operationally, we are always using our “head” to make certain that our programs are working efficiently and effectively. But I believe what truly sets Learn It apart is our “heart.” We are dedicated to those with whom we work and want to see both the schools and their students achieve their true potential. To that end, we always strive to be a partner with our clients. Publishing Bridges is something new and different for Learn It. But reflecting on our organization’s collaborative approach to our business, we think this is an important investment of our time and focus. My hope is that you will find that this magazine acts as a “bridge,” connecting you not only with interesting information about our company, but also new perspectives and insights into helping to educate our children. Please feel free to email me and share your thoughts about Bridges. I hope you find it both engaging and substantive. Thank you.

Michael Maloney CEO, Learn It Systems




7 Keys to Managing Difficult Behavior in Students. Proven methods from school psychologists that ultimately help students learn to manage their own behavior.


The New Wave of SpeechLanguage Therapy. Integrating Telepractice to Create a Blended Service Delivery Model. How technology is changing the delivery of speech therapy services.


Just-In-Time Data. Ensuring Informed Decision Making. Applying a best practice from manufacturing to education.


Rethinking Extended Day. Aligning Afterschool Programs with Classroom Curriculum. A new prototype in afterschool care reinforces the daily curriculum.


Client Profile: Rabbi Yakov Majeski A look into a 93-year-old Jewish day school outside of Baltimore, Maryland.


Perspectives in Education: The Challenges of Extended Day Learning. Some of the nation’s top education experts answer the question, “What do you see as the greatest challenge to extending the school day?” NEW SOLUTIONS


7 Keys to Managing Difficult Behavior in Students.

“… the long range goal is to get the student to be able to take account for their own behavior and be successful academically, socially, emotionally and behaviorally within a normal environment. That’s the whole idea.” ~ DR . S H ANE HUNT, Lead School Psychologist, Saddle Mountain School District, Arizona 2


Teachers and educators are always looking for successful ways to change children’s misbehaviors. Effective interventions to address behavior problems within the school setting are essential, not only to the misbehaving child’s ability to learn, but also to that of the children around him or her. The use of positive behavior supports is essential to creating an optimal learning environment that builds positive behavior skills for all students. Marshall Langan, the founder of Desert Choice Schools* in Arizona, is intimately familiar with this issue. Langan established Desert Choice to educate students with a broad range of behavioral and emotional disabilities. When public and non-public schools exhaust their ability to manage extremely disruptive students, they refer them to one of the five Desert Choice School locations in Arizona. These children can no longer be part of the general school population until they have gained control over their behavior. With a goal of reintegrating students back into their original school, Desert Choice Schools combine positive behavioral supports with a cognitive restructuring program that teaches students to be able to predict the outcome and consequence of their behavior. Langan simplifies, “When discussing a child’s behavior, or the behavior of anyone for that matter, we can start with two underlying assumptions about the nature of human behavior. First, nobody can make someone behave. The choice always rests with the individual. Second, we choose our behaviors based upon perceived consequences. Dr. Shane Hunt, Lead School Psychologist with the Saddle Mountain school district in Tonopah, Arizona reinforces this belief, “To me the long range goal is to get the student to be able to take account for their own behavior and be successful academically, socially, emotionally, and behaviorally within a normal environment. That’s the whole idea.” Fundamentally, any effective intervention allows the child to understand that they are responsible for their own behavior. The choice always rests with them. Langan outlines seven keys to this transformation in this article. Although there is seldom an easy fix, there are basic principals underlying effective behavior change. While the intensity and specificity of the strategies outlined may differ, getting to know these concepts can help build and reinforce positive behavior in all students.




Understanding the Underlying Cause of Students’ Misbehavior Almost all behavior is purposeful. The first and critical step to changing behavior is to understand what the child is trying to “get” or “avoid.” By developing an understanding of the underlying causes of a child’s misbehaviors, you are able to determine whether the misbehavior is related to a “skill deficit” or “performance deficit.” Interventions will vary based on whether the behavior is determined to be related to a “can’t do” or “won’t do” attitude. Clearly, a child who is being asked to perform math skills at the 8th grade level, while curriculum-based assessments show the child to be proficient at only the 2nd grade level, may exhibit significant avoidance behaviors, such as aggressiveness, acting-out, or withdrawal. These are an indication of a “can’t do” rather than “won’t do” situation. Intervention strategies in this situation would be significantly different than in a case where the child had adequate skill development but the child’s misbehaviors were based on a “won’t do” attitude.


Identifying the Triggers for the Misbehavior Identifying a pattern of when and how the child acts out helps define the factors that trigger the misbehavior and subsequently suggests strategies that will be most effective for intervention. Does the misbehavior occur during a particular activity, like the math activity described previously, or a specific setting, a type of instruction, an interaction with a particular classmate, or at a certain time of day? Effective interventions are a result of understanding the circumstance surrounding the misbehavior. Again, all behavior is serving a purpose. The more we can understand the purpose of the behavior, the more we are able to assist the child in developing alternative choices of behavior to successfully accomplish the same purpose.


Advocate for Success Become an advocate for the child’s success in bringing about effective behavior change. Design an intervention strategy that teaches the child that he is in charge of his behavior and that his success is the

By providing the positive behavioral supports to assist the child in behavioral change, you can become a “cheerleader” and “coach” as you provide encouragement and support to bring about effective behavior change.

Group session at a Desert Choice classroom in Arizona 4


“They were the kind of kids that would make some administrators say, ‘I don’t really want them on my campus.’ Now they’re back on the campus and you really can’t pick them out from the general student population.” ~ DR. SHANE HUNT

result of the choices he makes. Involve and empower the child in the intervention process. By providing the positive behavioral supports to assist the child in behavioral change, you can become a “cheerleader” and “coach” as you provide encouragement and support to bring about effective behavior change.


Common Language A common language component assures clarity of what is being communicated between child and adult. This can be converted to the use of five classroom rules to govern behavior and expectations — • Follow Directions • Respect one another and the teacher • Stay on task • Maintain self-control • Participate in the class Making these rules part of the day-to-day operation in the classroom minimizes confusion or attempts to manipulate. In the classroom, the common language may be represented by identifying, posting, and teaching these rules to the entire classroom. This presents clear and consistent expectations for all involved, thus minimizing the probability of unwanted behaviors.


Praise Research suggests that a praise rate of 5 to 1 maximizes the probability of effective behavior change. When a staff member redirects a child, relative to one of the five classroom rules, the staff member should

then look for and reinforce the desired behavior. For example, a child who is corrected for not following directions, such as he keeps getting up from his desk, should be praised five times within a certain time frame for following directions, i.e., staying at his desk.


Consistency The techniques described above will be significantly diminished in effectiveness if the components are not implemented consistently and with fidelity. What this means is “keep your eye on the target.” Set a schedule to reinforce priority behaviors and stick to it. The use of graphs, charts, and stickers are also helpful in engaging the child to participate in his own behavior change.


Engage and Encourage Parents The cooperation and involvement of parents is essential to changing difficult behavior in children. Involve them in the development of the intervention strategy. They may need to change or adjust some of their own behaviors. Oftentimes the parent/child relationship is supported by habit patterns of maladaptive behaviors developed over time. For example, a parent that gives in to a demanding child who has tantrums to get what he or she wants or to avoid something, is teaching the child to use that behavior in other settings such as school or the community. In this case, it takes parents controlling and changing their behavior to facilitate a positive behavioral change in their child.



Marshall Langan (left), founder of Desert Choice Schools, and Rick Weathers (right), President of Desert Choice Schools

“We want them to generalize the social skills they learn and use them no matter where life takes them. It’s not just thinking before they act when they’re in front of their teacher. They also need to use these skills in life outside of school.” ~ RICK WEATHERS SHIFTING THE LOCUS OF CONTROL

The primary objective at Desert Choice Schools is to move students from an external locus of control to an internal locus of control. Their students usually come into the classroom believing that everybody else is responsible for what’s happening to them. They believe it’s the teacher’s fault or the fault of the student sitting next to them. The reality for all of us is that we are all responsible for our own behavior and that we can make choices that will have predictable outcomes. The right decisions will allow us to grow and be better than what we are.



This approach contrasts to that of a traditional program. Most traditional programs utilize an external locus of control. This “control” can come in different forms. Sometimes the teacher is large in stature, so their power base lies in their size. Other times it’s simply the power of being a professional. Or they’ve got personal power based on the fact that they like the kids. They’re the nice guy. So the student thinks, “I’m going to behave in this classroom because I like Mr. Jones, the teacher.” The problem with this approach is the good behavior only lasts as long as the external locus of control is present. So, for maybe six hours

a day, a child may behave in the classroom. But, once he or she is out of the classroom, the control is gone and so is the good behavior. Knowing this, the method to effect a true change in behavior is to move away from the external locus of control and help students understand and believe that they can and do have an internal locus of control. Research shows that when you talk to individuals about why good things happen to them, folks with an internal locus of control will own their own behavior and it happens as a result of what I have done. They are responsible for their behaviors whereas folks with an external locus of control typically say, “Oh, it was just luck. It just happened.” The students need to be taught to change the way they think. This Cognitive Restructuring is achieved by giving them the right tools with which to make choices. Specifically, they learn to guide themselves through these seven steps. First, they need to “Stop and Think.” Then they need to ask themselves the following five questions: “What is the Problem?, What am I Feeling?, What are They Feeling?, What are My Choices?, What are My Consequences?” And, finally, they need to “Take Responsibility!” By using this approach, they begin to make the shift to an internal locus of control. Dr. Karen Sanders, Principal of the Buckeye Union High School District Learning Center in Buckeye, Arizona, is a firm believer in this method “I’ve worked with Emotionally Disturbed (ED) students

for years, overseeing our district ED program. That’s why I get what Desert Choice Schools are doing and appreciate it. This program works. The students appreciate the support they’re given, especially teaching them coping strategies to help them be successful.” Dr. Hunt echoes this belief, “We’ve had a number of kids go to Desert Choice Schools. And we’ve had the good fortune to have them come back to their “home” school. Some of them were pretty bad when they left. They were the kind of kids that would make some administrators say, ‘I don’t really want them on my campus.’ Now they’re back on the campus and you really can’t pick them out from the general student population. They are very different from when they first left. That tells me they’ve actually integrated the understanding of the behavioral components of “Stop and Think” and process what’s going on. They fully understand their options before they make a choice. I really like that.” FAS T E R R E I N T EG R AT I O N

Mr. Langan sums up the Desert Choice approach, “Our program identifies and utilizes the two underlying assumptions about the nature of human behavior and then everything we do builds upon that to take the child from that external to that internal locus of control. And frankly, it works. We have kids who have been in selfcontained programs for years, and after anywhere from four months, to eight months, to a year and a half, it depends on the student, they

actually end up going back to less restrictive settings. They had been making poor choices in the past. We have taught them that when they make good choices, good things happen.” Good things certainly happened for Joan Jenkin’s son, Tyler. When Tyler first went to Desert Choice Schools, he was having problems focusing and was very disruptive in class. Ms. Jenkins recalls, “Before Desert Choice, we were led to believe that Tyler would never be able to function in a traditional classroom or be academically proficient in a classroom. Desert Choice has turned all that around. They made him feel like learning was fun. They made him stretch and see that he’s capable of doing anything that he puts his mind to. I think that’s one of the biggest things that I have to thank them for. They gave him the desire to want to learn.” Tyler has moved on from Desert Choice and is now a 4th grader in his original school. Ms. Jenkins proudly says, “We had a meeting with his teacher the other day and we were wondering if they were talking about the same child. Not only had he gotten all A’s and one B, his behavior was perfect. I have to thank the Desert Choice staff and I have to thank their teaching techniques. In the academic setting, everything they taught he learned and he applies . . . and I can see it overflowing into his interactions with the children in his new classroom and the children that he plays with in the community.” The positive implications of successful reintegration reach beyond

the classroom. Rick Weathers, President of the Desert Choice Schools division at Learn It, adds, “We want them to generalize the problem solving and social skills they have learned and use them no matter where life takes them. It’s not just thinking before they act when they’re in front of their teacher. They also need to use these skills in life outside of school. Say, their neighbor has done something to irritate them and they’re ready to respond in an explosive manner. That’s the time for them to stop and think, ‘What am I feeling? What’s my neighbor feeling? What are the consequences if I start screaming at him?’ We work to actually teach students to “stop, think” before they get themselves into a situation where there could end up in trouble.” Because the students have learned to self-monitor, they now have an “internal compass” to guide their behavior, which affects their behavior at home, as well as in their communities. Mr. Langan states, “That’s what people don’t realize. It’s not just about what happens in our schools. When the kids are going back into their communities and now making better choices, this good behavior in many ways has an exponential impact on many people’s lives . . . not to mention that they are happier, more confident kids. And isn’t that what we all want?” * Desert Choice Schools is a division of Learn It Systems

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“One of the things, as a principal, that you’re always looking at when you have an afterschool program is how does it align to your curriculum.” ~ R I TA C H E E K , Principal, Henry A. Doerr Child Development Center, Saginaw, Michigan

Rethinking E X T E N D E D D AY.

Aligning Afterschool Programs with Classroom Curriculum. 8


Time was, Before & After care was little more than glorified babysitting. Parents were easily pleased. A few activities to keep their children occupied and knowing that the kids were safe until they were picked up at the end of the day were enough to keep Mom and Dad happy. Similarly, for many schools the approach was “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Things have changed. Parents now want more and schools are in the position where they have to “fix it.” The need is vast. A recent study by the Afterschool Alliance included two salient facts in its findings. First, only 8.4 million K-12 children (15 percent) participate in afterschool programs. An additional 18.5 million would participate if a quality program were available in their community. Secondly, more than 15 million school-age children (26 percent) are on their own after school. Among them are more than 1 million in grades K through 5. For Baltimore-based education services company Learn It, this necessity and extraordinary need for afterschool care has led to invention. It began with a review of expert findings from the last decade and a half of academic research. The academic findings were then informed by sitting down with parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents to gain insights into their expectations and learn what they viewed as the perfect afterschool environment. In essence, the parents, teachers, principals and superintendents asked for four things: 1) to truly extend the learning day, 2) to make certain the program was structured, 3) to assure homework completion, and 4) to design a program that included activity-based learning. Bruce Henson, Vice President of Extended Classroom for Learn It, recalls, “The foundation of our program is

rooted in these focus-group-style meetings that we conducted and the responses we received. That was the basis of our reinvention of the traditional afterschool program.” “ W E TA K E H O M E W O R K S E R I O U S LY. ”

With the growth in the workforce of women with school-age children and given recent economic challenges that have led to longer hours for some and the need to take on a second job for others, quality time with the family is at a premium. So, a program that offers homework help is a real plus for parents. In the Learn It program, the first 45 minutes is structured homework time. Students are guided and helped through their homework. Instructors make sure it gets done. And there is an actual homework contract that the parent signs with the students. The results speak for themselves. In 2011, according to teacher surveys, there was an 85 percent success rate in increasing homework completion. As Mr. Henson puts it, “At Learn It, we take homework seriously.” E D U C AT I O N A L C O H E R E N C E

These results come from the fact that Learn It establishes a true partnership with the schools it serves. Mr. Henson observes, “It’s definitely a two-way street. Communication is very open between the classroom



is how does it align to your curriculum. Learn It’s program does align with the curriculum, as well as to the common core standards. You want that coherence and Learn It provides it. Also, the support that comes from the way they work with the teachers is another thing that impressed me.” E X T E N D I N G T H E L E A R N I N G D AY

8.4 million K-12 children participate in afterschool programs. An additional 18.5 million would participate if a quality program were available in their community. teacher and the afterschool component. A lot of programs don’t have that. For instance, we’ll find out what days have a heavy homework load, if a student understands the subject matter and doesn’t need help, or if he or she is struggling with, say multiplication, and we need to ‘reteach’ the lesson to an individual or the group. The information is very detailed. And, if a student does not have homework, they get practice lessons or materials that refer back to what is being taught in the classroom and work on those during the allotted time.” Rita Cheek, Principal of the Henry A. Doerr Child Development Center in Saginaw Michigan, says, “One of the things, as a principal, that you’re always looking at when you have an afterschool program



Once the 45-minute homework session is over, students take part in one of two activity-based programs — the Young Scientists program or World Explorers, a social studies program. These rotate monthly. The science program conveys the basics of science in a variety of areas, including plant life, the human body, and space. Ms. Cheek recalls, “What I found most compelling about Learn It’s afterschool program was the Young Scientists curriculum and the project-based learning that they used to motivate students to explore science, especially the girls. Research has shown that girls don’t lean toward science. In fact, men still outnumber women in science and engineering careers, holding almost 75% of positions in those areas. So, they inspired them with different projects … like when they designed and constructed a rain forest in the classroom. This appealed to me because students, as a result of being involved in the process of learning, retained the information rather than losing it. This heightened their awareness of science. We ended up seeing more of them reading non-fiction books in the science domain. With that came increased reading comprehension and reading literacy skills.” Sherri Butterfield, whose daughter Kennedy attended the program at Phoenix Science and Technology Center in the Buena Vista district, recalls, “I enjoyed the fact that there were qualified teachers and that she was able to explore at her own level and beyond. She came home with all kinds of different projects . . . she learned about the rain forest, the human body, and digestive system. My daughter had never gone to an afterschool program before. We always had her grandparents watch her, but when I learned this was an educational program . . . that she would continue learning at the end of the day and get help completing her homework, I thought that would be a great idea.”

B E F O R E The World Explorers program is integral to Learn It’s STEAM approach. Learn It incorporated an “A” for Art in STEM and made it a central part of their Before & After programs. Learn It believes that a child’s education will truly flourish when artistic expression is encouraged and opportunities are developed for experimentation and practice. In a recent article, John Tarnoff, a consultant whose current focus is to develop stronger ties between the Media/Entertainment industry and higher education, states, “‘A’ skills in the 21st century actually apply to a larger, broader segment of the workforce than STEM skills. America’s competitiveness is equally distinguished by its creative industry productivity and exports, from movies, TV, and games (traditionally the highest-ratio export business in the nation) to architecture (Bilbao Guggenheim, anyone?) to the myriad of leading writers, designers, graphic artists, and others who use their imagination to create new products and services — and the infrastructure of creative enterprise managers (producers, editors, financiers, marketers) that support and run their businesses. This cadre . . . defined in 2002 as the Creative Class.” With the World Explorers program, activity-based learning enables students to experience the culture, dance, art, food, and music of various countries around the world. Students also get involved in poster-making, visual presentations, and art activities related to the country of the month. Each day includes a focus activity related to the country they’re visiting, as well as various activity areas that relate back to the country. Learn It believes that by creating a Before & After program that not only extends the learning day but also promotes student creativity, they are helping to develop the next generation of the Creative Class.

My daughter had never gone to an afterschool program before. When I learned this was an educational program . . . that she would continue learning at the end of the day and get help completing her homework, I thought that would be a great idea.



Defining the Need CHANGING WORKFORCE DYNAMICS The last 30 years have shown a substantial increase in labor force participation by women with children. • 77%

of school-age children’s mothers are in the labor force.

• 15.1

million children (26% of K-12 children) in the U.S. take care of themselves between the time they get home from school and the time their parents get home from work.

• 4.2

million children aged 5 to 14 take care of themselves.

ACHIEVEMENT GAP Afterschool programs are shown to create positive outcomes. • Children

who spend time in enrichment activities have better grades, better work habits, and more positive relationships with their peers.

Afterschool programs also benefit the community. On school days, the peak hours for juvenile crime are between 3 PM and 6 PM.

LIMITED AVAILABILITY AND QUALITY There is a lack of quality options for parents and communities, according to surveys. •

67% of parents believe that there are not enough afterschool programs to meet the needs of their communities.

30% of middle school children are completely unsupervised in the afternoons – of them, 23% are 10 years old, 44% of them are 12 years old.

When both/single parents work, 31% of children in grades K-12 are unsupervised after school. Polls say 26% of these families would use programs if they were available — 61% of African Americans and 47% of Hispanic parents.

Sources: Afterschool Alliance Fact Sheet. NCCRRA Childcare in America. Afterschool Alliance, Uncertain Times, 2009



Kids went home and were telling their families all about Greece. For these parents, many of whom had never been out of Michigan, this was quite impressive. They had seen their children experience the joy of learning.


By the time the students have done their homework and then done their work in either science or World Explorers, they have used up a great deal of mental energy. But they still have plenty of physical energy. So, the last 45 minutes of the program is free learning. They can choose from a variety of ways to spend the balance of their afternoon, including Legos, group activities, physical activity, and Learn It’s electronic, interactive Jeopardy game that can be uploaded with any kind of curriculum that’s relevant to what students are being taught during the school day. When parents arrive for pick up, the students have been engaged in mental and physical activity for so long that Mom and Dad find a much welcome sense of calm among most of them. THE STORY OF BUENA VISTA

Located in Saginaw, Michigan, Buena Vista School District funded the Learn It Before & After program with Title I funds.

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When the program started off, the teachers were against it. But they started to really buy into it when they saw that homework was actually getting done. Prior to that, homework completion rates were very poor. The teachers became increasingly supportive of the program in the weeks that followed the program’s launch, as they began to witness the positive impact on student engagement and behavior in the classroom. Learn It won over the teachers even further when they gave the students extra encouragement and support, helping to guide them through completion of their science fair projects. And the parents were equally impressed when Learn It’s afterschool instructors assisted with the campaigns of a couple of students in the afterschool program who were running for student council. Parents were impressed with how the program had broadened their children’s horizons, especially the World Explorers program. Kids went home and were telling their families all about Greece. For these parents, many of whom had never been out of Michigan, this

was quite impressive. They had seen their children experience the wonder and joy of learning. Ms. Cheek remembers, “The program engaged the parents and provided them with opportunities to be involved and see what the students have learned. They’ve been very enthusiastic about the program and any time you can get parents involved, it’s a good thing. I think that’s a testimony to the success of Learn It.” Sherri Butterfield adds, “I think it was excellent. I watched my daughter and other children grow from it. I didn’t want it as a babysitter for my child. I had that. But because it was a learning environment, I was more comfortable leaving her there. And she got her homework done every day. It was a great convenience for us because we are working parents and some days we don’t get home until late. I would still check it over, but it made life easier.” A TURNKEY SOLUTION

Now more than ever, administrators have a full plate in dealing with test scores, teachers, parents, and making sure that students are getting the quality education they deserve. Before & After care does not lie at the core of administrators’ concerns, but it is one more thing they need to manage. Learn It’s Before & After program enables them to easily and efficiently put a program in place — one that meets the important criteria of extending the learning day, adding structure to afterschool care, facilitating homework completion, and utilizing activity-based learning — all with proven results and satisfaction. Learn It handles the administration of the program so administrators can focus on their core issues surrounding their school. Learn It also handles promotion of the program, enrollment, and insurance, as well as things such as regular communication with parents via a weekly newsletter to keep parents informed about the program. Also, Learn It integrates the use of technology such as tablet computers, interactive quiz games, and smart boards, all provided by Learn It. Learn It can also offer Title I tutoring that can be blended in with its Before & After program, taking one more thing off the administrator’s plate.

Learn It’s Before & After program meets the important criteria of extending the learning day, adding structure to afterschool care, facilitating homework completion, and utilizing activitybased learning. WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP

Learn It works closely with schools and classroom teachers to ensure that the students are getting the help they need. Detailed reporting on the program is provided to the school administration and classroom teachers on a monthly basis. This enables school staff to track whether the program is working as expected, or not, and make adjustments during the school year to see that students’ needs are being met. Learn It also goes the extra mile. Bruce Henson adds, “For instance, as part of our relationship with the school, we’ll do things like provide drop-in care on Parent/Teacher Night so parents can drop off their children to take part in our program. That way mom and dad can go meet with the teachers and the school can manage the parent-teacher conferences without the kids running around the halls. It’s a great benefit and an example of the level of partnership we establish from day one.” Learn It strives to seamlessly integrate itself into the school community, to be a valued partner in helping the students. Learn It CEO, Michael Maloney, says, “We work very closely with our partner schools, customizing our program to meet their particular needs. I consider it a true success when a parent, student, or the staff, in the building identify the Learn It program as just one of the valuable components of school life and the school community.”

To start the process of reinventing your afterschool program, visit:



The New Wave of Speech-Language Therapy. Integrating Telepractice to Create a Blended Service Delivery Model The story of Isaac, a bright-eyed and energetic four-yearold, brings to life the power of blending telepractice and on-site therapy to enhance access to Speech-Language Pathology services. All things considered, everything was going as you would expect with a boy his age. He loved superheroes, video games, and trying to learn to skateboard. But early on his mother noticed she was having trouble understanding him when he spoke. She had gone through a similar situation with Isaac’s older sister. So, she had him tested.



Isaac practices articulation with his Speech-Language therapist, based nearly 3,000 miles away



Isaac lives in Nye County, Nevada. This rural county is home to several environmentally sensitive areas, including a portion of Death Valley National Park and is remarkable in the fact that it is the third largest county in the contiguous U.S., larger than the combined total area of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Delaware. While those four states hold a total population of more than 17 million, Nye County’s residents are estimated to be less than 44,000. Yet, the needs of a young child, such as Isaac, don’t change with the size of a county’s population. As his mother suspected, Isaac was having articulation problems. So, the county provided the services Isaac needed, until Joe Gent, the Special Education Coordinator in Nye County, Nevada, found himself shorthanded. The therapist working with Isaac moved away in the middle of the school year. Mr. Gent wanted to ensure there was continuity in the services Isaac received. As Mr. Gent puts it, “No ifs, ands, or buts about it, it’s so much more productive and efficient to treat these kids early on. That’s why there’s early childhood screening of the 3-to-5-year-olds.” Joe Gent needed to make certain Isaac received the proper therapy. Mr. Gent was desperately searching for someone to take on the caseload that that the recently departed speech therapist had originally covered. He says, “There just aren’t enough SLPs (SpeechLanguage Pathologists) out there and I don’t think it helps that we’re in such a rural setting. They don’t want to have to spend a lot of time driving to our different schools and then have to stay in hotels.” This need for a therapist caused particular heartburn. If a replacement wasn’t found quickly, compensatory hours would start to pile up. The situation marked the start of a relationship between Learn It Therapy Services, a national provider of special education services, and Nye County. When quick action was called for, Mr. Gent was innovative and aggressive enough to introduce telepractice, taking advantage of this bold, new technology to deliver Speech-Language Pathology Services. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) defines telepractice as “the

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application of telecommunications technology to delivery of professional services at a distance by linking clinician to client, or clinician to clinician, for assessment, intervention, and/or consultation.” There were a number of initial challenges, including the fact that the school where the telepractice was being set up had bandwidth issues. Learn It sent one of its technical managers out to Nye County. Once there, he identified the most appropriate space in the computer lab and worked to establish the best technology setup. With the bandwidth issues resolved, it was time to introduce the students to telepractice. ENTER ISAAC

Isaac’s telepractice therapist, Teresa Grimes, previously a Nevada resident, still maintained her state license but was now living in Long Island, New York. She even knew some of the school district therapists that worked in Nye County, which eased the mind of the Coordinator, knowing that some of his other therapists were familiar with her. And so Isaac’s therapy began. Michael Maloney, Learn It’s CEO, remembers, “Marc Corey, head of the technology aspects of telepractice, popped into my office and told me they were logged in to our first test session with Nye County. He said that if I wanted, I could go up to the conference room and watch the session between the therapist and the student. I ran up there and I watched this student, Isaac, as cute as a button with his headset on. He was tremendously engaged with the therapist. Also, I couldn’t believe how young he was. I whispered to Marc that I thought we’d only be working with

Ultimately, telepractice improves access so children in need don’t fall through the gap . . . and schools aren’t burdened with excessive compensatory time. ~ LARA LAZEAR, M.S., CCC-SLP, Director of Therapy Programs and Quality for Learn It Therapy Services students ages six and above. I didn’t think we were going be working with preschool kids.” In Isaac’s case, this was an early intervention, part of the district’s caseload. Everyone was struck by how easily he took to the technology. But the technology was just the enabler. It helped him quickly establish a relationship with the therapist. Most SLPs who have tried telepractice agree that it facilitates the all-important connection between the therapist and the student. The experience with Isaac demonstrated the true possibilities of telepractice. For Joe Gent, telepractice proved to be everything he had hoped for. “I’ve sat through dozens of traditional, on-site SLP therapy sessions and I was really impressed. Basically, this was exactly what I was used to seeing,

except Teresa wasn’t there in person. But her face was right there on the screen and it was big. She was very animated and Isaac loved it. He responded very well and stayed interested the entire time. In fact, each time that he came back for a new session, he always walked in excited and smiling, ready to get down to work.” Marc Corey recalls, “What we found was that even though he was only four, we were able to get a solid 20 to 25 minutes from him each session. That’s the same length of time as we’d expect in an optimal on-site session with a child that age. It was fun to see that. We were all excited by the possibilities – the fact that this student, so young, took to it so well and established such a tremendous connection with the therapist even though she was nearly 3,000 miles away. Joe Gent was



The experience with Isaac proved that the blended model worked. Now we’re using it throughout Nye County. Because we’re such a big district, we have a number of students who are only seen in person once a month. It works beautifully with them. ~ J O E G E N T, Special Education Coordinator, Nye County, Nevada



equally enthused, expressing that telepractice would help ensure continuity of service for his students and that he no longer would find himself falling behind in compensatory hours.” C R E AT I N G N E W P O S S I B I L I T I E S WITH BLENDED THERAPY

Telepractice redefines the delivery of Speech-Language services. It enables the creation of a new blended therapy model that is more flexible, more customized and more in tune with challenges facing both the administrators who have to address the needs of their students and the ability of the therapists to fulfill their obligations. Joe Gent affirms, “The experience with Isaac proved that the blended model worked. Now we’re using it throughout Nye County. Because we’re such a big district, we have a number of students who are only seen in person once a month. It works beautifully with them.” For Learn It Therapy Services (LITS), telepractice has enabled the creation of a wide range of services for both individual students and small groups of students. These services have proven ideal for school districts where there are larger caseloads, high indirect costs, difficult to staff locations, and significant travel time between schools. Learn It has also been able to work with schools just to cover their response to intervention services. In sum, telepractice has proven to be an excellent resource offering the flexibility to be utilized in many different ways to address the needs of school districts. Lara LaZear, M.S., CCC-SLP, Director of Therapy Programs and Quality for Learn It Therapy Services, adds, “With telepractice capabilities, we’ve been able to combine telepractice with on-site support to establish new, custom blended support models for our clients. For instance, we might have a therapist go on-site for IEPs and assessment, while therapy services are conducted through telepractice. It’s exciting to be able to look creatively at our partnerships with schools and provide a more efficient and cost effective way of delivering services.” To facilitate a blended approach, LITS can provide a full or part-time, on-site or telepractice solution

that allows for in-person therapy combined with the on-demand benefits of telepractice. This also allows for the greatest short-term and long-term flexibility in caseload management. Learn It can also provide blended on-site/telepractice services in combination with a district’s on-site SLPs, allowing schools to extend services to more students while managing special education costs. This blended solution helps eliminate gaps in therapy and maintain compliance. Ms. LaZear adds, “Telepractice can prove to be particularly beneficial to oversized districts and rural districts. In the larger districts, there just aren’t

Learn It can provide blended on-site and online services in combination with a district’s on-site SLPs, allowing schools to extend services to more students while managing special education costs. This blended solution helps eliminate gaps in therapy or loss of compliance. enough SLPs to cover the schools. And out here in Arizona, where I am, some of the Indian reservations or districts that aren’t falling in the Phoenix Metropolitan area are going uncovered, or may only be visited by a paraprofessional. So, this gives us a real opportunity to provide the support those schools need. Ultimately, telepractice improves access so children in need don’t fall through the gap . . . and schools aren’t burdened with excessive compensatory time.” Telepractice has been approved by ASHA, the national association for SLPs. Research on telepractice has shown that, from a clinical perspective and a patient-satisfaction perspective, outcomes are the same as those from a traditional face-to-face model of delivery. Another plus is being able to attract the best-qualified candidates for positions. Therapists find this approach particularly appealing. They’re able to work from home or in another appropriate workspace where they are able to deliver services. They then only



Therapists engage students in a highly interactive online environment

have to travel maybe once a week, or even only once a month, depending on the assignment. This increases efficiency in terms of minimizing travel time. For instance, if a district has a number of schools with students that need services, no longer are therapists spending hours and hours each week traveling from site to site. Joe Gent reinforces this benefit of telepractice. “Though the Nye County school district is large in size, we’re relatively small population-wise, having fewer than 6,000 kids. Now, the SLPs who cover the more remote parts of our district don’t have to drive to the different schools … they don’t have to get hotel rooms. It’s just dynamite. I know that some of my peers in other districts in the state actually fly in related service providers once a month. Obviously that gets expensive. They could really benefit from telepractice.” STRIKING OUT ON A NEW PATH

Telepractice and the possibilities it creates for a blended therapy model have been fully embraced by Learn It Therapy Services. Given the newness of telepractice,

20 B R I D G E S

Learn It is busy making strides in acquainting schools with its potential and establishing a comfort level with this new technology. Their goal is to make sure telepractice SLPs are trained to have the same level of involvement as that of an on-site therapist. To this end, Learn It telepractice SLPs consistently maintain a clear understanding of what’s happening in their students’ classrooms and where they need support. They connect regularly with teachers and parents, keeping all lines of communication open, so as to have a thorough grasp of students’ specific needs. Learn It is committed to building its platform based on meeting those needs and supporting students. Instead of simply using standard therapy tools, Learn It SLPs utilize classroom curriculum. For example, the SLP may ask for a copy of reading material that’s being covered in class and then use that assignment to practice sequencing, or story retell, or to help build vocabulary skills. Ms. LaZear affirms, “Our goal is to make sure that we are just like an on-site therapist . . . that our SLPs are communicating regularly with the parents, teachers and with the schools, making sure that we are truly meeting the needs of their students.” THE FUTURE

Though the focus at this point is on Speech-Language Pathology, Learn It is examining the possibilities of extending telepractice into other special education related services. Telepractice has proven to be a valuable tool in improving access to care and driving efficiencies. With further advances in technology and through innovative uses of these advances, the possibilities in the world of telepractice continue to expand.

To learn more and to see a demo of telepractice, visit: To watch Lara LaZear in ASHA’s video regarding telepractice, or join ASHA’s Telepractice Speech Interest Group, visit:



Carrying on a 93 Year-Old Tradition As the Principal of General Studies of the Middle School, can you share a little bit about the Talmudical Academy? We are a 93-yearold, all-boys, Jewish day school. We have about 900 students in grades K through 12. At the Academy, mornings are spent focused on Judaic studies. The afternoons are devoted to general studies.

What do you feel makes the Academy unique? There’s a real sense of community here . . . a kind of family. Many of our students’ parents and grandparents went here. And then you have the fact that the boys are with us for so long, from Kindergarten all the way to the end of high school. Even after they’ve graduated, they’re often stopping back in to visit. We play a big part in their lives . . . and they in ours. How did you first begin a relationship with Learn It Systems? Actually, I inherited Learn It Systems. Their program was in place when I arrived here a couple of years ago. But, I have to say, that certainly was a good thing. I’m very happy to have them here. Their program is working for our kids and our parents are very happy. What more could I ask?

How do the faculty and staff feel about Learn It? They love it. The teachers are happy because even though the kids are missing class, they’re getting what they need. The students are getting the support that the teachers can’t always provide because they need to move on with our curriculum and there are some kids who are not really ready to move on. That’s where Lisa and Learn It step in. They’re able to help those kids. Even over the summer we had a Learn It program here. Our students really benefitted from it. I think that’s a true sign of the success of a program when the kids are willing to come in for three hours in the morning and work over the summer. Would you say the relationship between the Academy and Learn It is a collaborative one? Yes, they collaborate with us. The data they share helps us understand what the kids need to be challenged. Lisa meets regularly with teachers and with me monthly. We also get a monthly report on how each student is doing. Lisa addresses any immediate concerns in e-mails me during the week. There’s constant communication and refining. In other words, when they speak to the teacher and the teacher says, “This is what you need to be focusing on,” they adapt the instruction accordingly. Also, Lisa contacts the parents of her students monthly, via e-mail.

Is Learn It sensitive to your needs as a faith-based school? Yes, Learn It has been very, very sensitive to the fact that we’re a Jewish Orthodox day school. They definitely have gone out of their way to learn the Jewish culture and be respectful of our practices. Before any books are brought in to work with the kids, we are able to review them to make certain they are appropriate. There is a huge sensitivity to the students needs and the parents needs even with the prizes they give out and the food that they provide. For instance, at parent meetings, they make sure the snacks are kosher.

Did Learn It customize instruction and activities for the Talmudical Academy? For our school, they purchased specific supplemental materials and used iPad applications for instruction to reinforce our curriculum. They also included things like journal writing and before and after lessons. They have small group instruction, only 4 to 6 students in a class. This is a huge plus in our school because our classes usually have 28 to 33 kids in them.

What do you find most remarkable about Learn It? I have to say it’s the instructor who works with our children, Lisa Malonee. She’s very flexible. She’s right on top of whatever the kids need. She’s a real educator. She’s been wonderful, a blessing for us. It can be tough here in our school because there’s a lot going on, but she has been very patient and very lovely to work with.

What are your criteria when choosing a program from an outside source? I want to make sure, “A” that it’s measurable and “B” that the kids are learning. With Learn It, I get reports all the time. It’s definitely measurable. I always know how the kids are doing. And, whenever I walk into Lisa’s classroom, all the boys are engaged. I can see that they’re learning.

Does Learn It possess any unique or important capabilities that are particularly appropriate to your needs? They’re very flexible and patient, and they provide good teachers. I’ve been in education for 15 years and I think for what Lisa is trying to do . . . these are kids that have special needs and learning issues . . . she’s consistently doing the right thing. That’s why I said to them, “Please come back this year.”

To learn more, visit: NEW SOLUTIONS


Role-specific dashboards allow fast, clear access to key performance statistics

At a glance attendance statistics for all students

Quickly switch between grades

Detailed grade level attendance indicators

Click to drill down into each student’s performance, progress report, and learning plan

JUST-IN-TIME DATA. ENSURING INFORMED DECISION MAKING. While so much of educating and caring for children requires a compassionate heart and an energetic spirit, it also calls for the intelligent use of technology. Incorporating new technology into the classroom can increase engagement, expose students to learning technology, and build on a teacher’s lesson plan. But perhaps the most powerful use of technology plays to its strengths of data collection, pattern recognition, and instant distribution. In the business world, this use of technology has fundamentally shifted the paradigm of modern commerce. Consider Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer that leapfrogged its competition by revolutionizing product tracking. It’s commonly thought that Wal-Mart succeeded by deep discounting. But it’s their advanced distribution system that affords them to offer lower prices than the competition. Or consider, which used customer knowledge and feedback to abandon the storefront concept altogether.

22 B R I D G E S

A similar revolution is quietly taking place in the world of education, arming teachers, principals, and administrators with the proper information to make sound, informed judgments regarding students’ proficiency. The centerpiece of this capability comes in the form of Just-In-Time Data. The “Just-in-Time” (JIT) concept was pioneered by US, UK, and Japanese manufacturers following the simple notion that “inventory is waste.” As a result, manufacturers used information technology to provide just what is needed, exactly when it is needed. Today, JIT techniques are used across multiple industries, wherever one can benefit from close coordination, fast response times, and simplified processes. In the pre-K through 12 world, the JIT revolution is particularly timely. In contrast to annual, high stakes testing, the JIT approach emphasizes fast, daily access to student performance data. At Baltimore-based education services company Learn It Systems, they see three fundamentals to JustIn-Time Data:

Russell Lum

• Using the data to regularly adjust teaching practice (i.e., response to intervention), • 24-hour turnaround, and • Role-based access to information 24/7. Russell Lum, Learn It’s Vice President of Technology, explains, “For our operational needs and to help deliver our services, Just-in-Time for us is in an instant, if at all possible. At a minimum, it’s a 24-hour “rear view window,” as we like to say. So we’ve developed and refined our

Decision makers can log in at any point in time, see their view of the world and get those key data points as to what’s happening so they can make an informed decision. ~ RUSSELL LUM, Vice President of Technology, Learn It

systems over the years to be able to provide a look into what’s happening at any site, at any time within a 24-hour

Because the data is available 24/7 through the Learn It

period. We’ve done that by expanding out and creating

Report Portal and updated daily, Learn It’s teachers and

a platform that will accept and process information within

school administrators can make evaluations sooner and

that time frame in a very efficient manner. And then a

adjust the child’s work quicker, facilitating the child’s ability

reporting system that can deliver it so that decision makers

to make greater progress.

can log in at any point in time, see their view of the world

More progress for the child is the bottom line for Learn

and get those key data points as to what’s happening so

It, particularily in its tutoring programs. Raquel Whiting

they can make an informed decision.”

Gilmer, Learn It’s Chief Operating Officer, says, “Together with the school representatives, we have easy access to

At the Forefront of Just-In-Time Data

information that enables us to see the progress of each

Refining this technology has put Learn It at the forefront

child and adjust the type of work being done, or how it’s

of Just-In-Time Data, improving responsiveness and

being done, to suit the situation. For example, if the child

providing the ability to make the right adjustments to

has mastered fractions, then they can move ahead to the

maximize the impact of Learn It’s tutoring programs.

next phase. Or, if the child has mastered fractions but has



trouble with multiplication, that can be quickly seen and the time spent on that area. The data is very comprehensive . . . nothing is missed. It includes preand post-test data. Also, there’s practical information, such as attendance, so that those types of issues can also be addressed in a timely manner.”

Hallmarks of Effective Implementation As schools contemplate the use of JIT data, Russell Lum recommends that schools look for the hallmarks of effective JIT implementation. This

The Report Portal mapping tool allows district administrators to quickly view key statistics for their schools by clicking on school locations in an easy-to-use Google Maps mash-up.

includes a web-based suite of reporting tools for the schools and districts. These help ensure that decisions regarding student performance are driven by data. Authorized individuals should be able to access their Report Portal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Moreover, reports should be easily customized to meet the needs of each school or district. Along with real-time access to student assessments, individualized learning plans, attendance and progress data, the portal should provide the ability to view key summary information and drill down into a specific student or instructor’s information with a few clicks. Learn It is constantly striving to excel at communication from a technological standpoint. This past school year, they added the capability

The Report Portal gives users access to a student profile that includes basic demographic information, attendance, and progress data, as well as details about their individualized learning plans, down to their performance on specific math and ELA skills. Access to this information is role specific, with the system only allowing users with the appropriate security to see the sensitive information.

for district level administrators to gain access through Google Maps to an

have the capability of drilling down

also helps the Learn It staff streamline

interface that lets them see all of the

further to see all the instructor and

operations and ensure that proper

schools in their district containing

student information. Learn It is also

instructor/student ratios are maintained.

Learn It tutoring programs. They can

working on rolling out some additional

then rollover a pushpin that highlights

capabilities in the coming school year.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

key data points of the program for

These include an instructor log in,

Despite their power, implementing and

that particular school. From there,

as well as a parent portal, which will

maximizing the value of JIT systems can

they can drill down and get a view of

allow parents to monitor exactly what’s

be tricky. JIT in education is as much a

all the information that the principal

happening in the program and how their

way of thinking as it is a system. Learn

at that school would see. They also

child is progressing. Just-In-Time Data

It staff have found that it takes more

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than easy access to detailed data to

to answer questions . . . if you’re not

while it is running. And it functions

make JIT work. That is why Learn It

out there doing that on a daily basis,

as a communication vehicle between

aims to provide an exceptional level of

you’re not going to be a high quality

staff, instructors, and students showing

service. Learn It’s approach can aptly

provider for school districts. That’s

group and individual outcomes to

be called “high tech/high touch.” We

just the way it is. Here, at Learn It, it’s

effect change.

are committed to building partner-

not just our ability to report JIT data,

ships with schools and administra-

it’s our ability to act on it. That is what

students. Through Learn It’s commit-

tors. Marc Corey, Learn It’s Director

distinguishes us.”

ment to keeping everyone in the loop

of Online Programs, proudly sums it

The ultimate beneficiaries are the

so that all decisions are well-informed

up, “It is high touch service. Taking

No Surprises

ones, students are assured that any

advantage of the JIT data that we

Learn It understands that the key

struggles or issues they may be having

gather and report means that we are

to success for its programs is data.

will be recognized and addressed early

constantly in contact with parents and

When information is available in a

on, before these challenges become

students. That can mean in person,

timely manner, it allows staff to make

more daunting.

visiting homes, visiting a school or

operational adjustments for positive

making phone calls every single day

outcomes. It also provides principals

to address issues . . . to address

and administrators with the ability to

attendance . . . to solve problems . . .

see the effectiveness of the program

To learn more, visit:

NEW ONLINE SOLUTIONS Every day the Internet presents new opportunities for schools to offers services that feature an immediacy and ease of access to bring new possibilities to students’ educational lives. Learn It has tapped into this power in multiple ways including Live Online Tutoring, Asychronous Self-Paced Online Tutoring, Telepractice and Just In-Time Data Reporting. But harnessing the Internet’s power within the often-byzantine technical architecture of preK through 12 schools can prove challenging. Accordingly, Learn It has developed a core competence in navigating school networks, data structures, and systems. This means offering programs that work with almost any school configuration, staffing managers steeped in technical language and implementation, maintaining a flexible digital curriculum, deploying sophisticated back-end systems, and providing technology. All of these components function together to seamlessly support Learn It’s Internet-enabled programs. Live Online Tutoring: Engaging and Supportive Learn It offers two online tutoring programs, both are for K through 12 students. One of them is a synchronous program where students are scheduled into regular classes with a live teacher, typically two to three times a week, at a set time. Students participate in an online classroom where both they and the teacher are wearing a headset and microphone. It’s live instruction where participants and the teacher can talk back and forth to one another Learn It has found that this program creates a non-threatening environment where students, who may be reluctant to participate and ask questions in a traditional classroom setting, become very engaged. For Carolyn Harris, whose son Jonathan participated in the program, this couldn’t be more true.

“Learn It’s Online tutoring program has been Jonathan’s favorite educational experience. He was relaxed and could be himself. He loved everything about it. For a middle school student to love tutoring is just amazing to me. It helped him become a much more confident student.” Asynchronous Tutoring: Self-Paced Mastery Learn It’s other online tutoring program is comprised of flash-based lessons that are assigned to students. Often these lessons are delivered in conjunction with a teaching component, but students are able to do a lot of this work on their own at home. Students log in and are guided through a lesson that teaches them a particular skill. They then have some practice, which may be followed up with a quiz. This program helps students learn to work on their own and gain a sense of independence and self-reliance. The material for Learn It Online tutoring is based on leading educational research, including research from the National Reading Panel, the National Research Council, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. It is also aligned to Common Core and state standards and can be customized to meet each student’s needs. Telepractice: Blending On-site and Online Delivery: This online program allows Speech-Language Pathologists to communicate with students online and deliver therapy live, over the Internet. You can read more about this remarkable practice in the article, “ The New Wave of Speech-Language Therapy” found on page 14 of this magazine.




Perspectives Over the last decade, much has been made about the benefits of extended day learning, especially for low-income students. Recently, the national discussion over how best to implement these programs has both amplified and gained urgency. Despite strong demand from parents and vocal advocates, the Afterschool Alliance found only 8.4 million children are in afterschool programs and the parents of another 18.5 million children say their kids would participate if a program were available. They also found that more than one-quarter of the nation’s children (15.1 million) take care of themselves after the school day ends. And these findings don’t just stop at the end of the school year. During summer months, many students lose academic knowledge, and sadly most gain weight more rapidly than during the school year. We asked four national experts for their perspectives on the toughest challenges to extending learning time after the school day and during the summer.

Jodi Grant, Executive Director, Afterschool Alliance THE REAL CHALLENGE THAT AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAMS FACE THESE DAYS IS FUNDING. I think that it’s a tough economy and afterschool programs are often the first things that are cut. While most people strongly support afterschool, they don’t understand that these afterschool programs are really providing not just a safe place for kids, but also an incredible learning environment where, for many of them, they’re catching up. They’re getting individual tutoring and mentoring, and they’re getting a chance to do a lot of things they would otherwise not have the opportunity to do. There’s a wealth of things that a high quality program can deliver to students. Maybe it’s their first experience with robotics or there’s a program called ACE where kids are doing architecture, learning how to build bridges. It can be the physical activity that we know is so important to them, but that they’re often not getting for an hour a day during school. Or for some, it’s the meal provided in afterschool programs to low-income students.

The experts quoted in “Perspectives on the Future of Education“ were interviewed so as to better understand the most important challenges facing extended learning programs. Their appearance in this publication does not serve as an endorsement of Learn It Systems’ products, methods, or approach.

26 B R I D G E S

I think many people think of afterschool programs as babysitting. While a lot of the programs have always had a big focus on youth development and child development, the emotional piece, in the last decade they have gotten much more intentional about the learning aspect too. Where beforehand you might see a lot of social and emotional growth, improvements on behavior, you are now seeing some real academic improvements as well. So, kids in afterschool programs who are in seventh grade taking Chemistry during they school day, they’re doing a CSI forensics lab in their afterschool program which is really reinforcing all the principles they learned during the day in a very different way. You’re seeing third graders who are learning multiplication, playing kick the can and instead of picking out numbers, their afterschool providers are making the team do multiplication problems to figure out whose number it is to go run and play the game. So, I think there are some really creative ways that the afterschool curriculum can enhance what’s happening in schools, but do it in a different way.

I want to encourage people to go see a quality program because when you see it, you know it. Another example is a program that was funded by NASA. It’s a musical that the kids in afterschool programs can put on and it involves dance and singing. But it’s also all about the solar system and when the students produce this musical, they’re going to end up knowing about the comets, the Milky Way and all the planets. It’s all incorporated into something that feels very different than your typical science class. I think that’s what makes afterschool special, that you have the freedom and the flexibility to do things in a very different way than school, which makes it feel different for the kids and the instructors, too. The greatest challenge is that 90% of the public supports afterschool programs wholeheartedly because they keep kids safe and help working parents. But, as long as it’s funded by educational dollars, the challenge is to get the public and our policy makers to understand that what is being done is also helping our students succeed. We have the data to show it, but obviously the message is not out there or we wouldn’t be having the challenges we’re facing now. Since 2005, Jodi Grant has been Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance, a non-profit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs.

Peter Cookson,

Professor, Columbia University I THINK THE MAIN CHALLENGES ARE TWOFOLD. One has to do with the practicalities of actually organizing afterschool programs to make sure that the kids who really need them get access. While that doesn’t sound like the most glamorous way to begin, I think that for a lot of school districts that it is actually a real challenge because it relates to the school bus schedule and affects what teachers do afterschool. So it’s not an insignificant logistical undertaking. But the fundamental issue for school districts and superintendents is trying to assess what the value added impact of afterschool programs really is. And that brings up two issues. One is kind of an overarching issue. Is there any measurable impact beyond what they would have gotten if the regular school had been extended an hour, in other words, if they spent more time with their regular teacher? And the other is, how do I make a meaningful and accurate decision about all the providers that are out there? What

“They’re doing a CSI forensics lab in their afterschool program which is really reinforcing all the principles they learned during the day in a very different way.“ -JODI GRANT are the best programs? One of the ways to the think about the best programs is to get their outcomes. So, somebody in the superintendent’s office, most likely not the superintendent him or herself, needs to be fairly savvy about collecting data, organizing data, and reading data with an analytical frame of reference that allows it to drive decision making. So to me the biggest challenges are logistical and analytical. The benefits for students who are struggling can be enormous with the right program. Kids who might not be “getting it” in the classroom, or need a lot more individualized attention, or might require customized learning experiences that the school can’t provide are the biggest beneficiaries. For these kids, being able to learn after school and experience some individualized tutoring with an expert who can really see what they’re struggling with specifically, and then address that issue with some high level material is very valuable. The secondary impact of that is it’s going to help the school system when it comes to standardized testing because it has the potential of lifting scores. So, from a school district point of view, everything you can do to elevate the learning of the kids that are having the most difficult time is good . . . both in the intrinsic and deep way of helping the students, but also in the larger context of helping to raise the level of the scores of the school at the school district level. Peter Cookson, teaches in the Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis at Teachers College, Columbia University. His knowledge of schools and education comes from a lifetime of teaching, researching, and working to improve the quality of education for all children. He is a prolific author writing or co-writing fifteen books, twenty book chapters, thirty-five peer reviewed articles, and over fifty scholarly papers.



“We create programs with academic rigor that can engage kids in other ways, both in physical activities and in learning activities, and attract kids to the program.” - GA R Y H U G G I N S Gary Huggins,

CEO, National Summer Learning Association THE BIG CHALLENGE IS MAKING THE CASE that we need to address the summer learning space more effectively than we have. When you look at the research on summer learning loss and how it affects kids in the achievement gap in reading, or how all kids are losing two to three months of math skills over the summer, that’s pretty powerful. Consider the education reform work that’s going on out there. You don’t hear a lot about summer programs and their importance in hitting the targets we want to hit in closing achievement gaps. Number one, I think we’ve got to make the case that this is important. Number two, we have to make sure that summer learning programs are aligned with what schools want to accomplish so that they’re actually useful in helping reach their desired targets with kids, particularly kids who are struggling to keep up with their peers. One of the challenges to implementing summer learning is changing the frame of how we think of summer school. I think it has typically been that punitive and remedial model … or perhaps more school as we’ve been doing the entire year, just an extension of the school year. An important part of our new vision for summer school is this idea that we create programs with academic rigor that can engage kids in other ways, both in physical activities and in learning activities, and attract kids to the program. Kids aren’t required to come to these programs. If we can’t attract them, if they don’t show up, they’re not going to be effective. So, I think getting out of that frame of the old punitive summer school, or more school as we’ve been doing it the entire school year, is an important step. The districts that are having the most success with this new vision for summer school are the ones who understand partnerships, whether with education providers, community partners, or companies that can be partners in delivering the



academic rigor, delivering engagement activities or even physical activities. Those partnerships and those combinations of players are very important to successful programs … and important to getting past the idea that we’re just doing more school. In this new vision frame, we have what we call our New Vision for Summer School Network and at this point it’s made up of 24 districts that educate just over 2 million kids. They are what we describe as the early adopters of summer learning as a critical part of their academic bottom line. In other words, they see that they’re not going to close achievement gaps and they’re certainly not going to reach the higher, more college-ready targets of the common core unless they’re maximizing the opportunity that summer brings them. And I think that’s a really interesting sort of beginning of a movement. You’ve got these leaders of school systems who see this opportunity, who see this need, and are beginning to think about getting beyond the remedial model. They’re starting to do some of these creative partnerships and creative programs to be able to deliver what needs to be delivered in the summer. Gary Huggins is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Summer Learning Association. Mr. Huggins has more than 15 years of experience in leading education policy organizations and served as Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind.

Billy Easton,

Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education

I THINK THE LARGEST CHALLENGE RIGHT NOW IS MONEY AND THE LACK OF POLITICAL WILL to make it a large enough priority. What we’re seeing across our state and across the country is that afterschool programs and other things that extend learning time are often facing cuts. There’s an enormous amount of money and effort going into education-related legislation and political advocacy, but the people who are putting that money in aren’t emphasizing that extended learning is an educational strategy. They’re emphasizing things that would focus on testing, and rewarding and punishing schools and teachers, as opposed to here’s a concrete educational strategy that has a record of success. So, there are competing views on how to improve education and there has been a prevailing wind with a lot of political money behind it that’s pushing a different agenda that does not focus so much on educational strategies as on testing and administrative reform. The overuse of high-stakes testing as a key driver of education does not have a good track record of success. The emphasis has been on raised standards, which is a good thing. But we haven’t met those standards. We’ve yet to succeed with truly providing higher quality curriculums, which is one of the things that afterschool can help with. There’s also so much emphasis on the whole issue of grading individual

“So, we need to provide kids, especially kids in high-need school districts, with access to rich, educational opportunities and that requires more time in the school day and school year.” - B I L LY E A S TO N schools and teachers. In fact, there’s a lot more emphasis on that than there is on extended learning strategies. So, we need to provide kids, especially kids in high-need school districts, with access to rich, educational opportunities and that requires more time in the school day and school year. This can be accommodated through afterschool programs. I think afterschool programs and other types of extended learning are vitally important, among the most critical opportunities we should be providing to students. In order to be successful, they have to be well done and be coordinated closely with school systems and schools. They can improve student outcomes and provide students with opportunities for additional help, with remedial help where they need that and with broader curriculum options that might range from the arts to robotics. They can also provide for social and emotional supports through engaging community-based organizations and service providers. So, it’s a critical resource that we should be doing more with. Advancing afterschool programs and other types of extended learning requires a coordinated effort from everyone, from afterschool providers to parent community groups to teachers to school districts. Together they need to prioritize this as one of the education strategies that has real evidence behind it. I think ultimately these decisions are in the hands of our political leaders. Unfortunately, in recent years, we’ve seen a move away from evidence-based educational strategies and that needs to change. So, we need to get our elected officials to say, “You know we really should be putting our money behind what works . . . and afterschool and extended learning programs are both proven strategies.” Billy Easton has been the Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education since 2005. AQE has been a consistent advocate for high-quality programs, especially in high-need districts, and for equity in school funding. Mr. Easton is recognized as one of the leading experts in education funding and policy issues in New York State.

To share your perspective on extended learning visit:

Raquel Whiting Gilmer


Flexibility with Private and Charter Schools Each private and charter school has its own unique goals, culture, and needs. As with larger districts, educational data, innovative special education programs and extended learning can play an important role in driving academic achievement and contributing to the unique goals and culture of the organization. Because these schools often have a broader school mission, their needs with respect to these programs can often be unique and require different structures to respond to each school’s schedule and instructional approach. Over the years, Learn It has learned how to bring all its programs seamlessly to these schools. Raquel Whiting Gilmer, Chief Operating Officer of Learn It, says, “This is a sector where administrators are very interested in student services — especially those that are individualized. Learn It provides this type of individualized service even when, within the same grade, there are different skills needed.” Learn It’s culture of flexibility allows it to make appropriate instructional adjustments in order to assure that areas where a student is struggling are quickly addressed. Learn It works closely with its school partners to make certain their needs are being met, their schedules are being accommodated, and that all instruction parallels current classroom instruction. Patricia Kelly, principal of St. Michael the Archangel School in Overlea, Maryland states, “Learn It has certainly met my expectations. We alternate the schedule so that the children receiving tutoring aren’t with their Learn It teacher during a math or reading period, and we try not to pull them out of a science or social studies class two days in a row. Also, the faculty has input. They’ll tell the Learn It teacher, ‘This is what I’m doing in math,’ or ‘This is what I’m doing in reading.’ She then works along with the faculty to plan what activities need to be done, as well as looking at their standardized test scores and seeing what areas need to be addressed for remediation.” Ms. Gilmer sums up what she believes are Learn It’s strengths in working with private and charter schools, “We offer a very productive approach to achieving goals for each student, one that allows teachers to target shortcomings and identify opportunities where we can present challenging material. Our philosophy and structure is one of partnership, adjusting our flexible systems to accommodate a school’s unique needs.” NEW SOLUTIONS


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