What the Tests Don’t Tell us


Qualities Not Measured by Most Tests, Image via DyslexicKids.net

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.
It is no secret that today’s youth are tested and re-tested at astounding rates.  Ever since the implementation of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) which mandated annual yearly testing for students in all 50 states as a means for measuring progress; teachers, parents, and students have been inundated with a kind of testing mania.Clara Hemphill in her op-ed piece Too Much for Testing to Bear states, “Parents, teachers, and certainly the children are weary of the standardized tests that have sapped so much of the joy from the classroom and pushed so many teachers to replace creative, imaginative lessons with timid and defensive ones.”If you read the messages coming out of public schools today, more emphasis is placed on a child’s reading and mathematics score than on his or her own character, personality, and talents, despite a growing body of evidence that these characteristics are what truly count for life-long success. Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of the Miami-Dade County School District in Florida states, “Right now, this year, we’re facing about 32 different assessments, different tests that our students will have to take, in addition to about 1,200 different end-of-course assessments mandated by both state and federal entities,” (Judy Woodruff, PBS NewsHour).

With such laser focus on high-stakes testing around the country, educators and non-educators alike continue to echo a feeling that adoption of these assessments in schools leads to less time for actual, engaging instruction and has, for many, drained the joy out of teaching. Even worse is how all this testing affects our students with learning disabilities and special needs. (I get test anxiety just thinking about it!)

As many educators go into this new year prepping for our mandated state and national assessments, how can we help reverse the negative effects of over-testing in our classroom?

Watch this video by @TakePart and @Jennyinglee, in Kids Tell All: I Am More Than a Standardized Test and this hilarious video post by Doug Robertson, @TheWeirdTeacher on “THE TEST” (duhn,duhn, duhhhhn!) His message is sure to inspire both you and your students. 

What do you think about high-stakes standardized testing in your classroom?  How do you relay to students that there is more to learning than just what’s on the test? Leave your comments below, or let’s discuss on Twitter @LindseyLipsky

The T in Twitter Stands for Teacher

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.
You may or may not know it, but Twitter is an educator’s paradise; filled to the gills with educational dialogue, resources, ideas, tips, and best practices. No longer just a tween Bieber playground (Sorry Justin!), Twitter has become SOOOO much more.

To help you ease into this new (and perhaps scary) world of virtual collaboration,  Let’s discuss why the T in Twitter Stands for Teacher.  Soon you’ll be an #EduTweeter Rockstar in no time!

1. Professional Learning Networks (PLN)
Twitter is, without a doubt, an amazing social tool for connecting people.  Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a universe that allows for open communication across multiple platforms (and even continents). As Mrs. Kathleen Morris states in her great post about Twitter on Edublogs, “I find Twitter to be like a virtual staffroom…where I can find advice, give advice, find great links, share my work and engage in general musings about education.”  

To begin building your PLN, start following educators and members that appeal to you and align with your ideals/goals as an educator. Some of my current, favorite EduTweeters  (in random order) are:  @ShiftParadigm, @justintarte, @JewishSpecialEd, @singoffpitch, @TheWeirdTeacher, @nmhs_principal@gcouros, @ShellTerrell, @SenorG @INISchoolsSpEd, @MittAubs, @msspeducate, @theudlproject, @burgessdave, @BethHouf, @DruTomlin_AMLE

Also, check out this list of nominees from the 2013 Edublog Awards  for best individual teacher tweeters, and this ever-changing list of top teacher twitter names by subject.

2. Educational Chats
Sue Waters, Working With Web 2.0 Tools EduBlogger writes, “Twitter chats are one of the best ways for educators to connect with other educators, exchange and debate ideas, ask for help and provide assistance, find new resources and take action.”

Indeed, educational chats are a wonderful way to get involved with a sub-group of teachers and stakeholders who share similar interests as you.  Some of my favorite chats that I’ve been involved in include, #spedchat, #edchat, #tlap (Teach like a Pirate), #satchat, and #sunchat.  Also hope to check out #LDChat, #UDLchat, #edtech, and #ATchat soon.  

Need help finding the best Ed Twitter Chat for you? Check out the global list of all Educational Chats by @cybraryman1 and an ever-evolving google doc list of top Education Twitter chats.

3. Gathering Insights and Inspiration in a Tweet-minute!
Got five minutes to spare in between your lunch and prep period? Hop on to Twitter to find some messages of inspiration, passion, joy, resources, and teaching tips.  Being able to learn and collaborate with your Twitter educators is like a high-tech, low-cost Professional Development session available at your fingertips.

If you’ve chosen the correct people to follow for your PLN, you’ll have a wide variety of amazing content and insight coming straight through on your Twitter feed.  Get ready to be AMAZED!

So, TEACHERS, what are you waiting for? Are YOU on Twitter yet?

For some great help getting started with Twitter, read The Teachers Guide to Twitter (Edudemic) and Getting Started with Twitter in the Classroom by Carrie Kam and the Teaching Channel.

Ten Accommodations for Student Success


Accommodations are like ladders.  Not always necessary for some, but for those who can’t quite “reach,” are indispensable in helping level the playing field.
As teachers, we are always thinking to ourselves:  How can I help my students be successful in the least restrictive environment?  The answer? Accommodations!
Individualized accommodations are the number one way we can help students be successful in school and beyond. Below is a list of some of the most common accommodations used for students with learning disabilities like Dyslexia or other reading impairments:

  1. Use of graphic organizers for writing and organizational help
  2. Use of audio and eBooks for help reading grade-level textbooks, fiction, literature and more. Check out the resources of Learning Ally and Bookshare.
  3. Use of assistive technology including screen readers, text-to-speech software, typing programs, and apps to support students with special needs
  4. Ability to have material, including tests/quizzes/assignments, read aloud
  5. Allow for assignments to be typed
  6. For writing: grade on content, not spelling or grammar
  7. Enlarged text or print when necessary
  8. Limit text on assignments; utilize picture clues
  9. Do not require a student to read-aloud unless he/she volunteers
  10. Provide extended time on assignments, quizzes, tests and projects

For a list of some other great accommodations, check out this Special Education Accommodations Infographic by e-Learning Infographics, also, check out this list of Common Accommodations for Dyslexia Support by Learning Ally.

15 Education Acronyms to Know for 2015

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.
Ten points if you can decipher the following paragraph!

Veronica is a 3rd grader who has ADHD. Veronica qualified for a 504 in 2nd grade under the category of OHI.  After being in RTI for two months this school year without progress, the IEP team is looking at beginning testing for SLD and possibly creating an IEP. In line with IDEA, ADA, and FAPE, Veronica needs to be taught in the LRE.  Veronica’s teacher, Mrs. L, is excellent and engages learners with UDL, DI, and PBL principals in the classroom, but now has to shift focus towards CCSS. Mom is hoping to get Veronica AT to help her be successful in the classroom.

How’d you do?? Not great? Don’t fret–you’re not alone!  Public education today is filled with enough technical jargon to confuse even the most learned scholar. But, have no fear, help is here! 

Check out this list of 15 Education Acronyms to Know for 2015 :

1.  ADHD: This stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Students with ADHD may have a hard time focusing, be overactive, not able control behavior, or a combination of these. Some great support and articles are available at www.understood.org.

2. 504: This stands for a Section 504 Plan of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against public school students with disabilities. A 504 Plan is designed to help students with learning and/or attention issues participate with accommodations they need for school.

3. OHI: Other Health Impairment, or OHI, is a special education eligibility category for students who have “limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli… that is due to chronic or acute health problems.” Some examples include Epilepsy, Diabetes, ADD/ADHD, heart condition, Tourette’s Syndrome, and more. Read this article for more information.

4. RtI: Response to Intervention (RtI) is a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with varying learning/emotional needs within the general education classroom.  Check out the RtI Action Network for more information at http://www.rtinetwork.org/.

5.  IEP: Perhaps the most commonly used special education acronym, the Individual Education Plan, or IEP, is a legal document created by a team of professionals and parents for a student which outlines a student’s disability category, present levels of educational performance, accommodations, modifications, annual goals, and more. Check out this IEP Checklist from the Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center for help.

6.  SLD: Specific Learning Disability or Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) is one of the 13 disability categories outlined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). SLD is an umbrella term and can be further specified by difficulties in reading, writing, spelling, mathematics, reasoning, recalling, organizing information, and more. Check out the National Center for Learning Disabilities website at http://www.ncld.org/ or read this article from the Learning Disabilities Association of America for a wealth of information on this topic.

7. IDEA: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, outlines 13 special education disability categories for students to qualify for special education services.  IDEA was originally passed in 1975 to ensure that students with disabilities would have access to the same educational opportunities as their non-disabled peers, and was last amended in 2004.  For information about IDEA 2004, visit http://idea.ed.gov/.

8.  ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a civil disability law that “prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.”  Visit www.ada.gov for more information.

9.  FAPE: Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE, refers to the provision that schools must meet the educational needs of individuals with disabilities to the same extent that the needs of non-disabled individuals are met. Check out this great infographic on FAPE by Understood.org.

10.  LRE: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), is a federal mandate under IDEA calling for students with disabilities to be served in special classes, separate schools, or other positions only when deemed necessary by the severity or nature of a child’s disability. By and large, LRE states that students must be educated in the same environment as their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible.

11.  UDL: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for teaching that identifies the needs of diverse learners first in terms of teaching environment, accessibility, curriculum design, and learning styles. The principal of UDL is that there is no “one size fits all approach” to teaching, and that doing what is best for students with special needs, can often benefit all. Check out http://www.cast.org/udl/ for more information.

12.  DI: Differentiated Instruction (DI) is the way in which a teacher anticipates, modifies, and responds to a variety of individualized student needs in the classroom. Under DI, teachers create varying content (what is being taught), process (how it is taught) and product (how students demonstrate their learning) within the classroom. Visit http://www.caroltomlinson.com/ for more information on DI.

13.  PBL: Project or Problem Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching methodology that allows students to investigate, analyze and examine a problem or project for an extended period of time. Within PBL, educators often use hands-on experiments, outside classroom experiences, and more to help students acquire deeper knowledge of a specified learning objective. Check out this great website by Jerry Blumengarten, @Cybraryman, on PBL.

14.  CCSS: In 2010, a number of states across the nation adopted the same standards for English and Math called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Since that time, 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted Common Core.  Visit www.corestandards.org for more information.

15. AT: Assistive Technology, or AT, is any item, equipment, product, software or system, that is used to increase, maintain, and improve the functional capabilities of a student with a disability. Check out the SETT Framework by Dr. Joy Zabala or the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI) for more information on AT and its implementation.

Want to save a copy of this list for your for your files? Download a copy of it here.

Have any other educational acronyms you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments below or contact me on twitter @LindseyLipsky.