Kindergarteners at the Keyboard

Posted on January 01, 2012

Let’s consider a two-headed monster that all instructional leaders deal with — the large variation of instructional quality among classrooms and the lack of improvement in instruction over time.

What do we mean by the large variation of instructional quality among classrooms? Within a district or school, information pills students who receive ineffective instruction fall further and further behind those who receive quality instruction. Imagine what a few consecutive years of ineffective instruction does to widen the achievement gap and lower post high school opportunities.

If instruction varies from classroom to classroom, viagra sale there is no way of accumulating evidence about what works and what does not across different classroom settings. There is no way of developing a “science of improvement” (Kenney, health 2008, p. 140) that yields the kind of knowledge needed to build improvements upon improvements over time (Morris and Hiebert, 2011).

What do we mean by the lack of improvement in instruction over time? The process of teaching—the way teachers deliver content and students interact with content hasn’t changed much in the United States since I attended 2nd grade in 1971. What has changed are physical landscapes such as safer and more accessible buildings, classrooms being equipped with LCD projection systems, and how textbooks look. Most school systems have made heavy investments in the level of technology provided to students in the form of iPads and computers. But the process of teaching—how content is delivered and how students demonstrate learning—has remained remarkably consistent over the years.

“The large variation in students’ classroom learning opportunities is made worse by the lack of improvement in the quality of school instruction over time” (Morris & Hiebert, 2011). What can we as instructional leaders do to slay this two-headed monster? The answer (the “magic sword” that has great promise in slaying the two-headed monster) is lesson study. Lesson study is a form of long-term professional development in which teams of teachers systematically and collaboratively conduct research closely tied to lessons, and then use what they learn about student thinking to become more effective instructors (Research for Better Schools). Two key points about lesson study stand out: 1) it focuses not just on student work, but students working and 2) through lesson study, the classroom becomes the teachers’ laboratory for continuous improvement of teaching and learning (Wang-Iverson, 2002).

Why lesson study?

How to implement lesson study?

We present two articles on lesson study in this edition of the Essential Educator Leadership Newsletter.

Suraj Syal, Coordinator, UPDC (Utah Personnel Development Center)
In California, seek the state with the largest population of Hispanic students in the country, the achievement gap starts early—long before children enter school.

Hispanic children are much less likely to enroll in preschool than white or black children, and begin kindergarten more than half a year behind their white counterparts. First-generation immigrant students, many who speak only Spanish, start out more than a year behind. One way to combat this problem, educators argue, is enrolling more Hispanic children in preschool, where they can learn to count, say the alphabet and practice the other pre-reading and math skills they will need later on.

But is simply expanding the number of kids in preschool enough to solve the problem? Increasingly, preschool advocates are saying no. California, which has increased the budget for preschool in recent years so more children can attend, but where the achievement gap has remained largely stagnant, is a stark example of why not.

Children who go to preschool, says Deborah Kong, a spokesperson for the nonprofit advocacy group, Preschool California, “are less likely to drop out of high school, to be placed in special education, to be held back a grade, and they scored better on reading and math tests.” Yet just expanding preschool access, while important, is not the key to closing the achievement gap, she says, noting that only 13 percent of children enrolled in California preschools are enrolled in “high-quality” programs.

Author: Sarah Garland

Read more HERE>
Welcome to the spring edition of the Utah autism newsletter.

What happened with autism insurance reform in the legislature this year?

Are you wondering where things actually ended up?  Well to recap, sick the original legislation, House Bill 69, sponsored by Ronda Rudd Menlove (R-Garland), was held in the House Rules Committee and was not released. This bill would have required providers of accident or health insurance policies to include coverage for the treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. It would have established a $50,000 minimum annual benefit for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.

Representative Menlove then introduced House Bill 272 which ultimately did pass during the legislative session.  The linked Salt Lake Tribune article explains this bill and includes several links to obtain more information.  This pilot program will pay for therapy for approximately 350 children between the ages of 2-6.  It will begin on July 1, 2012 and last for two years. For an overview, read this Salt Lake Tribune article HERE.



The headline news a few weeks ago drew the public attention to a recent prevalence study that revealed a sharp increase in the number of students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). While the rate of ASD in the general population is reported to be higher in Utah, the increase in students receiving special education services in Utah is similar to most states in the country. Factors contributing to the reported increase may be attributed to:

Increased public awareness

Increased knowledge among teachers

Availability of new assessment tools

Broader definition of autism

Regardless of the reasons for the increase in prevalence, autism has a significant impact in the classroom and on the education of the students with the disorder. The Utah school system recognizes this. We need to share the non-headline news that Utah districts, charters schools, and state leadership provide training and technical assistance for educators who serve students with autism. Some of these trainings and resources available to Utah educators include:

Conferences for Teachers:

1. Foundations of Autism Conference hosted by the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) and the Utah Personnel Improvement Center (UPDC).

This is an annual conference for parents and educators covering basic characteristics of students with autism and evidence based interventions for academics and behavior.  The next conference will be March 7th 2013.  Jo Mascorro will be the guest speaker.

2. Southern Utah Autism Conference hosted by the Southwest Education Development Center and the Utah State Office of Education

This is now an annual conference for parents and educators in southern Utah.

3. Utah Valley University Autism Conference hosted by the college of Humanities and Social Sciences at Utah Valley University.

This is an annual conference for parents and educators emphasizing current research in ASD and support for families.

4. Utah Education Association (UEA) Convention

This annual conference hosted by the Utah Education Association includes sessions on autism. The next convention will be help October 18th and 19th, 2012 in Salt Lake City.

5. Family Links Conference hosted by the Utah Parent Center

The Family Links Conference will be March 8th and 9th 2013.  Jo Mascorro will present on behavior support for students with autism and other disabilities.

6. The Behavior Summer Camp, a mini-conference focusing on behavioral supports will be June 7th & 8th and will include:

  • The Tough Kid series of publications
  • SuperHeroes social skills curriculum and training
  • Functional behavior
  • Bullying prevention

Autism related professional development trainings, available to Utah school districts:

1. Utah’s Multi-Tiered System of Support

This Utah State Office of Education and Utah Personnel Development Center initiative focuses on working with district teams to institute best practices in academics, positive behavior supports, and coaching.

2. Discrete Trial Teaching provided by the USOE and UPDC

3. Positive Behavior Supports for Students with Autism, 2-year cohort provided by the UPDC

4. Intensive Discrete Trial Teaching by the ASSERT program at Utah State University

Professional development training opportunities provided to Utah school districts upon request:

1. STAR Autism  Program training provided by UPDC

2. Pivotal Response Training provided by UPDC

3. Superheroes Social Skills training and materials provided by USOE

4. Prevent-Teach-Reinforce Behavior Support provided by UPDC

5. 24 Evidence-based Practices for Students with ASD provided by UPDC

6. Other trainings customized to fit the needs of districts and charters provided by USOE and UPDC

Additional resources:

1. Autism Grants available through the Utah State Office of Education.

These grants are awarded to districts and charters to improve their capacity for working with students with ASD.  Jocelyn Taylor from the Utah State Office of Education heads the grant awarding committee.

2. Utah Essential Educator

The Utah Essential Educator is an online journal that features topics of interest to Utah teachers. This publication is created by the Utah Personnel Development Center and includes bi-monthly articles on autism spectrum disorders.

3. The Utah Special Educator Journal

The Utah Special Educator journal is published twice a year by the Utah Personnel Development Center and is provided free to all Utah special education teachers, administrators and related service providers. It frequently publishes articles on autism and related topics. Past issues are available online at the UPDC website. There have been two special monograph editions of the Special Educator that focused primarily on autism. These are the February 2008 and the December 2010 editions.

4. Utah Personnel Development Center Website – Autism Resources

The UPDC website has an autism resource area that contains archived trainings:  24 Evidence-Based Practices for Students with ASD, a DVD on high functioning autism, resources for staff development in autism and links to many other informative websites.

5. Autism Internet Modules and OCALI Webinars

The Autism Internet Modules site contains thirty-seven modules on ASD with many more in the works.  The OCALI Webinars site has modules on Autism 101, District Planning, Social Competence, and Understanding and Addressing Challenging Behaviors of Individuals with Complex Needs.

6. The National Education Association’s Puzzle of Autism – and the American Federation of Teachers’ Helping Students with Autism – Tips for Teachers

These publications are written for general education teachers and provide information on understanding and educating students with ASD.  They are free and available online.

As this list suggests, there are an abundance of training opportunities for educators available at no cost to Utah districts and charter schools. Local educational leaders assess the needs of their staff, consider the past training and current knowledge base of their staff, and take into account he unique strengths and challenges of their students in designing the most appropriate personnel development for their situations.  As scientists continue to work on the answers to the many questions raised by the recent prevalence study, Utah autism advocacy groups, institutions of higher education, state leadership, local educational agencies, and educators continue to work together to put all the pieces of the autism educational puzzle  together.

Authors: Cathy Longstroth, Utah Personnel Dev elopment Center (UPDC), Jocelyn Taylor, Utah State Office of Education (USOE)
Kindergarteners at the keyboard

“It’s time to show what you know by finding words, check ” the announcer says. “In this game, information pills you will click on words that mean the same thing as the word the narrator says. Click on the word that means the same thing as ‘marvelous.’ ” Lena, dressed in her school’s burgundy-plaid uniform, clicks on “wonderful,” and the announcer doesn’t waste time with praise. “Pay attention. Go as fast as you can and do your best,” he says. A few words later, she hesitates over “fragile,” before finally clicking on “breakable.”

Six-year-old Lena was among 116 kindergartners last year who participated in an experiment at her school with a teaching method called “blended learning,” where students learn from computers as well as teachers. She attends the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Empower School, which opened last year to serve minority and low-income students in a tough South L.A. neighborhood.

“The early indications are that this is replicable in future kindergarten classrooms and, as we grow, into higher grades,” says Richard Barth, chief executive of the KIPP Foundation, which supports the KIPP model of extended school days, a longer school year and frequent standardized tests to measure progress.

At KIPP Empower, principal Mike Kerr devised a complicated school-wide rotation where children are on laptops inside their classrooms twice a day for roughly half an hour each time. He says the computers allow him to preserve the small-group instruction that he considers critical to student success. As a result, students who started the year behind their peers graduated from kindergarten on track.

Author: Jill Barshay

Read more HERE>