Editor's Note: This is part 3 in a series of 4 introducing some of JumpRope's new partnerships. Find part 1 here, part 2 here and part 4 here.
Bill Gates once said, “If I'd had some set idea of a finish line, don't you think I would have crossed it years ago?” Maybe you’re a fan of Mr. Gates, and maybe not, but I’d like to think that his statement has some truth for each of us. When students know what the finish line is, they are far more likely to cross it, right? Melissa Corto of Education Modified recently shared with me her company’s vision of The Finish Line and the steps we focus on to help students in Special Education reach it. I first talked with Melissa as I prepared a 2016 blog post focused on looking at high school diplomas through a different lens. You can read that post here. My latest conversation with her was in the context of JumpRope’s recent pursuit of partnerships that further our own mission. We’ve partnered with Education Modified since September 2015 to equip teachers with research-based strategies to address every special need in their class, and leverage JumpRope as a place to re-think how information about a student’s learning needs are used and captured. As our thinking at JumpRope continues to evolve, so does the thinking at Education Modified.
Some of our JumpRope schools use the Education Modified powerup to support their students who are in Special Education. This powerup offers teachers the ability to find and tag specific and effective instructional strategies for a given student. Within JumpRope, you can access a student’s Learning Biography, which is a portfolio of their learning needs, see all the strategies that are being used for a student, rate any strategy’s effectiveness, and track what’s working, and what’s not, for a student’s learning needs. Currently, 17 schools have the Education Modified powerup directly within JumpRope, and dozens are trying a free trial this semester.
In the world of Special Education, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) has existed since 1975. According to Special Education News, “the IEP “makes it so that every student with a disability of one kind or another whether it be a learning disability or physical disability, has an equal opportunity to get the same education as every other student.” The IEP effectively establishes goals for the student to work toward and builds in specific supports that both special and general education teachers might use to help students reach those goals. In the current world of proficiency-based education, Melissa and the folks at Education Modified find themselves frustrated that the finish line for their students, or the IEP goals, are stand-alone goals that, while tailored to the needs of the student in question, don’t also squarely address the standards. This siloed practice has proven inefficient and ineffective. Many schools are struggling to support their students with special needs, and grasping for help in supporting them within their workflow.
Many students who have IEPs require accommodations as opposed to modifications to the curriculum in order to succeed. For all of those students and even for some who require modifications to the curriculum, the finish line, Corto explains, should be proficiency with the standards, as it is for their peers. Their IEP goals, therefore should begin with the standards, just as our curriculum design should. Of course, those goals must very carefully and thoughtfully take into consideration the specific needs of the student being considered, but that student, Corto believes, will most likely succeed if her specific finish line is synonymous with the stated daily, weekly, or longer term classroom learning goals. The disconnect between the IEP goals and the broader learning goals only serves to further silo students who are in special education and the professionals who most closely support them.
Melissa’s vision for best helping those students and teachers includes automatically creating IEP goals that align with the standards and indicators driving the curriculum. From there, Education Modified can recommend research-based, standards-aligned strategies for teachers to use to help a child reach her goals. The data teachers then capture regarding student learning would be in service of their IEP goals, and the broader proficiency-based goals and it would provide the teacher feedback on the effectiveness (or lack therein) of instructional strategies used to meet those goals.