Embedding UDL into Classroom Instruction with Common Core State Standards

Many teachers find it difficult to understand how Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles can be planned as part of a lesson utilizing Common Core State Standards.

The solution is simply this:  Be intentional in planning.

The benefits to teachers planning with UDL are many.  First, of course, their students benefit.  By being intentional in the integration of UDL into actual lessons utilizing Common Core State Standards, teachers open the opportunity for all learners to choose multiple means of access to content and differentiation in how they show what they have learned.  In addition, through the practice of UDL integration, teachers become more familiar with a variety of UDL principles and what they look like in their own classrooms.  Teachers also become more familiar with their students as individuals, their preferred learning styles and modes, and tend to view their students more as unique individual learners.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, by intentionally planning with UDL principles, teachers change their own mindsets about what learning can look like for a variety of students.  This change in mindset has the power to propel teachers forward as they seek to differentiate for all learners, the use of technology in the classroom, incorporate intervention as needed, and move toward standards-based grading.

Visit this excellent example of UDL principles embedded into a middle school lesson plan using Common Core State Standards!


The Power of RtI Implementation: 4 Tier 1 Strategies

I come across many educators across the country who spend the majority of their time, human resources, and money on providing quality Tier 2 and 3 academic and behavioral intervention.  While putting powerful interventions in place for struggling students is extremely important, many underestimate the power of solid Tier 1 academic and behavioral strategies for ALL students as they rush to plug holes in a leaking bucket.

The power of Tier 1 academic and behavioral strategies is in the unified approach of a school or grade level or academic department to collaborate and coordinate their collective efforts on research-based strategies that meet the needs of their students according to data.  While schools may approach this process differently, the bottom line is that there is a proactive strategy (rather than simply reacting to quarterly assessments or when something is obviously leaking) in place to meet student needs across the entire population.  In order to be proactive, one must note data trends of the school population in years past.  Most school populations are fairly consistent from year to year and the data can be utilized to put Tier 1 supports in place before students even start school in the fall.

Based on academic and behavioral data trends of students within a school, the following powerful strategies can be considered, planned for, and implemented prior to the start of the school year:

1.  Extended use of homeroom time, even weekly, designated to a Tier 1 strategy:  an example may be a school wide behavior lesson (content determined by present or past trend behavioral data).

2.  Academic and behavioral non-negotiables/expectations based on past trend data:  examples may be the expectation that all students be reading and traveling with a book at all times, that school wide behavior expectations be taught in every classroom daily, that all classes will take the last five minutes to practice math fluency, that all classes incorporate 3 essays within their curriculum monthly, all students will have at least one student-led conference with their parent during the school year, etc.  These expectations need to be determined, shared, supported, valued, recognized, and rewarded by school leadership in order for them to be effective.

3.  Allow past trend data to help drive scheduling adjustments:  examples may include building in additional student support in academics during lunch, before school, after school, through flexible study skill classes; building in behavioral support through a school mentoring program or daily behavior lessons during the extended morning news.

4.  Allow past trend data to help drive the use of valuable resources throughout the school:  examples may be resources such as tutors, reading coaches, parent/community volunteers, guidance counselor, and an assistant principal.  This should remain as flexible as possible so that data is driving where and when those resources are deployed in supporting Tier 1 goals.

The primary key in planning for powerful Tier 1 is to make strategizing a continuous process based on more current data throughout the school year.  With effective Tier 1 strategies in place, using limited resources and managing Tier 2 and 3 interventions becomes much more manageable for everyone.



Teacher Turnover Affects All Students’ Achievement, Study Indicates

Teacher Turnover Affects All Students’ Achievement, Study Indicates

This is the summary of some ongoing research into the impact of teacher retention on student achievement. It is interesting that teacher turnover, regardless of teacher strength, impacts student achievement.  This support the idea of growing your teachers, building a positive and collaborative school culture, and providing ongoing teacher support through effective teaming practices, rather than simply “cleaning house” immediately.  We might infer that with administrator retention, similar results may be seen. 

Click on the link to read the entire article.