Archive for the ‘Issue 5’ Category

6 Reasons Your Students Need You to Read This Article (and Take Action)

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author: Lannon Heflin – Program Manager for Instructional Technology

Consider the six skills categories listed here and ask yourself, “How prepared are my students to excel in each of these universally important strands of living and learning?”

  1. Creativity and innovation
  2. Communication and collaboration
  3. Research and information fluency
  4. Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making
  5. Digital citizenship
  6. Technology operations and concepts

There is no doubt you agree that your students deserve a well-rounded educational experience that prepares them to be “world ready.” Fortunately, new standards for Technology Applications (TA TEKS*) have been approved and passed into law and they provide an excellent framework for educators to build truly transformative learning experiences.   The question is how prepared do you feel to integrate skills in the six strands mentioned above into daily instruction as you ensure you are meeting your obligation to teach the required technology applications curriculum for your grade level (specifically grades K-8)?

Regardless of how you answered this question, you will want to take advantage of a unique, free and high impact professional development opportunity.  Here is what you need to know.

The Texas Education Agency has released, through each Education Service Center, three facilitated online courses designed to get you successfully planning with the new TA TEKS quickly and with great confidence.  The courses are provided in grade bands K-2, 3-5 and 6-8.

Quoting from, “The courses are free and will be offered to ISDs and Open Enrollment Charter schools that have Project Share accounts. They will be delivered completely online and the participants will earn 6 CPE hours.  Each Regional Education Service Center (ESC) will have at least one facilitator to offer these courses online through Project Share.” Additionally at this link you will find the appropriate contact information for your ESC (for non-ESC Region XIII schools).

ESC Region XIII schools and systems can find all the enrollment details and passwords at this link.

A few important details to remember:

  • For ESC XIII the facilitated courses enrollment window is August 1st – August 30th and enrollment is capped at 30 for each course.
  • Course work begins on August 30th and ends on October 11th.
  • Course activity includes interacting with other educators and creating, sharing and teaching a technology integrated lesson in your classroom.
  • Non-classroom teachers are welcome to enroll, but it is important that you partner with a classroom teacher to complete the activities.
  • Additional offers for these courses will be made in late fall, spring and summer.



*I wrote about the transition to the new TA TEKS in last August in the very first In-Sight Newsletter publication (  This August, I want to kick off the new In-Sight Newsletter season and new school year with this invitation. You can view the TA TEKS here

Writing in the Science Class: Lab Conclusions

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author: Kristen Hillert, Secondary Science Specialist


Conclusions are a powerful way to assess students’ mastery of the objectives of lab investigations.  But how do you teach students to write conclusions?  Here, science teachers can learn from our colleagues in the English department.

Although scientific writing is a unique style with a set of rules different from the writing students traditionally do in English classes, strategies used to teach writing work across genres.  Before asking students to turn in their first lab report, try one of these strategies and see if the writing of your students improves.

  • Mentor text. Show students examples of what a “good” lab conclusion looks like.
  • For younger students, this might mean writing a few examples yourself or sharing student conclusions from the previous years.
  • Older students should see real examples of conclusions from peer reviewed journal articles.
  • Students could do a gallery walk around the room reading the sample mentor texts and making observations about what they all have in common.
  • Finally, students use their observations about the structure of a strong conclusion to guide their own writing.
    • Sentence Stems. Help students know how to start the conclusion by suggesting sentence stems they can use.
    • _________ was used to _________ in this lab.
    • The data shows the relationship between _________ and _________ is _________because_________.
    • The evidence for _________ was that _________.
      • Class Examples.  Type up conclusions written by your own students (be sure to keep them anonymous!) and share them with the students to evaluate.
      • Mix examples of strong and weak conclusions (no more 10 total).
      • Review the examples one at a time.
      • Have students identify the strength(s)/weakness(es) of each conclusion.
      • Have students work together to generalize their comments and form them into a checklist they can use to evaluate their own conclusions before submitting them to you.

Lab investigations are an important part of science throughout all grade levels.  The conclusion is the part of the lab report that allows students to assimilate the information gained from the hands on-experiences with the theory of the content.  Empowering students to fully express all they have learned through the investigation will not only improve their understanding of the content as they work through all the ideas as they write them out, but it also provides you, the teacher, an excellent form of evaluation of mastery.

To learn more about how to incorporate writing into your science class, check out the TRC Modules: Writing in Science in Project Share.  They’re free and a great resource for creative ideas of teaching through writing!

Reflections from an EOC Parent, Part 1

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author:  Collections compiled from a team of Education Specialists

Educators in the state of Texas have undergone quite a few transitions as of late, none-the-least of which was the implementation of STAAR, the new state assessment program.  STAAR arrived with its own unique set of acronyms, characteristics, rules, guidelines, training modules, passing labels and much more. The implications from STAAR reach to graduation plans, course selections, grade point averages, instruction and even course grades (sooner or later).  Along with all of these new details surrounding the assessment itself, we can also add the need to learn new grade level or course TEKS; to revisit the TEKS to be sure our teaching is at the proper depth and complexity; to implement the ELPS and CCRS; to adjust to changes in Special Education, 504, local policy and perhaps even the most pressing: moving into a new classroom. No one is arguing that all of this comes easily; on the contrary, we readily admit our profession can seem overwhelming at times and changes can be clear as mud.  However, as professionals we approach these changes armed with our educational background, varied resources and profession-specific jargon.

Now, let’s consider our parents. 

As we throw around language such as allowable accommodations, EOC, AYP, TEKS, Readiness and Supporting standards, cumulative scores, scale scores, minimum scores, Advanced Performance and myriad other related terms, we sometimes even confuse ourselves. After all, it is similar to learning a new language.  With this in mind, we must be that much more diligent in helping our students and parents understand what is going on and what it means for THEM.

While it takes a village to raise a child, when it comes right down to it most parents, understandably so, are concerned with THEIR child.  Have you found yourself on the delivery side of an explanation sounding something like this yet?

“Well, your student met minimum… but no, that does not mean that they passed the EOC.  No, they are not required to retake the exam even though they did not pass the exam.  However, they may need to retake it in two years. Yes, meeting minimum can be beneficial because if they do well on the next two EOC exams and reach an appropriate cumulative scale score they will not have to retake this exam.  The scale score, however, for your eldest child is this value but your scale score for your next child is actually going to be this. “

Similar conversations will play out in many different ways for many different students and many different circumstances.  Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? We all have the best of intentions and are doing our very best to communicate relevant information in a timely fashion.   In doing so, however, are we certain we aren’t presenting based upon what WE know and the language WE use in our profession more than what may actually be received by those without the same background?

With this in mind, we wondered what the unique point of view of a 1st time EOC parent might be.  This InSight series, “Reflections from an EOC Parent,” aims to offer a glimpse into the minds of those outside of our daily jargon. This, in turn, may offer some insight to help us guide our communication as well as travel this path and learn together.  While all identifying names and institutions have been altered to protect the author’s anonymity, the pure reflection remains the same.  Additionally, the length of the article will vary as a result of the actual parent submissions. Here is the first of our parent reflections on STAAR.

“Initially, I didn’t think that the STAAR/EOC changes this year would impact my family any differently than state testing has in the past. However it did and upon reflection, we are left with question and concern.

First, let me share that my family is made up of three teenage kids. Our oldest is a girl and will be a senior for the year 12-13. We have two 15 year old twin boys who will be sophomores for the year 12-13. With this dynamic, we get to experience navigating school through our daughter two years prior to preparing our sons for what is to be expected. This has been to everyone’s benefit as our daughter is pretty responsible and motivated in school. She doesn’t need a lot of parental guidance to meet the demands of a teenage student. She is for the most part independent. The same cannot be stated for the boys. They are much more reliant on outside support from us as parents to make sure that they are meeting all of the school requirements to be a good student. Due to this pattern, we as parents try our best to anticipate the needs of the boys. Another note worth knowing is that my daughter and one of the twins do very well on the state assessments. However, the other twin struggles in his classes as well as on the state assessments. He skims by most of the state passing criteria in most subjects and has failed the state math (TAKS) every year since 5th grade. He finally passed the math TAKS his 8th grade year on the 2nd attempt.

This year was more difficult because we were not able to follow the lead that our daughter had experienced in STAAR/EOC/TAKS. Since the changes were made after her, we didn’t know what to expect, resulting in more confusion than usual and less ability to support the boys from a parental perspective. The school and district have provided information about the STAAR/EOC assessments on their web pages and through email. However, these are usually copy and paste narratives from TEA or links to the TEA information. This is not “parent friendly” reading in my opinion. When we ask our boys what they know, it is very difficult for them to share any information with us outside of… “I will be taking a test in Math.” They say they were told that the tests were going to be more difficult and they would have to solve more multi-step problems. As far as being able to help the boys study, we were at a disadvantage. We had no way to figure out what they needed to study and what they didn’t. Benchmark tests results were not shared with us (that may be because the boys didn’t share them) so we didn’t know where to spend any study focus. At this point we were left to trust that the school and the teachers were making sure things were in place at school. When I would call and visit to discuss extra tutoring opportunities for the twin that struggles and needed more, I was given dates for\ the week prior to the tests. Since we knew that he needed more than that, we had him tutored privately after school once a week for the entire 2nd semester. I had to come up with my own curriculum of study that I aligned to the TEKs that I knew he would be tested on.

Frustration grew as we quickly figured out that the delay in test results would not be available until the last week of school and in some subjects after school was out. This is extremely difficult for a family because it impacts summer plans that may be interrupted by the potential of summer school, test study sessions, or test retakes. Not to mention, we won’t know if a student who doesn’t pass the STAAR or EOC could be promoted to the next grade. All of this was left up in the air causing anxiety and stress for a child that already finds school frustrating. We received a letter in the mail June 10th with test results for all three kids. Our daughter and one twin did very well. The other twin PASSED the math test. YAY!!! However, he did not pass the reading or geography tests. He failed two out of four tests. That letter also gave us a study session date for each test he needed to retake as well as dates for the test retake. We are still waiting to hear if he passed those test on his second attempt.

My perspective as a parent is that if all three of my children where typical learners, we would have felt that the experience of STAAR/EOC change was not significant. However, we cannot say the same for my son who is a struggling learner. It has been confusing and frustrating trying to make sure we provide what he needs to succeed in school. Even with a twin who experiences everything at the same time as he does, we are still left with questions. There were many times when I would ask questions and the school would respond with, “This is all new and we are learning the processes as we go.” Don’t get me wrong, they are very kind and want to help my son, but it is difficult when even they are not informed very efficiently. The last conversation that I had with the school is that my son will in fact be promoted to sophomore status and will not have to retake courses. However, they also stated that this can only happen this year because the test is new and the district approved promotion of failures. It is anticipated that will change starting next year.

I plan to continue to learn as much as I can about the processes of EOC so that I can provide the support my children need. I want to be clear that I am an advocate of state standards and assessments. I think they are worthy and important. I think we are on our way to creating an assessment system that works, but we are not there yet. It seems to me that the system is working for the average and above average students, but our students at risk and struggling learners are at a real disadvantage. AYP is more informative in my opinion and I would like to see more emphasis and attention in that area.” (Parent reflection, received July, 2012)

  • What is this parent really telling us?
  • Can you identify or empathize with the parent?
  • How well do we consider those parents with additional challenges, such as language or education level barriers?
  • Can we be more purposeful in helping our communities learn and grow with us in today’s educational environment?

Understanding the Geometry STAAR EOC

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author: Emily Gray, Secondary Math Specialist

As we enter our second year of STAAR EOC exams, many of our mathematics students and teachers will be faced with the challenge of an End-of-Course exam in Geometry.  While the Algebra exams are relatively easy to understand (nearly all of the Algebra I TEKS have been tested before, and none of the Algebra II TEKS have ever been tested), the transition from the assessed Geometry TEKS on TAKS to the Geometry STAAR EOC is not so easy to understand.  Let’s look at a few facts to help illustrate this transition.

FACT: The Exit Level TAKS test has some Geometry questions on it.  The graphic below illustrates the percent of questions on the Exit Level TAKS that come from Grade 8, Algebra I, and Geometry TEKS.

The intention of the Exit Level TAKS test was to be a comprehensive exam over a broad range of topics.  The STAAR EOC exams, on the other hand, are designed to target the material from only one year of content in much greater depth.

FACT: The Exit Level TAKS test did not cover all of the Geometry TEKS. 

As you can see above, the Exit Level TAKS tested 51% of the Student Expectations (SEs) outlined in the Geometry TEKS, while on the STAAR EOC for Geometry 97% of the SEs will be eligible for testing.

FACT: On Exit Level TAKS, all SEs were created equal.  This usually translated to every SE eligible for testing being tested once, or occasionally twice.  This is not the case on any of the STAAR exams.  For STAAR, standards are designated as Readiness or Supporting.  For Geometry, 12 standards are deemed Readiness standards and will comprise 60-65% of the test (or 31-34 questions).  It seems likely then, that these standards will be assessed two, three, or even four times.  The remaining 24 Student Expectations eligible for testing will comprise 18-21 of the test questions.  Clearly, some of these standards will not be tested in a given year (although they may reappear the next year).

FACT: Knowing is half the battle!  You’ve taken the right first step by reading this article!  Want to know more?  Visit Region XIII’s STAAR Website ( or TEA’s STAAR Website ( to get even more information.  Want more that’s Geometry-specific?  Start by taking the FREE one-hour online course through Region XIII titled “Geometry STAAR EOC – I Can’t Believe They’re Testing the Whole Thing”.   To register for this course, go to , login or sign-up for an account, and search for Workshop # FA1224480.  Click “Register” at the bottom of the page to get started!




Setting up Systems: Shifting from Discipline to Procedures

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author: Stephanie Heinchon, Literacy Specialist


The start of the 2012-2013 school year is around the corner!  This is the time of year when we begin to think about our classroom rules and to develop our classroom management plan.   But what if, instead, we shift our thinking from discipline to procedures?  Harry Wong says, “The number one problem in the classroom is not discipline: it is the lack of procedures and routines.”




  • Discipline concerns how students behave.
  • Discipline has penalties and rewards.
  • Procedures concern how things are done.
  • Procedures have no penalties or rewards.


Behavior problems often result because the students do not know the procedures or they haven’t been explicitly ‘trained’ to follow procedures.  As we begin our year, we have to launch the systems we want in place for the remainder of the school year, such as centers and reading/writing workshop.  These systems have procedures we expect students to follow the entire year.  When “training” students on procedures, we can follow the gradual release of responsibility, or the I DO, WE DO, YOU DO model.



When introducing procedures and routines, the teacher must first model and teach the students what is expected, then allow the students to practice the procedures.  The first few weeks of school are an ideal time to launch these systems.  This does not mean we wait 21 days to begin instruction, but that we take 5 to 15 minutes a day to teach students exactly what we want them to do during centers and reading/writing workshop.


Let’s use literacy centers as an example.


Week 1: During the first week of launching centers, model the routines and procedures for one or two centers.  The goal is to build confidence in the students’ ability to work independently at those centers while building stamina.  The teacher is monitoring the students this week.


Week 2: During the second week of launching centers, introduce another center or two, modeling the expected routines and procedures.  Allow students to practice transitioning from center to center.  This week is an ideal time for the teacher to begin pulling students, one-on-one, for beginning of year assessments.


Week 3: During week three, introduce the last centers to the students, still allowing them time to practice and receive feedback from the teacher.  The expectation is that students know the procedures for transitioning from center to center independently and have built stamina to work independently for sustained amounts of time.  The teacher can now complete the one-on-one assessments and begin pulling small, flexible groups.


By week 4, we should have all the routines and procedures in place for centers and be able to pull small, flexible groups on a regular basis.


What if our only rule was:




Wong, Harry K., & Rosemary T. Wong,  The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher (4th edition) Mountain View, California: Harry K. Wong Publications, 2009.


First 21 Days created by Children’s Learning Institute at the University of Texas at Houston & University of Texas System/Texas Education Agency.

Exploring Integration in Elementary Curriculum, Part 1

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author:  Lori Reemts, Elementary Generalist


There is a place where the learning process, fueled by pure motivation, engages everyone in the room and authentically integrates critical thinking with content concepts. This place operates beyond barriers, perceived or otherwise, and capitalizes on the efficient and effective use of talent and time.

Although this may sound unattainable to some, the reality is that this place can often be found within our own instructional choices.   Of course we, as professionals, operate within larger systems and, of course, these systems each have their own issues, but when it comes right down to it the largest influencer and indicator of student success is the classroom teacher. (Stronge,  2010)  While respect should be given to the realities of life and teaching in today’s world, it is imperative to acknowledge and appreciate that educators do not have a simple or easy task;  it benefits no one to dwell on daily challenges when our energies could better be spent upon enacting change in our own classrooms.  Educators everywhere collectively cry out for the path and the simple answer to integration.  The goal of this series is to focus on this desire and suggestions for steps toward accomplishing this as we journey to this place we so covet.

In this first installment, it may be an excellent time to try to define “integration” so that our conversations center on similar ideas and starting points.  Believe it or not there are many variations in how we use this word which are quite dependent upon the person using the term and in what context.  Obvious historical examples exist referring to actual student integration during the Civil Rights movement, but in this context we are referring to skills and concepts addressed  in our classrooms.  The term itself has been thrown around for a number of years and has recently regained momentum; unfortunately for some, it has become a symbolic “buzz word” without substance.

Humphreys (1981) offers a basic definition: “An integrated study is one which children broadly explore knowledge in various subjects related to certain aspects of their environment.”  That is a wonderful academic definition of integration but let’s get to the practicality of the concept. Curriculum itself is the relationship between three main components: the written curriculum, the taught curriculum, and the tested curriculum.   Ideally this triad operates in balance and responds to each of the other sections.  The written curriculum would be that which we find on our documents. Components such as scope and sequence, vertical alignment, and unit guides exist to help teachers identify and define the “what,” the student expectations.  While important, this written curriculum exists and is effective only when brought to life through the taught curriculum, or instruction. This speaks to the art of teaching. These are the two areas with which to begin the conversation.  As written curriculum is built from the state standards, it is dependent upon those standards. Content area standards do change and not at the same time.  Aligning and integrating them within a written curriculum, therefore, takes time and may be at a slower pace than the call for it would like it to be.  One must know and understand the separate content areas’ requirements in order to accomplish the task of integrating them effectively.  This is not to say it cannot be done, but the reality is that written curriculum, as dynamic and living a document as it may be, is not equipped to change on a daily basis when classroom teachers must make instructional choices and connections, nor could it and remain credible and consistent.  What, then, is a teacher to do?

We turn to instructional integration.  This is where educators can capitalize on the information a written curriculum provides to them by seeking commonalities.  Learning does not occur on a bell schedule or subject shift during the day. Children and adults alike learn throughout the course of experiences rather than isolated skills or facts.  By embracing this continuous learning idea, even when operating on a much-needed school schedule, we can build transferrable skills in a more effective manner rather than feeling the need to “close out” Subject 1 in order to begin Subject 2.  These same real-life skills can be found within every content area as can almost endless content/concept connections. The key to locating these areas lies in working toward a core and solid understanding of what the most recent and required student expectations actually communicate.

Our next conversation will continue with this idea and explore how to use the required state standards and other information found within our written curriculum in order to effectively utilize and maximize the integration potential.

Humphreys, Alan, Thomas Post, and Arthur Ellis. Interdisciplinary Methods, A Thematic Approach. Santa Monica:

Goodyear, 1981.

Stronge, James. Effective Teachers = Student Achievement: What the Research Says. Larchmont: Eye on Education, 2010.

Student Leadership Opportunities

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author:  Diane Flaim, Education Specialist, Turnaround Support

 A school setting brings all types of students from all types of backgrounds together under one roof.  Having a Student Leadership Team that is representative of these various groups gives voice to students, and builds a trusting relationship between school administration and students.  Schools at all levels, K-12, have opportunities to empower students through leadership roles; however, when the leaders of the school intentionally plan for student leadership participation, students are truly provided with an avenue for influencing their learning community.

When developing leadership opportunities for students, it is important to remember that these opportunities can be formal or informal.  Regardless of the plan a school is putting into place, schools must:

  • define the student leadership role in a clear and concise manner;
  • allow a staff member who has a passion for student leadership to facilitate the work of the Student Leadership Team;
  • ensure formal and informal adult school leaders meet regularly and interact with the Student Leadership Team;
  • plan for active participation of student leaders in school wide settings;
  • model expected behaviors;
  • give timely feedback on the Student Leadership Team’s performance;
  • provide positive support to ensure success; and
  • recognize the Student Leadership Team’s accomplishments in a larger setting.

What are some ideas for student leadership?  The following is a list of student leadership opportunities that range from informal and unstructured to formal and structured.

  • Student Leadership Team. This could be a formal Student Council or a Leadership Group that meets regularly with school administration regarding school happenings.  These groups give feedback to administration on important issues at the school.  (Be sure to have formal selection criteria.)
  • Student Community Liaisons. These students assist with school fund raisers or community charity projects to help others in need.
  • New Student Greeters. These students spend the first few minutes of the day at the school office greeting new students and showing them to their classrooms.
  • Videographers. These students take videos of important parts of the school day describing how to be successful in each of these areas of the school (for example in the lunchroom, hallway, parking lot, etc.).
  • Lunchroom Assistants. Students help other students in the cafeteria.
  • Safety Patrol. Students assist with crosswalks, hallway monitoring, restroom monitoring.
  • Conflict Resolution Assistants. Trained in a conflict resolution technique, these students assist with simple misunderstandings to help fellow students come to a compromise/agreement.
  • School Events Planner.  These students work with school administration and the parent organization to plan, organize and carry out school events (e.g., read-a-thons, movie nights, art shows, assemblies, talent shows).
  • Tutor. Spends time assisting other students in academic needs
  • Morning Message. Students do daily announcements instead of school administration

This list may serve as a starting point for educators to begin thinking of ways to involve students in leadership capacities within the school context.  Grant Nelson, former Student Body President/Vice President of the Washington Association of Student Councils said, “The truth is that every student who wants to make a difference in his or her school must be willing to take action. Talking about the student who is eating alone a few tables across from you does not comfort him. Talking about the girl that gets made fun of in science class will not help her situation. Many of today’s student leaders I have met understand this virtue, and I just hope that over time more students catch on. It is only then that the halls of our schools will be filled with joy, that there will be no student at school who feels alone, and that the school community will be able to achieve true greatness.”

Student Leadership Web Resources

Peer Assistance and Leadership (PAL),

The Student Leadership Challenge,

National Association of Student Councils


John Hopkins University School of Education, New Horizons for Learning (2003), “Student Leadership Today,” accessed August 17, 2012.

Section 504 FAQ

Friday, August 24th, 2012

 Authors:  Susan Patteson and Judy Butler


What is the purpose of Section 504?

Section 504’s main emphasis in the schools is equal educational opportunity, which is mainly accomplished by providing appropriate classroom accommodations to eligible disabled students. Section 504 also requires that eligible students are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in school extracurricular and nonacademic activities.

Section 504 is a nondiscrimination statute. The results of the disability must be that the student is unable to achieve equal access or benefit from the school’s program and activities as compared to a nondisabled peer. The existence of a physical or mental impairment does not mean that the child automatically qualifies under Section 504.

Who is disabled under Section 504?

An eligible Section 504 student is one with:

  1. a physical or mental impairment
  2. an impairment that substantially limits learning or another major life activity

The major life activities that were previously provided as examples were breathing, walking, seeing, hearing and learning. Through the ADA Amendment Act, Congress has provided examples of additional major life activities including major bodily functions (immune system, normal cell growth) as well as sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating. The major life activities in Section 504 regulations have always been meant to be examples and not an exclusive or exhaustive listing.

Unlike IDEA, Section 504 does not list a few disabilities (each with strict eligibility criteria) which result in eligibility. Instead, a broad formula is used to include many more disabilities. Specific physical or mental impairments are not listed in the regulations “because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of any such list .”  “ Department of Education”, last modified 3/17/2011,

American Disabilities Act and the Amendments Act of 2008

A person is substantially limited if he/she is: “Unable to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform,” 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(j).(1)(i).   Within the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, 122 STAT.3554 Public Law 110-325-Sept. 2008, Congress found that the current EOC ADA regulations defining the term “substantially limits” as “significantly restricted” are inconsistent with congressional intent, by expressing too high a standard.  Additionally, 122 STAT.3556 Public Law 110-325 –Sept. 25, 2008 states that “substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures.”  Mitigating measures may be summarized to include medication, medical supplies or equipment, use of assistive technology, reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services, or learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.

What is the role of Section 504 in the public schools?

34CFR 104.33(1) of Section 504 requires schools to provide a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to eligible students and the Free Appropriate Public Education and related aids and services are based upon adherence to procedures that satisfy the requirements of Sec  104.34, 104.35, and 104.36.  These sections of the federal educational code provide guidelines for how public schools (or recipients of federal financial assistance) will evaluate and re-evaluate, determine eligibility, placement and setting, and implement procedural safeguards.

It also requires non-discrimination in non-academic and extracurricular programs and activities (the non-FAPE activities) as well as compliance with Section 504 procedural requirements (notice, access to relevant records, opportunity for impartial due process hearings and a review process).

What is FAPE ?

A Free Appropriate Public Education is defined under 34 CFR 104.33.  In summary, this federal statute of Title 34 of the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that each qualified handicapped person residing in the recipient’s jurisdiction receives an education that is:

  • free, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s handicap
  • appropriate, either regular or special education and related aids and services, and
  • provided within the handicapped person’s Least Restrictive Environment.

ESC Region XIII’s online module “Understanding Basic 504 Procedures and Services: A Sample Campus Training Module” may be accessed by registering through our E-Campus system using Workshop # FA1224572.  This is a free, soon to be published online module that will assist district and campus staff in developing their own Section 504 processes to ensure FAPE and their adherence to Section 504 procedures.


ESC Region XIII Section 504 Site:

Judy Butler ( or 512.919.5168)

Susan Patteson (  or 512.919.5401)

Text of the federal statutes 34 CFR 104 of Section 504 and the ADA Amendments Act may be accessed through the Appendix of:

Texas Education Agency, “The Dyslexia Handbook-Revised 2007, Updated 2010: Procedures Concerning Dyslexia and Related Disorders.”

Leadership and Supervision

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author:  Dr. Lauralee Pankonien, Senior Coordinator for Educator Quality and Diane Potter, Coordinator for Administrator Quality


There are a multitude of hats worn by campus leaders, so many that it is often difficult to decide which one is the most important or how to decide where to begin.  So let’s start with the assumption, based on data and research, that no role of a campus leader will impact student achievement more than that of SUPERVISION.

Of course, we need to begin with a clear definition of supervision.  For the purposes of this article, let’s define supervision as the process by which individuals in the school are supported in accomplishing their goal of improving student performance.  Put another way, supervision draws together the discrete elements of instructional effectiveness into whole school action.

To get further clarity before we move on, let’s think about what is involved.

Supervision must be:

  • learner-centered and based upon the identified needs of teachers and yourself as the instructional leader
  • based on high expectations for growth toward more expert professional practice
  • collaboratively implemented and supported by collegial professional relationships
  • an essential part of the continuous improvement process
  • used by both teachers and instructional leaders
  • individual and campus-wide growth

As we think of each of these components, it’s also important that we think about the FOUR CRITICAL PREMISES that serve as the foundation for the process:

It should be obvious by now that leadership for innovation requires a person with a vision and the capacity to extend it to others. An effective leader is continually moving toward the vision through meeting his/her individual responsibilities as an instructional leader, utilizing the Continuous Improvement Process on the campus as a whole. Supervision is an ongoing process and a function filled with a multitude of daily activities and responsibilities that must be accomplished. Learning to prioritize those activities is critical in order to keep the focus on student achievement.  FINDING TIME for supervision means preserving time for those key interactions with faculty and staff.


How does an effective campus leader find that time?  Rather than giving oneself absolutes, it is often more manageable to think in terms of decreasing some behaviors and increasing others.



decisions based on assumptions data-driven decisions
directive leadership collaborative leadership
assuming the role of expert who knows what is best assuming the role of being a facilitator who encourages self-direction among staff


Once supervision is given the emphasis and time required, the next most important step is for the campus leader to focus on FEEDBACK.  But not just any feedback, as Glickman points out.  Providing quality feedback assists and supports teachers, enabling them to succeed. A supervisor’s function is to provide direct assistance to ensure that teachers receive feedback, are not left alone, and are involved as part of a collective staff.‖ (Glickman, Gordon, and Gordon, 1998)  Effective feedback will help you as campus leader to keep good teachers in the classroom.

The purpose of informal feedback is:

    • to positively reinforce strong instructional strategies
    • to assist in focus for walk-throughs
    • to identify resources for sustained support

Pairing the informal feedback with formal feedback and direct assistance to teachers is a crucial element of a successful school, always with the focus of professional growth and instructional improvement.

Finally, certainly DOCUMENTATION is critical to the continuous improvement cycle.  The analysis and interpretation of the observation(s) determines  the approach for the conference(s). Documentation is the data collected in a nonjudgmental fashion during the lesson. Data collection is conducted during observations through scripting (verbatim record) and describing (actions and events of teacher and/or students). The importance of documentation is to provide support of legal, ethical, and local policies and decisions. Effective documentation provides accurate communication to the teacher and is a part of appropriate personnel procedures.

Effective, ongoing, productive, authentic supervision can and must be accomplished by campus leaders – starting with a CLEAR PLAN and PURPOSE.  Again, effective supervision requires a person with a vision, and the capacity to extend it to others.

Instructional Leadership Development: Moving Texas Forward.  Austin, TX: Texas Education Agency, 2005.

Glickman, Carl D., Gordon, Stephen P. and Ross-Gordon, Jovita M.,  Supervision and Instructional Leadership – A Developmental Approach. New York: Prentice Hall, 2007.