White House Highlights STEM Innovators in the Disability Community

Read below for an AWESOME live streaming opportunity to share with your students.  If you can’t make it to today’s LIVE event, the recorded archives are also available from the same site.

On Monday, May 7th, the White House will honor 14 individuals as Champions of Change for leading the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math for people with disabilities in education and employment.

“STEM is vital to America’s future in education and employment, so equal access for people with disabilities is imperative, as they can contribute to and benefit from STEM,” said Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy. “The leaders we’ve selected as Champions of Change are proving that when the playing field is level, people with disabilities can excel in STEM, develop new products, create scientific inventions, open successful businesses, and contribute equally to the economic and educational future of our country.”

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 1:30 pm ET on May 7th.

Expert Interview with Milton Dehn

I recently interviewed memory expert Milton Dehn. He’s the author of four different books on educational psychology, three of which focus on how to assess and improve a student’s memory.

During our interview he answered the following four BIG questions:
1. What is memory?
2. Is there a difference between learning and memory?
3. How can a teacher assess a student’s memory capabilities?
4. How can a teacher improve a student’s memory?

Enjoy the video below.

Extended Learning from Milton Dehn
3-hour Webinar on Working Memory

3-hour Webinar on Long-Term Memory

How to Use a Dictionary

Our most recent accommodations update post was all about the dictionary.  The dictionary can be a great tool to have at your disposal, but if the student is clueless on its purpose and its magical word finding powers, it becomes nothing more than another heavy book.

So where should you start?  The first place to start might be with the Top Ten Reasons to Use a Dictionary.

1.  Learn how to spell a word and its plural form.
2.  Determine if a word is capitalized or abbreviated.
3.  Learn how to break the word into syllables.
4.  To pronounce the word correctly.
5.  Learn the part of speech of a word.
6.  Find the different meanings that the word has, as well as synonyms (same meaning) and
antonyms (opposite meaning).
7.  Find a sentence or expression with the word used correctly.
8.  Find the meanings of important prefixes and suffixes.
9.  Learn the special uses of a word.
10.  Find other words derived from the main word.

Now that your students are armed with the Top Ten Reasons to Use a Dictionary.  They’ll need some practice to learn how to use it.  We’ve found some really helpful dictionay-focused websites and instructional tools.

The resources below include information about guide words, parts of speech, pronunciation keys, and entry words. There are worksheets, definitions, games, lesson plans, tutorials, and more.


1.  Reading the Dictionary—This 26 page PDF file from Pearson includes explanations of how to use a dictionary, it includes exercises on syllables, parts of speech, definitions, and more.

2.  Education World, Dictionary Activities—This page has eight different dictionary activities and lessons for various grade levels.

3.  “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” Dictionary Game—Students can play this game to test their knowledge of guide words.

4.  Dictionary Scavenger Hunt Example—The scavenger hunt provides students the chance to practice using a variety of dictionary based skills.  The example is in Microsoft Word, so feel free to create your own sheets to play with your class.

2011-2012 STAAR Accommodations Update #6

The Dictionary

The dictionary is now considered a type 2 accommodation aimed at helping students with disabilities to facilitate comprehension of unfamiliar words.  There are a few differences in how students with disabilities are able to use a dictionary on STAAR than previously allowed on TAKS.

We’ve listed four of the major highlights below.

Highlight #1
The use of a dictionary is now ONLY allowed as an accommodation for grades 3-5 Reading, STAAR, STAAR Spanish, and STAAR Modified assessments.  The 2010-2011 TAKS Accommodations Manual lists the dictionary as a Supplemental Aid, which can be used on the following TAKS Accommodated and TAKS-Modified assessments: Reading/ELA, Social Studies, and Science.

The dictionary now stands on it’s own as an accommodation and must be noted separately from the use of a Supplemental Aid for STAAR.

Highlight #2
Sometimes the dictionary is a required tool that must be made available during specific STAAR assessments.  In this situation, there isn’t a need to identify the dictionary as a necessary accommodation on the students IEP or IAP paperwork for assessment purposes.  A dictionary must be made available to all students taking ALL of the assessments below.

  • STAAR Reading assessments (including STAAR Modified) at grades 6–8
  • STAAR Writing assessments (including STAAR Modified) at grade 7
  • STAAR English I, II, and III Reading and Writing assessments (including STAAR Modified)
Highlight #3
Only students that meet ALL of the eligibility criteria below are eligible to use this accommodation during the available grades 3-5 STAAR Reading assessments.
A student may use this accommodation if he or she…
  • receives special education or Section 504 services,
  • routinely, independently, and effectively uses this accommodation during classroom instruction and testing, and
  • has a disability that affects memory retrieval and/or decoding skills.
Highlight #4
Teacher-made or student-made dictionaries are NEVER allowed.  Only dictionaries that have been commercially produced are allowed for student use.  Electronic dictionaries that are able to read the text to the student are now an allowable accommodation.
Upcoming Post…
In an upcoming post we will share some resources focusing on how to teach students to use a dictionary successfully.  If you already have some great ideas on how to teach students to use a dictionary please leave them in the comments section below.

FREE Webinar: Spelling Type 2 Accommodation Tools

Join Nichole Kertis, our ESC Region XIII Assistive Technology specialist for a free webinar on Type 2 Accommodation technology tools for spelling.

Participants will learn about some amazing free and commercial technology tools that provide text-to-speech, speech-to-text, word prediction, and other technological supports for struggling spellers.

The exciting part about those amazing spelling tools is that students will be able to use them on specific STAAR and STAAR Modified assessments.

If you’re interested in giving your students a spelling advantage during instructional and assessment time, click on the link below to register.

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

Date: Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Time:  12:00 PM to 1:00 PM CST

Presenter:  Nichole Kertis, OT, Assistive Technology Education Specialist

2011-2012 STAAR Accommodations Update #5

Newly Updated STAAR Accommodations Posts
With the exception of just a few more updates from TEA, almost everything we need to know about accommodations has been updated on their accommodations website.  Due to the new changes that have been added in the past month, we have gone back and updated our previous four STAAR Accommodations Update posts to reflect the new information from TEA.

Below is a link to each updated post and a brief description to the changes that were made.

2011-2012 STAAR Accommodations Update #1
1.  No changes were needed.

2011-2012 STAAR Accommodations Update #2
1.  Updated the link to the new Critical Information about Accommodations… document.
2.  Updated the link to the new Optional Test Administration and Procedures                                   (OTAPMs) document.

2011-2012 STAAR Accommodations Update #3
1.  Removed “Individual or Small Group Testing” from the list of available OTAPMs.
2.  Added “Read Aloud the Writing Prompt” to the list of available OTAPMs.

2011-2012 STAAR Accommodations Update #4
1.  Updated all of the hyperlinks to the newly referenced TEA documents.
2.  Changed the total number of accommodations available in Type 1 & Type 3.
3.  Added the ARF request form deadline to the Type 3 description.

Who can you call or email with your questions?
We have a team of seven education specialists ready to help you with your assessment and accommodation questions.  The linked document above and below lists who you can call based on the topic of your question.

The best part is that you can give us a call or email us at anytime for FREE!

Assessment & Accommodation Question Support List

2011-2012 STAAR Accommodations Update #4

The STAAR Accommodation Triangle is the new organizational structure for assessment accommodations for students with disabilities.  This is a much different approach than the organizational structure for the past and current TAKS Accommodations.

The TAKS accommodations are organized by the following four categories:  Presentation, Response, Setting, and Timing & Scheduling.  Even though all of the current STAAR accommodations could also fit into the above TAKS accommodation categories, you will not find any mention of those four terms when it comes to STAAR.

The Triangle
All of the STAAR accommodations are classified into the following three types: Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3.  The Accommodation Triangle organizes accommodations by type in accordance with the specificity of the eligibility criteria and the need for TEA approval.  As you move down the triangle, from top to bottom, the number of students eligible for each accommodation will shrink.  For example, a larger group of students will meet the eligibility requirements for the accommodations listed as a Type 1 or 2, as opposed to Type 3.

Accommodations by the Numbers & an ARF
There are four accommodations categorized as Type 1, eleven as Type 2, and four as Type 3.  It is also important to note that Type 1 and Type 2 accommodations do not require you to submit an Accommodation Request Form (ARF) for approval.  The submission of an ARF will only be required when a student will be using a Type 3 accommodation.

TEA’s Definition for Each Type
Type 1 Accommodations:  This type of accommodation is available for students who have a specific need and who routinely, independently, and effectively use the accommodation during classroom instruction and testing. It is not necessary to submit an Accommodation Request Form to TEA.

Type 2 Accommodations:  This type of accommodation includes the requirements of Type 1, along with additional specific eligibility criteria. It is not necessary to submit an Accommodation Request Form to TEA.

Type 3 Accommodations:  This type of accommodation requires the submission of an Accommodation Request Form to TEA. For accommodations listed in the Accommodation Triangle under Type 3, the appropriate team of people at the campus level (e.g., ARD committee, Section 504 placement committee, RTI team, student assistance team) determines whether the student meets all of the specific eligibility criteria and, if so, submits an Accommodation Request Form. Type 3 also contains accommodations that are listed as “Other,” which includes any accommodation that does not appear in the Accommodation Triangle.

For accommodations not listed in the Accommodation Triangle, an Accommodation Request Form must be submitted to TEA. The request must be approved by TEA before a student can use the accommodation on the statewide assessment. Any accommodation that requires the submission and approval of an Accommodation Request Form must be documented in the student’s paperwork as “pending TEA approval.”  Accommodation Request Forms must be received by TEA at least one week prior to testing to ensure enough time to process.  Requests sent after this deadline will NOT be processed.

FREE Webinar: Choosing the Right STAAR Assessment

SESSION FULL:  An archived recording will be posted soon after the live event.

How can you be sure that your STAARs are aligned and each student will be taking the appropriate test?
Join ESC XIII Education Specialist, Laura Abbott, for a 60 minute webinar as she reviews some practical techniques to ensure students receiving special education services are given the correct STAAR assessment.
Join Laura Abbott as she will…
  • unveil a single-page process for assuring that the appropriate assessment will be selected with confidence.
  • teach you how to make the correct decision based on instructional need, student history, and current student data.
  • discuss in detail the STAAR Modified participation requirements and the role they play in the decision making process.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?  Administrators, general educators, special educators, and anyone else who plays a critical role in deciding the appropriate STAAR assessment for a student.

SESSION FULLAn archived recording will be posted soon after the live event.
This Friday, November 18, 2011 at 10:00 am CST

Click on the links below to access some pre-webinar information.  Both links are recent blog posts focusing on the STAAR Modified participation requirements and a sneak peek to Laura’s STAAR Alignment tools.
An archived recording will be made available to those who registered for the session but were either unable to attend or were placed on the waiting list.

NEW Expert Interview with Jonathan Winn

How does a brand new teacher quit after his first two years because he was so miserable, to come back to create the most popular class on campus?

Jonathan Winn, San Diego’s 2011 HS Teacher of the Year, did just that.  His passion for teaching was reignited by a fellow Algebra teacher; he studied, learned, and copied his way back into the thrust of creating a highly energizing and engaging classroom.  His passion for teaching and learning really comes out in the interview.  He shares his amazing comeback story, along with some of his favorite instructional techniques:  questioning, guided practice, checking for understanding, and most importantly how to help students believe in themselves.

Take the interview with you… Right click here to download the MP3 version.

To learn more about Jonathan, check out this video on Edutopia.com.

2011-2012 STAAR Accommodations Update #3

The following information will affect every educator and student on your campus.  Please be sure to share this Accommodations Update with everyone on your staff.

One of the biggest changes to the statewide accommodations system is the new Optional Test Administration Procedures and Materials document.  This document describes eleven procedures and materials that may be used during the STAAR, STAAR Spanish, STAAR Modified, STAAR L, and TELPAS statewide assessments.  These optional procedures and materials may be provided to any student who needs them, based on his or her needs.  The following list of the eleven procedures and materials will include some supports that have previously been considered accommodations.

Optional Test Administration Procedures and Materials for Any Student

  1. Preferential seating
  2. Signing test administration directions OR translating test administration directions
  3. Reading the test aloud to self
  4. Scratch paper or another workspace
  5. Reading assistance on the grade 3 mathematics test
  6. Read aloud the writing prompt, except for the English III analytical prompt
  7. Minimizing distractions
  8. Colored overlays
  9. Magnifying devices
  10. Blank place markers
  11. Highlighters or colored pencils

Decisions and Documentation
The decision to provide a student any of the above options should be made by the appropriate student decision team at the campus level.  The table below illustrates the appropriate student decision team that will determine the appropriate optional procedures and materials for a particular student and where the decision should be documented.

Student Committee/Team Documentation
A student receiving special education services ARD Committee IEP
A student receiving section 504 services Section 504 Placement Committee IAP
A student not receiving sped or 504 services RTI or Campus Level Team Determined at the local level

6 Critical Highlights

  1. Many of these procedures and materials were previously considered accommodations.
  2. These eleven options were chosen due to their close relationship to instructional best practices.
  3. The use of these optional materials and procedures will NOT be recorded on the student’s answer document.
  4. They are available to any student who needs them.
  5. The student should have successful experience with the specific procedures and materials.
  6. Every educator needs to be aware of these new optional procedures and materials, as they are available to any student who needs them.