Tag Archives: Just the facts please!

This blog contain simple facts about the topic. It may be a short reminder of something you learned a long time ago, but refreshers are always good.

Clearing the Air



I spent this last week speaking to educators about accommodations and modifications. I gave the same presentations EIGHT times, but every time it was a little different. Even though every group was a little different, there were a few common questions that kept coming up. They were so common that it made me realize this is information that may not be clear for many people, so I’d like to clear a few things up.

First, please remember an accommodation is meant to level the playing field. Accommodations are designed to reduce or even eliminate the effects of a disability. A modification changes the field you’re playing on. This is a fundamental change in the curriculum, or here in Texas, this means you are changing or not expecting mastery of all the TEKS.

A student DOES NOT have to be in Special Education to receive accommodations. Glasses are an accommodation; however glasses do not qualify you for Special Ed. A student may be successful with mild accommodations without the need for Special Ed services. With that being said, most of our Special Ed students DO receive accommodations. So while needing an accommodation does not make you a Special Ed student, if you are a Special Ed student you likely need accommodations. Find out what those are EARLY so you can be prepared to design lessons that meet the needs of ALL the students in your class. You should be getting IEPs (Individual Education Plans) for all your Special Ed students. IF you aren’t find your Special Ed teacher and ask for them!

Paraprofessionals do NOT need to be the ones making the accommodations or modifications. Paraprofessionals are extremely valuable to students, teachers and class environments; however there are limitations to what they should do. As the teacher you should be thinking about the needs of your students while you design lessons and activities and make those accommodations/ modifications ahead of time. It’s all about “frontloading”. For more information about how to most effectively utilize your paraprofessionals look at this TEA approved document: Paraprofessional_2013

When thinking about the classroom setting for your Special Ed students please remember that the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is, according to Texas guidance, the General Ed classroom. Please see the LRE guidance document. LRE-QA
Least Restrictive Environment is referring to the environment that restricts the student from the General Ed population in the smallest way. That is why the genera Ed classroom is the LRE and anytime you pull from there you are “restricting” the child’s environment. This does NOT mean that ALL students should be in the General Ed classroom all the time. In Fact the guidance document goes on to discuss the continuum of services that is required. But, according to TEA guidance, when you pull from the General Ed classroom you are moving into a more “restrictive” environment even if it is the most appropriate. LRE does NOT refer to the environment in which they are free to move about the room or be louder.

Special Ed students still need to be challenged. So when looking at accommodations, make sure you are still setting limits and pushing your students; EX: extended time does not mean until the END of time. Make sure they know the boundaries. Special Ed students CAN FAIL a class. They have to work just like everyone else. They may need a different approach, change in content or material, but there still has to be a standard. If you have questions about grading for a Special Ed student talk with your administrator, your district should have grading policies. For the most part, those will also apply to your Special Ed students. There may be rare instances when they are adjusted, but that should be discussed on a case by case base.

Bottom line, know your students. As educators we are here to help ALL kids be successful in academics, but also in life. That’s a big job, so take it one kid and one day at a time. Have a great school year.


Last post for 2012-check out the extras



Before the New Year I wanted to add a couple of things to my posts from 2012.  I wrote about executive functioning and how important it is to our students, Executive Functioning: How is it affecting your students?  Yesterday I ran across this article and wanted to share it as well.

Executive function: A new lens for viewing your child.

The author of this article does a great job of explaining what executive functioning is and how it affects our students.   I particularly like the chart that shows how executive functioning affects academic areas like Reading and Writing.  Check it out.

I also want to add to the post I wrote on Educational Apps .  Click on Apps in Education to access a blog about apps you can use in teaching.  This blog breaks the apps down by subject and purpose.  It is VERY useful.ipad

Finally, I wanted to share this article by Angela Watson, How to work a 40 hour week as a teacher.  teacherAngela Watson is an educational consultant in New York and the creator of thecornerstoneforteachers.com.  She has a lot of useful resources on her website and I think this is one article that any teacher can appreciate.  Teachers are overworked and underappreciated.  Teachers go beyond the 7:00-4:00 teaching time.  They work nights and weekends often sacrificing time with their family.

Thank you to everyone who has read my blog in 2012.  I hope to make 2013 even better.

Transition and Challenging Behavior


Many students, both with diagnosed disabilities and without, struggle with transition.  We often see this in school when students start a new year and they are adjusting to a new situation or when they go home for a long holiday break and have to adjust back into the school routine.  Sometime the anxiety and confusion caused by these times of transition can create challenging behaviors.  These behaviors may seem defiant or disrespectful and once they occur in the school setting they must be addressed.  This often leads to punishment that the student doesn’t understand or respond too.

In an effort to head off some challenging behaviors in the classroom or at home consider looking into transitional strategies to help during times when the students schedule will change.

1.  Calendar-Many parents of Autistic students keep a calendar to review with their child every day.  This calendar will have days that school will not be held as well as appointments or family events.  They review it at the same time everyday.  By making this calendar part of your daily routine, your child will get use to the pre-warning of change.  (This works for ANY child who struggles with change.)

2.  Visual Schedules- Some students require a visual schedule to be successful both at school and at home.  The student would have a schedule of their day with pictures of each activity and as they go through activities they would remove the pictures.  This is can go from home to school and can help with everyday transitions like, coming to school and going to lunch.

3.  Timers- Some students need a pre-warning before they change activities.  Especially activities they are working on independently.  A timer can be of great use.  Set the time and pre-warn the child that in 5 min* they will change activities.  This also works well at home if you want to transition from computer, TV or outside time.  (*The amount of pre-warning time may vary from kid to kid based on need.)

4.  Count down– As students go home for long breaks, like Christmas, it is important for them to remember that they will come back to school.  You can create a count down to monitor daily.  This can be done on the computer or it can be part of you calendar.  Also as something special, if your school would help, give Christmas cards to teachers to fill out.  One for every day the child will be out of school.  EX: If you are out for 14 days, then 14 different people will write a simple card. “Merry Christmas, hope you are having a great break.  See you in 14 days.”  The child will open a new card everyday and the cards will count down until the last card says “see you tomorrow”.

These are a few of the most common transitional strategies.   If you have a student or a child who struggles with transition check into strategies that can help them be more successful.  If you wait until after the transition then you may see an increase in challenging behaviors that can be hard to handle.

Check out these web sites for more ideas:

Moving right along!

Child Behavior Guide



Most schools are about to start week three.  The first two weeks are a combination of setting a routine, setting boundaries and getting to know your students.   But by now you may already have concerns for some students behavior and/or academics.  This applies to both teachers and parents.  RTI is a process that starts in the General Ed class with the teacher’s response to deficit areas.  Even if the student has NOT been referred to the RTI committee yet, it is important to start keeping the right kind of data now, so that better interventions can be developed if they are referred.

Teachers- if you have a student who is already demonstrating behavioral or academic difficulties start monitoring them.  You need to be keeping analytical and statistical data.  Analytical being your personal notes, thoughts, phone calls, conferences ect… Statistical being test, daily work and interventions that you’ve started.

EX: You may have a student that you already see is going to have difficulties staying in their seat.  So you employ strategies to help the student, such as setting up a defined seating area, allowing opportunities for approved movement and the use of fidget tools.  As you use these strategies keep data on how effective, or ineffective, they are over a period of time; this way if you need to refer or get further assistance you have your data.

For behavior it will be important for you to keep up with the child’s ABCs. (Antecedent or trigger, what the concerning Behavior is, and the Consequence or response from others around after the behavior occurs.)

If you are already seeing academic difficulties start with Tier one interventions.  REMEMBER AN INTERVENTION IS INSTRUCTION!!!  These are things you will do in your classroom.  You may want to make the RTI person aware of the problem, simply follow your schools protocol.  But start intervening in your classroom now!

According to “Essentials of Evidence-Based Academic Interventions” by: Barbara Wendling and Nancy Mather, Tier One interventions start with evidence based instruction.

Evidence-based instruction has been defined as “the integration of professional wisdom with the best available empirical evidence in making decisions about how to deliver instructions”.

According to this source (Rapid Reference 1.1) here are Ten Effective Teaching Principals.

1. Active Engagement

2. Built in Success

3. Increased opportunity to learn

4. Direct Instruction

5. Scaffold instruction

6. Addressing other forms of knowledge (declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge, conditional knowledge)

7. Organizing and activating knowledge

8. Teaching strategically to create independent and self-regulated learners

9. Explicit Instruction

10. Teaching sameness

According to the same book here are the Nine Best Instructional Strategies

1. Identifying similarities and differences

2. Summarizing and note taking

3. Reinforce effort and providing recognition

4. Providing appropriate homework/practice

5. Producing physical and mental images

6. Having students engaged in cooperative learning

7. Setting goals and providing feedback

8. Generating and testing hypotheses

9. Providing activities to help students activate prior knowledge

For more information on these strategies or interventions specific to Reading, Math and Writing check out the above listed resource.

In your documentation you would want to indicate:

1. What strategies and interventions are being used?

2. How long these have been in place? — There is no set time to be in any given Tier, but it is important to know length of time to help determine the rate of response.

3. What is the target or goal? –A student who has been identified as struggling probably won’t have the same target as all other students.  So how much growth do you want to see?  Remember to be reasonable with the expectations.  We want all students to be on grade level, but that may not be a realistic starting point for all students.

4. What is the result for the struggling child? –Did they meet their target/goal?

5. How does this compare to the whole class and other students receiving this intervention? –If everyone’s target drops then the overall class instruction may need to be revisited.

This is a great place to mention learning styles and how they affect teaching.  We know that everyone learns a little differently.  Because of this, every strategy and intervention affects different students in different ways.  As a teacher you may have a class in which the majority respond to your teaching style.  They get it.  They are successful.  The next year, you do everything the same way, but the majority doesn’t respond.  They are not successful.   This does not mean you’re doing less, or not doing a good job.  It simply means majority of the students did not respond to that method of teaching.  The key is to pick this out early and adjust your teaching style to fit your students.  If more than 15 percent are not responding you may need to change the overall way you approach teaching that group.  If only 15 percent are not responding then the overall approach is appropriate and that 15 percent is the target group you need to do more intervention with and document the response.   This is why it is important to compare the lower students to the class as a whole.  How is your teaching style working for the majority of your class?

Parents:  If you are already feeling that your child is struggling start talking with their teachers.  Let them know you are concerned.  Ask about how they are doing in class and if they can attend any type of tutorials.  Also ask about RTI and what level of support they need.  As a parent we sometime worry a little to soon and they may not be struggling as much as we think, but it NEVER hurts to ask questions.  Get advice on what else needs to be done and how you can help from home.  This is a team effort and we all have to work together.

Remember ever child is different and there is usually not a quick fix for behavior or academic difficulties.  We have to work together to collect data, assess when needed and develop appropriate plans to help our children.

Behavior Intervention: Check In/Check Out


For a couple of summers now I’ve presented at the Behavior Blast for the Region 14 Educational Service Center.  This is a week of break out session covering a variety of topics, all concerning behavior.   One of my presentations is about a check in/check out program called the “The Behavior Education Program” or BEP.

Book Information:

Responding to Problem Behavior in Schools

Second Edition

The Behavior Education Program

Deanne A. Crone, Leanne S. Hawken, and Robert H. Horner

This is a good book to read to get an understanding of how a check in/check out program should work.  It also comes with training materials.    The book will stress that you follow the program exactly as they describe it.  I disagree.   While it is good to know how their program works; the key thing to remember is that with any program you will need to modify it to fit your specific setting.  What the book does is provide good guidelines and reminders about what you need and how to get started.  After that keep the general concepts and make it your own.  This program could be modified to fit a single class or grade level, however remember it will be most successful if used across the entire campus.

So how does it work?  You set students up with an adult mentor (the book calls this the BEP coordinator). They will meet with this adult every morning to discuss behavioral goals and receive their daily behavior report card (DBRC)**Click Daily Behavior Progress Report to see an example of a DBRC. **Note: This is an example, the goal are VERY generic.  Goals for your students should be more specific.**

Students then go to all classes and receive points from every teacher based on their goals.  Example: If a student is working on staying in their seat, that would be on their card.  The teacher would give them 2 points if they were perfect, 1 point if they needed some reminding and 0 points if they did not respond to reminders.  Then at the end of the day the student meets back with their adult mentor and adds up their points.  They can receive rewards based on reaching their point goal.  These could be given out daily or weekly, depending on the need of the student.   You could also schedule a check in point during the day and give a reward then.  Remember you design the plan to fit the needs of the student. (See my Incentives post for 100 free rewards ideas)

There is a component where you can send a carbon copy of the DBRC home to the parents for them to review, sign and return.  This should be done on a case-by-case base and is NOT necessary for the program to work, but can lead to stronger results if carried out properly. The success of parent involvement will depend on the parents and the child.  If you do choose to include parents be sure to TRAIN them on what this program is and how they can help produce results.

Click  Overview to see a visual diagram of the program.

Ok, so that’s basically the fast and rough overview.  So lets look at some key areas you will need to consider.  Here are some links that will give you questions to help develop your Check in/Check out system.

1. How to implement_– This document provides you with questions that will get you on the right path to developing the program.

2.BEP Coordinator-This document provides qualities that a good adult mentor/ BEP coordinator would have.

3.Referral System.- This document contains questions that will guide you through developing a referral system that fits in your schools.

4. Managing Data– This Document will help you standardize the data collection and review.

5. Fading Students Out– This document will help you fade students out of the program.

Please keep in mind that this is a very rough overview.  You need to develop a program that fits the needs of your students and school.  Any program needs to contain positive adult contact first thing in the morning and at the end of the day, a way of tracking progress throughout the day (Daily Behavior Report Card), and a way to track the daily progress over time.  This is NOT part of a discipline process and should be kept separate from discipline procedures.   As you train staff, students and parents remember this is a positive intervention.

**NOTE: I considered attaching the full Powerpoint from my training session, but I was afraid it would produce more questions than answers.  If you are interested in setting up a check in/check out program email me and I’ll get you more information.   kari.calcote@gmail.com

Can you focus when you’re hungry?


Yesterday I was at the mall buying a new phone when I ran into one of my old students.  I haven’t seen this kid for over a year.  Most of my former students act like they don’t know me, so I was surprised that he acknowledged me. For you to fully understand my reaction you need to know what my role was for him.  I was a Behavior Coach.  I worked with students who frequented ISS and the alternative campus like it was a party. I tried to help them improve behavior, grades and stay in class.  With this background knowledge you might understand why my first thought was, “please don’t be shop lifting”.

I know that seems harsh, but the reality is this kid has a rough life and has made some bad choices to survive.

Well, I guess my thoughts were displayed in my expression because the first thing he said to me was, “I’m staying out of trouble!”

When I worked with him he was living with his Mom and Dad, but neither had a job, both were usually high and they bounced around from hotel to apartment about ever two weeks.  He was taking care of three younger siblings.  At home he was often the “man” of the house and at school he had problems being “bossed around” (as he put it) by teachers.   Unfortunately this is a common situation is some areas.

Now he wasn’t the roughest kid I worked with, but he could hold his own.  I was pleased to hear that he is living with a cousin and doing really well in high school.

Seeing him was a good reminder for me of what some of our students are going through.

I’m telling this story because as we return to school I want teachers and staff to keep in mind that the situations some students are coming from will affect how they behave and learn in school.

If you’ve been in education for a more than a year you know the look of a hungry kid.  You know the student who doesn’t have clean clothes, running water, or a stable/safe home.   And you know how this affects every aspect of their life.

So for new teachers I just want to ask you to keep an eye out for these kids and be aware of their issues outside of school. Don’t change expectations, but adjust when needed so they have a chance.  And for all educational staff, please remember it is hard to focus on school when your basic needs (food, shelter and safety) have not been met.

We can’t always control what happens outside of school, so we have to make our campuses safe, loving environments where kids feel welcomed.

Please remember that most small communities have a church or central locations where you can donate items or refer families in need.  The links below are resources for students or families in need.




The Data Dilemma


As a Diagnostician I use data all the time.  Best practice dictates that decisions about students, such as goals, testing and placement, are made based on data.  I know realistically we sometimes fall short and don’t always collect the “best” data, but ultimately we have to have something to support all decisions made.

Now while I use the data, I’m usually not the one collecting it.  It is usually a teacher or parent that I’m asking to collect data for me.  This is probably the main reason teachers turn the other way and RUN when they see me coming.  Academic data is pretty straightforward.  We look at grades, class tests and work, benchmarks, and yes that oh-so-popular state assessment.  (If you haven’t figured it out, I’m not a fan of the state assessment in Texas.  But I’ll keep that soapbox for another post.)

If we want to look at an academic area that we don’t have data for it is usually pretty easy for the teacher to get it.  Let’s say I need data on reading fluency for a 4th grade student.  It wouldn’t be hard for the students Reading teacher to measure her fluency and get me the results.  If we are looking at data over a certain period of time we may measure reading fluency once a week for six or nine week.  The point is a teacher usually knows what to do to obtain academic data.

But data on behavior is sometimes a little trickier.  Let’s say we want to get a child to stay in his seat during class.  We would need to start with a baseline of how often he’s out of his seat.  This is a frequency measure.  That one is pretty easy, keep tally marks for how many times you have to redirect the student to his seat.  You might even keep the tally marks in a sheet broken up in time segments, like the one you see when you click HERE. This way you can tell if the out of seat behavior is worse during a certain time of day as well as get a general measure of the behavior.

But lets say you have a student who is having “violent outburst”.  What kind of data do you need to create a plan for this behavior?

Before I look at this question I want to explain the two types of data.  In my option data can be put into two categories, statistical (or something you can graph) and analytical (a narrative of events).  Statistical data would be time, location, frequency, duration, intensity or anything that you can graph.  Analytical data or notes are a narrative account of what happened.   They are useful in completing the ABC’s of behavior (antecedents, behavior and consequence; these will be discussed in a later post.)

Now, back to the student having “violent outburst”.  First define what a violent outburst is; is he hurting himself or others if so how, is he destroying property, if so how?  Answer all the “common sense” questions first.   Then look at gathering the needed data.  You might want to keep a chart with the day/time, duration and intensity.  This would help you figure out if one day or time of day is more prone to outburst than another.  It will also help define how long and how sever the outburst are.   If the child is throwing chairs and breaking furniture for thirty minutes at a time you may need to start by reducing the duration and intensity of the outburst.  (Ideas for how to do that will be discussed in later post, remember this is just the data collection stage.)

The point is to implement an effective plan for modifying behavior you must have a grasp of what it is you want to modify.  To do this you need data.  The trick is to figure out what you’re looking for and how you want to measure it.  To help with this I’m linking some data collection sheets and graphing information that was shared with me during a workshop at the Region 14 service center. Click the link below:

Graphing made easy

Accommodations vs. Modifications What’s the difference?


I found a podcast that discusses the differences between an accommodation and a modification and why it’s important for not only teachers, but also parents and students to know the difference.   For the purpose of this post I’m focusing on only the difference between the two.  Click the link below to visit the podcast.


**I tried to make that a one word hyperlink but it wouldn’t work, remember this is my first blog 🙂 **

To sum it up Dr. Lindy Crawford of the Professional Advisory Board at the National Center for Learning Disabilities stated that,

“Accommodations are instructional or test adaptations. They allow the student to demonstrate what he or she knows without fundamentally changing the target skill that’s being taught in the classroom or measured in testing situations. Accommodations do not reduce learning or performance expectations that we might hold for students. More specifically, they change the manner or setting in which information is presented or the manner in which students respond. But they do not change the target skill or the testing construct.”

When she says, “target skill” she is referring to the TEKS. Which is the standard that guides the curriculum in Texas.    She went on to discuss five basic types of accommodations.

Timing. For example, giving a student extended time to complete a task or a test item.

 Flexible scheduling. For example, giving a student two days instead of one day to complete a project.

  Accommodated presentation of the material, meaning material is presented to the student in a fashion that’s different from a more traditional fashion.

 Setting, which includes things like completing the task or test in a quiet room or in a small group with other students.

Response accommodation, which means having the student respond perhaps orally or through a scribe.

Dr. Crawford gave this definition for modification,

“Modifications actually do change that target skill or the construct of interest. They often reduce learning expectations or affect the content in such a way that what is being taught or tested is fundamentally changed.”

Now if you teach in the state of Texas you know that even if a child receives a modified state assessment (STAAR-M) the content of the test is not “fundamentally” changed.  But the content might be “fundamentally” changed in the classroom to meet the need of the individual student.

We know that every child must be exposed to the TEKS, but if you have a student working under a modified curriculum (which they must to take a STAAR-M) then what they are responsible for mastering should (at least in theory) change.

So in short, and without starting an angry debate over our wonderful state assessment, I just wanted to remind everyone before school begins that an accommodation helps a child meet the same expectations as the rest of the class and a modification changes those expectations to meet the child’s needs.

NOTE: The podcast goes into more detail and list three problems (in the opinion of Dr. Crawford) with confusing modifications and accommodations.  For more on this topic look for future post on STAAR accommodations.