In my teaching career, I always winced when a tool or system was designed for general education and completely ignored the needs of students and teachers working in special education environments. In fact, I watched as my good friend Ms. Turner became exceedingly jaded in various staff training sessions because so little of the content was relevant to her work as a special educator working in push-in, pull-out, and CTT environments. For this reason, I've always kept special education in mind as we've designed and built JumpRope.
My claim is that JumpRope is very friendly to students, parents, and teachers who work in special education environments. My goal in this article is to back up this claim by pointing out some strategies for using JumpRope in a special education environment. I'll start by laying the ground work, and make a couple of assumptions:
- Though differentiation is important for all teachers, it is central to a special educator's job and differentiation must take place both for the delivery but also for the individual learning goals for students. In other words: unlike general educators, special educators usually set different goals (standards) for each student based on their individual needs.
- Traditional "class lists" can be annoying since they lend themselves to homogeneous data and can make it tricky to enter different types of scores for each student in your "class."
- Anecdotal evidence can be especially important, especially when preparing for conferences with parents, students, and in communicating with other classroom teachers.
- In push-in and pull-out environments, it is very important to be in sync with the other classroom teachers in terms of classwork, deadlines, and upcoming plans in order to best support your students.
- While all teachers increasingly are required to document student progress with meaningful data, that charge is particularly true for special educators. JR gives you an easy-to-use tool for tracking data (think of progress monitoring). And special educators often share this data (progress) with students, parents and other staff members on a regular basis and during IEP meetings. JR's display of the data is highly accessible, (color-coded mastery bar graphs and numbers appear alongside one another) making it easy to use in conversation.
- Make individual Standards (or even individual Units) for each student. This is probably the most important tip on this list when it comes to using our gradebook for special education. Think of standards as goals for your student, and simply write different goals for every student (consider starting each standard with the students first name in order to make sure that things sort neatly). If you have a lot of goals (five or more) for each student, it may be better to make an entire unit for each student (named appropriately) to stay better organized.
- Leave scores blank when they do not apply to a student, and JumpRope will completely ignore the related standards and assessments (they'll NEVER show up on reports or affect the students "grade"). In other words, dead-simple differentiation is less than a click away. Because of our integration with other scheduling systems, you'll still see a "class list grid," but you can simply leave scores blank when they are not relevant to a particular student (for any given standard or assessment) and the student will never see them at all.
- Use Comments to communicate with other classroom teachers. If your school uses the Internal Comments feature, this is a great way to let classroom teachers know what a student is working on specifically with you (or to update classroom teachers on parent contact or behavioral issues). Pay special attention to the "CC Classroom Teachers" feature to blast a notice to every teacher that works with the student. Not only does this improve communication, it also keeps a "running record" of work that you're doing with students that you can easily reference later (e.g., when updating an IEP). To learn more, here's more than you ever wanted to know about Comments in JumpRope.
- Add comments to individual scores to give more detailed feedback to students. Did you know that you can add comments (up to 200 characters) to any or every individual score that you enter into JumpRope, and that these score comments can be referenced later and can print on progress reports? To add a comment to a score, simply enter the score in the Grade tab and double-click the score. This is a great way to give feedback that is more than just a number. Take a look.
- Search by student to easily see past and current work taking place in all classes for your students. The Students tab was always my favorite part of JumpRope when I was teaching. So much useful data on student attendance, behavior, academics, and more, all in one place. When conferencing with students and parents - or when preparing IEPs and related documents - be sure to dive into the Students tab to get the full picture.
- "Follow" your students so that you're looped in to any anecdotal comments from other teachers and to view missing work from all classes. This feature makes it easy to make sure that you're looped on any comments written about the students that you follow in any of their classes. In addition, reports are available in the Other Reports tab that make it dead simple to view missing work and mastery data for those that you follow. Take a look here and here for more information.
- Show your students how to use the Student & Parent Portal to easily check on the progress on a regular basis. If your school has enabled the Student & Parent Portal, this is a great way to make sure that students and parents are up to speed with the latest feedback from you and other teachers. Spending some time with your students to make sure that they know how to easily access the portal can pay off big time by offering students the chance to take ownership of their learning. You can easily "masquerade" into the portal for any student in the Biographicals tab - make sure that your popup blocker is letting us through. For more information on setting up the portal, see this document.
- Check attendance for your students in other classes to keep an eye out for problematic trends. Sometimes going to class is the first battle, and as a primary motivator in the students' lives it can be very powerful to keep an eye on their attendance in all classes so that they know that they have to be accountable to you, even if they miss class with Mr. Olsen.
- Use the Power Law, Decaying Average or Most Recent to represent mastery over time more accurately than an "average score." As in all content areas, averaging scores together is usually not the most meaningful representation of mastery. You want your students to learn, not to have known from the start. Read up on our advanced features for grade calculation and choose the one that makes the most sense for your students and your curriculum.
- Assign custom dates on specific assessments for individual students. Differentiation in terms of when assessments happen for each student is an integral aspect of many Special Education Programs. To learn how, check out this article.