PBL: Making it Work For All Kids

PBL is Not a PBJ

Project-based learning (PBL) is anything but your standard way of instructing students. Students work on a project that focuses on solving an authentic real-world problem or question. Projects are usually multi-disciplinary and they allow the student to demonstrate their knowledge and skills gained from the project by publicly sharing a presentation or product for a real audience that could be their classmates, their school, or even post it online to share with the entire world. As you can see, this is a pretty exciting concept for both students and adults alike, however some students may struggle with making PBL work for them. The benefits are apparent, but there are some things you should know about in order to make it successful for all students.

Scaffold PBL

The definition of the word scaffold as a verb is to provide support. Without the proper support students will flounder with many aspects of PBL like staying focused for an extended amount of time on one project, identifying a question that they want to answer, and deciding who they are going to share their project with. In order to combat these potential problems, teachers should gradually release control of PBL to their students. First, teachers can do a PBL project as an entire class. They can walk students through the entire process and complete it together. Conducting this first step can take a lot of fear and uncertainty about PBL out from the beginning, but without giving students control over their learning, it’s not quite PBL just yet. Next, the teacher might assign groups of students to work through a question that the teacher comes up with. The teacher can allow for variation in how the group chooses to present their findings, but again full control over the project is not given. After each student has a class-wide and small group PBL experience under their belt, they are ready to try a project independently. At this stage teachers should still limit some sort of control, so it may be wise to either choose the topic for the student or to choose how they must demonstrate their understanding. After the 3rd scaffolded PBL experience, students will hopefully be able to fully guide themselves and the teacher can sit back and watch the magic happen.

Provide Voice & Choice

Allowing students to choose their topic and decide how to demonstrate their understanding is a critical component of PBL. However, giving students voice and choice in their projects can be a hard thing for teachers to do. They will be tempted to assign topics or questions for students to study. They may also want to tell their students to demonstrate their understanding in a particular way, however this limits the knowledge and experience that makes this type of learning meaningful for students. Teachers should allow students to make choices and demonstrate their creativity whenever possible. Once students are comfortable with the PBL process, teachers should empower their students by giving them control over their own learning. This control will stimulate engagement with their projects and will help PBL reach all students

Provide Reflection Opportunities

Providing feedback to students on their PBL experience is a crucial part in keeping students coming back for more. Students should give, receive, and use feedback especially from their peers to improve they’re understanding of PBL and the quality of the projects/products that they create. Students and teachers should always reflect on their learning and how effective their project management skills were during the PBL project. They should also reflect on their overall question and if their presentation was effective for the intended audience. Because the types of feedback that students can receive are endless, making sure that students receive good feedback will ensure that PBL is never viewed as a completed process by students. This will help students understand that PBL is an effective way to learn about any topic they have interest in and that this process can be used in any setting, even outside of school.

PBL Benefits Students

PBL is a great tool to help students develop deep content knowledge as well as 21st Century learning skills like critical thinking, creativity, and communication. However, all these benefits won’t occur if it’s not implemented effectively. Teachers should scaffold their support, ensure that students can employ voice and choice with their projects, and they should structure in plenty of time for feedback to ensure PBL success in the classroom. If teachers can do these things, PBL can serve as a catalyst for creating a group of students who are anxious to continue their learning no matter who they’re with or where they are.

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SEL: More Important Now Than Ever

It’s a Whole New World

Educators are coming to an understanding that developing academic skills in students at school are no longer enough. As the world continues to change, so do the demands on the skills that students must learn. Some people refer to these skills as 21st century learning skills that incorporate ideas such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, technology literacy, and the ability to problem solve. Intertwined with these skills is a rewed emphasis on developing skills related to a student’s social emotional learning (SEL). These skills range from being self-aware, managing your emotions, and working with others. These non-academic skills were once deemed not as important as academic skills, but that viewpoint is slowly diminishing and here’s why.

SEL Boosts Academic Achievement

An old African Proverb states, “When the fingers on the hand are fighting, they cannot pickup the food.” It eloquently states that more often than not, behavior can impact one’s ability to be successful either individually or as a team. SEL builds on this same concept as it seeks to emphasize non-academic skills as a foundation to helping students improve their academic skills. If a student cannot work well with others, manage stress, or regulate their emotions, this will hinder their ability to learn. SEL helps students develop skills that will help them in the long run as they learn about core content areas like math, science, and language arts.

SEL Improves Employability

Because our communities continue to become increasingly diverse and multicultural, so has the future workplace. Emphasis on communication and collaboration have never been higher, however more and more coworkers do not share common languages, values, or beliefs. For our students to survive in this new global economy, being able to listen to different ideas from co-workers and perform collaborative tasks are essential. Students need to be able to create and maintain relationships with diverse individuals and groups. The ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed will be mainstays of the future workplace. Our students need to be able to entertain various perspectives and empathize with others, especially with coworkers from diverse backgrounds and cultures. As students develop these skills, future employers will be ready to hire them.

SEL Helps Manage Negative Emotions

The world is extremely fast paced and with that pace can come stress and other negative emotions. If students can learn how to be able to recognize their own emotions and identify how they can influence their own behavior, then they will be at a distinct advantage over their peers that cannot. Students also need to be able to regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors because this will not only impact their work but it will also impact their overall health. When students can develop project-management skills, goal setting and organization skills, and stress management skills, they will be able to successfully navigate stress and work towards developing a healthy body and healthy mind. Being able to effectively manage stress, control impulses, and work toward personal and academic goals are all skills that are developed when students participate in SEL.

SEL: A New Advantage

As knowledge becomes a commodity and employers care more and more about what their employees can do with information and how they can work with others, the need for socially and emotionally intelligent workers is reaching a peak. The more that SEL can be provided to our students now, then the more advantage they will have as our world shifts towards a global economy where a new set of skills is required to be successful. Workers with these skills will end up being better prepared to be the workforce of tomorrow as the world continues to change.

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3 Reasons Why Schools Should Adopt Restorative Justice Practices

Restorative Justice, What’s That?

Restorative Justice is a topic that continues to gain national attention as both elementary and secondary schools decide how to best deal with student behavioral and discipline issues that occur in today’s schools. The topic focuses on a mindset that aims to help students make restorations to address misconduct instead of resorting to punishing them. It also focuses on teaching and supporting students instead of pushing them away. Interestingly enough, restorative justice is not a mindset supported by all education stakeholders. In fact, some teachers who feel that restorative justice avoids providing discipline to students, remain opposed to this new movement.

Addressing the Problem

School administrators start their days with ambitions of visiting classrooms, completing paperwork, conducting meetings, and communicating with stakeholders. However the stark reality is that many school administrators are bombarded with school discipline issues before they even make it through the office door. They are then often forced to spend time making judgements about whether a student should be suspended or not. This can sometimes be a lengthy process, especially if a school administrator spends 30 minutes on an average office discipline referral. To complicate this process, they may learn that the offending student may currently be exposed to abuse, shows signs of depression, and has had to deal with lack of food or even homelessness earlier in the year. While the student is waiting for the school administrator to determine their fate, they are missing out on key instruction that they so desperately need and the school administrator is kept from accomplishing their own tasks. All of these issues combined paint a picture about school discipline that is not exactly black and white —- which is exactly why Restorative Justice is a better minds

#1. Restorative Justice Improves School Culture

Not only does Restorative Justice address the root of problematic behavior in schools but it also can improve a school’s culture. The opposite of a Restorative Justice program would be one that focuses on “zero tolerance.” A zero tolerance environment focuses on strict rules and even stricter punishments. When school environments are focused on these things, school discipline is largely ineffective. Relationships between students and school staff are often damaged and listening to one another is deemphasized. Because student motivation is a real concern by many educators in today’s schools, making sure that relationships are in good repair between staff and students becomes an essential indicator for school leaders to be concerned about. Students can feel whether their school environment and culture is supportive or not and that’s important because a student’s attitude about their school can impact their academic performance. This is exactly why the method of school-wide discipline must be taken seriously by education stakeholders.

#2. Restorative Justice Builds Healthy Relationships

Restorative Justice builds healthy relationships through a staple practice of conducting community focused circles where students can discuss personal struggles as well as issues that have occurred at school that need attention. This “talk-it-out” strategy focuses on helping students express their feelings and their emotions in a healthy way—something that should always be emphasized by teachers, counselors, and school administrators. School staff can guide these conversations by asking questions and helping students process negative events. It is here where students discover ways to solve problems in a healthy way and take responsibility for their actions. These skills will improve student-to-student relationships as well as student-to-teacher relationships which will ultimately positively impact student achievement.

#3. Restorative Justice Develops Understanding

Restorative justice helps school staff members to focus on understanding students first, which goes a long ways in building trust with the student body. As students develop these listening skills and strengthen their emotional intelligence, they are improving their future employability and the likelihood that they can successfully navigate a career and be a productive member of society. All students have extremely varied experiences at home, in their neighborhood, and at school. Their behavior in these environments is shaped by these experiences. When school staff focuses on gaining insight into each student by listening to their experiences, then stronger relationships are formed and the school staff can focus on addressing the root of the problem—not the negative behavior that ends up manifesting itself at school.

Conclusion: Restorative Justice Gets it Right

Although critics of Restorative Justice make claims that students avoid accountability for their actions in this type of environment, more students are kept in the right environment when Restorative Justice practices are utilized. Restorative Justice does not mean that students who break school rules and compromise the safety of others will not be disciplined, but it does mean that school discipline will not be viewed as a solution to the misbehavior. An educator’s job is not to avoid the problems that students come to school with, but to help fix them. Restorative Justice’s emphasis on teaching students to effectively deal with their problems by improving their listening skills and writing their wrongs continues to build within students a healthy set of skills that will aid them in school and in the future.

See how Restorative Justice also approaches Social Practice, here.

Building a Positive School Culture

What Makes a Good School?

When acquaintances find out that I am an elementary school principal, they invariably ask me about other schools in their own neighborhood and if I would recommend them. My answer to their question is always the same: a school is as good as its culture and the people that work within it. Well, what makes good school culture? Is it when the school principal knows every child’s name? Is it when the lunch room serves their famous peanut butter bars every Friday? Or is it a combination of things that help your school be great? Regardless of what you think makes a good school, here are some great ideas for educators to help improve the culture at your own school.

1. Share Your Story

The old adage,”No news is good news” does not apply to schools. If schools aren’t entirely focused on communicating to the community about the good things that are going on at the school, then the community will assume that nothing good is happening at the school. Schools can communicate their story through social media or some other parent communication platform like Class Dojo. The important thing to remember is to highlight events, school staff, and of course the students! As schools share their story, schools will build a positive culture that will impact everyone. From taking a picture of a student and a teacher who received a special recognition award, to writing a few sentences about the fall festival carnival that the school had the prior week—all “good news” should be shared to build positive school culture.

2. Show School Spirit

Another way to build school culture is to put an emphasis on showing school spirit at your school. Do you incentivize students to wear school colors? Does your school have a mascot that a student can dress up in? Does your school have a school song and do the students know the words? Does your school feature a central piece of artwork like a mosaic or mural that depicts your school motto or something that appeals to children? Does your school have kid-friendly decorations in the halls or does it look like a really old museum? The more a school appeals to its student body and instills a sense of pride about where they go to get their education, then the more a school will build on a strong tradition of success and strengthen school culture.

3. Make it Personal

The last way to build a strong school culture to allow teachers and students the ability to personalize their school to make it home. When was the last time you asked the faculty if they wanted to renovate or update the faculty lounge? Are students allowed to give input on the classroom and which flexible seating options might be available? Are students allowed to provide input on what types of pictures and games are put on the blacktop for students to participate in at recess? When students and teachers spend as much time as they do at school, we owe it to them to provide a place that makes them feel appreciated. At our school we renovated our teachers lounge. We got rid of the horrible and ugly furniture that was dark and looked like your grandma’s basement. Now it is bright colors with blankets and snacks. Teachers were allowed to provide input on the new teachers lounge and it strengthened the positive school culture at our school. When you allow teachers and students to personalize their school environment, then the school turns into “our school.”

Good Culture Takes Time

Positive school culture can be built in a myriad of different ways, but the most important thing that anyone can remember is that building a good culture takes time. Take a walk around your school and see how personalized it is. Go outside at recess to see if students are wearing school colors.I. Ask a random student if they know your school song by heart. If your school is in need of a culture makeover, then be patient and start the culture change today. Your school’s future students will thank you for it!

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How to Receive Your Applied Behavior Analysis Certification

Due to the high value placed on employees in today’s workplace, credentialed organizational development professionals can be sought-after additions to a business’ managerial team.

Learn how to receive an Applied Behavior Analysis Certification to stand out from the competition and earn a place helping businesses achieve long-term success.

Why Businesses Need Certified Behavior Analysts

To attract, retain and develop professionals with in-demand skills, organizations are embracing the human side of staff and talent management, making employee satisfaction and retention key organizational goals. This requires human resources and executive management to manage people/resources/capital on a human level, applying behavioral analysis to determine the best courses of action.

According to the 2017 article, “Beyond Human Resources: 4 Ways to Improve Human Capital Management,” the transition from traditional human resources, to the more dynamic, strategic developmental functions of today’s HR and human capital management pros involves a move to “people resource management.”

The transition includes methods to optimize workforce acquisition, management and optimization and may include behavioral analysis and personality tests to discover and adjust for individual or generational preferences.

Armed with this information, a certified behavioral analyst develops, implements and measures the effectiveness of people resource management program results to determine whether they meet organizational goals.

With an increasing emphasis placed on individuals in the workplace, an aspiring professional with an advanced business analytics degree can set themselves apart by pursuing a certification to advance their behavioral analyst status beyond their master’s degree.

What is an Applied Behavior Analysis Certification?

An applied behavior analysis certification is a graduate-level certification allowing individuals to work independently and provide behavior analytics services. This certification is administered by the Behavioral Analysis Certification Board (BACB). The board has established the quality standards for behavioral analysts to offer their services in the psychology, criminal justice and business fields.

In addition to foundational knowledge of behavioral analysis within various settings, the BACB tests individuals with graduate-level degrees on the fundamentals of behavioral analytics and the tasks professionals will conduct on behalf of employers and clients. Those who have earned the Applied Behavior Analysis Certification (ABAC) have met or exceeded the quality and professional standards set by the BACB.

How Do I Earn the Applied Behavior Analysis Certification?

Applicants must meet one of three requirements to be eligible to take the ABA exam:

  1. Possess a graduate degree with 270 hours of graduate-level coursework in behavioral analysis, education or psychology from an accredited university or a graduate program that features BACB-approved graduate coursework.

  2. Applicant has earned an acceptable graduate degree (see above) and is a full-time faculty member teaching behavior analysis. The individual’s teaching position must include research and instruction, as well as 1,500 supervised hours of practical experience.

  3. A minimum of 10 years of postdoctoral practical experience combined with an acceptable doctoral degree earned within the past 10 years.

After meeting the eligibility requirements, applicants must submit a completed application and all required documentation to demonstrate that all BABC requirements have been met.

The BACB provides a list of tasks related to the Applied Behavior Analysis Certification, which can serve as study topics for individuals with behavioral analytics degrees who want to prepare for the test.

During the test, the applicant will have four hours to complete 150 multiple-choice questions with four possible answers, and 10 ungraded pilot questions. Questions and answers cover assessing patients and implementing behavioral modification processes.

Administered by Pearson Vue, the test takes place in a computer-based testing format. Pearson Vue also offers a tutorial for students interested in taking the exam. Every few years, recertification is required to maintain the Applied Behavioral Analysis Certification.

What Does an Applied Behavioral Analysis Certification Mean to Employers?

With a greater emphasis on human resource development, the business case for behavioral analysts is substantial. In addition to a graduate-level business analytics degree, professionals with an Applied Behavioral Analysis Certificate show employers their commitment to a higher standard of excellence when developing strategies to optimize employee programs.

Regionally-accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Saint Joseph’s University’s online Behavioral Analysis Certificate coursework features a behavioral analysis component that prepares students to sit for the Behavioral Analysis Certificate exam. Successfully achieving board certification can help place you ahead of a high-demand and exclusive field of behavioral analysis experts.

How the Autism Endorsement Can Advance Teaching Careers

With the number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on the rise, the
U.S. has great need for teachers trained to work with this very special population. The CDC 
estimated that in 2014, one in 59 children in the United States had been diagnosed with some
form of ASD. Just 14 years prior, the estimate was one in 150 children.

Most children who’ve been diagnosed with ASD will attend the same schools and work
alongside their non-ASD peers. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics indicates
that only 7.4% of children with autism attend specialized schools for students with disabilities,
while 91% spend all or part of their school-days within general classrooms of what the NCES
 classifies as “regular” schools.

Because of this inclusion, teachers who are working on special education degrees might
consider an Autism Endorsement, which can be completed in conjunction with their online
degree program.

What is an Autism Endorsement?

An education endorsement is designed to improve teachers’ skills when they work in complex
classroom settings. The MS in Special Education with Autism Endorsement prepares teachers

  1. Understand the characteristics and causes of ASD
  2. Assess students, plan and evaluate instruction methods based on where they have been
diagnosed on the spectrum of autism
  3. Create development level-appropriate classrooms to accommodate ASD students
without disrupting teaching and learning for other students
  4. Effectively collaborate with other educators, service providers, parents and family 

One-third of Pennsylvania’s 93 state-approved universities offer Autism Endorsements for
teachers, including Saint Joseph University according to the state’s Department of Education.

Saint Joseph’s University’s online Autism Endorsement Concentration provides training to
teachers who want to work with children who’ve been diagnosed with ASD and their families.
The program can be completed online within two years.

Pennsylvania does not require teachers to become Certified Autism Specialists in order to work
with children who have been diagnosed with ASD; however, the endorsement provides a
competitive edge for teachers in the job market. The endorsement tells prospective employers
that you are professionally, emotionally and strategically ready to take on a diverse classroom
that includes children with special needs.

Benefits of a Master’s in SPED in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is among the top 5 states offering employment opportunities for special education teachers according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ 2017 figures. Among the benefits of an endorsement in autism are:

● Prepares teachers to work with children with special needs
● Enables them to help diagnose children with autism
● Positions teachers to become Certified Autism Specialists, a national endorsement from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES)
● Rewarding in ways impossible to quantify, such as helping children affected by autism learn to communicate, socialize and live happy lives.

Autism Endorsement at Saint Joseph’s University

The program at Saint Joseph’s University online, which can be combined with Master of Science in Special Education (SPED), offers a four-course track curriculum:

● Initial diagnosis and advocacy
● Augmentative and alternative communication and socialization strategies
● Evidenced-based practices regarding assessment, interventions and instructional methodologies
● Applied behavior analysis and other behavior management approaches

These special-education courses prepare teachers to help recognize symptoms and accurately diagnose children while also helping to recommend education, communication and socialization strategies. Most importantly, the endorsement program helps educators understand the different ways children with special needs learn.

If you are interested in pursuing the Autism Endorsement program at Saint Joseph’s University click here for more information or call (866) 758-7670 today.

Can You Get a Teaching Certificate Online?

Having a bachelor’s degree doesn’t necessarily mean you can be a teacher. Getting a teaching certificate signifies that you have voluntarily gone much further in your pursuit to become a professional educator and that you have the skills needed to change students’ lives for the better. But what about an online teaching certificate?

Getting your teaching certificate online is equally as valid and valuable as earning one on-campus at a brick-and-mortar college or university. As long as you receive your online teaching certificate from an accredited institute you’ll have the same opportunities as someone who earned a teaching certificate the traditional way. Online teaching certificate programs also have several advantages over traditional certification programs, including the ability to:

  • Work comfortably at your own pace
  • Complete assignments and exams anywhere with an Internet connection
  • Earn your teaching certification while working full-time
  • Network with online learners around the country

Can you get a teaching certificate online? Yes. Should you get a teaching certificate online? If you have a busy schedule and want to change or advance your career without putting your life on hold, the online option is worth considering.

To help you make the decision, here’s a look at some of the requirements for earning your teaching certificate online. Additionally, there’s a bonus look at some other advanced teaching certifications worth pursuing if your aim is to become a leader in the education field.

Bachelor’s Degree Requirement

There are many requirements to become a teacher, and each state has its own unique criteria. All states require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but the major requirements vary based on the level and subject you wish to teach. Likewise, most online teaching certificate programs also require a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university to enroll.

Student Teaching Field Experiences

Online teaching certificate programs offer more flexibility and convenience than on-campus, brick-and-mortar certificate programs. However, candidates seeking teaching certification online may still be required to complete approved and documented field mentorship experiences.

These student teaching experiences usually take place at the end of the program after students have completed all required online coursework. Check with the program you are interested in to find out whether you will be placed in a classroom or will need to set up your own field experience.

Advanced Teaching Certifications

In addition to basic online teaching certificates, there are advanced teaching certifications that can accelerate your career and increase your earning potential as an educator. The National Board Certification, for example, is an advanced teaching credential offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Becoming National Board Certified complements a state’s teacher license. Candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree and have three full years of teaching experience as a state-licensed teacher. If you have teaching experience in a state where a license is not required, you must have taught in a school recognized and approved by the state.

Another advanced teaching certification is the Wilson Reading System® Certification. This program equips educators with the skills needed to help students become fluent, independent readers. WRS Level 1 Certification will complement your teaching certificate by preparing you to teach foundational reading and writing skills to children, teens and adults. Furthermore, WRS Level 1 Certification can pave the way for additional career opportunities in teaching as a Reading Specialist, Reading Therapist or Private Literacy Coach.

Take the First Step Toward Becoming a Teacher

If you’re passionate about becoming a teacher, the Online Accelerated Teacher Certification program from Saint Joseph’s University can help you earn your secondary teaching certificate (grades 7 – 12) in just four online semesters. Students can also take two elective courses to receive certification and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education.

To learn more, call 866-758-7670 or request more information.

5 Rewarding Career Paths in Special Education (if you’re not into teaching)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the mean salary for special education teachers in 2017 as $58,890. But it is no secret that the burnout and turnover rates for this field are high. Additionally, growth potentials and opportunities for upward mobility are low for teachers alone.

Salaries can be higher for teachers that want to expand their resumes. There are jobs are out there for teachers who want to stay in the field and continue making a difference in the lives of children.

Find out which of these five rewarding career paths in special education will help you change the world.

Behavior Specialists

Behavior specialists are specialists in the field of psychology and social work. They work with individuals with disabilities or impaired learning functions.

In most cases, all that is needed to work in this field is a Bachelor’s degree in the field of social work or psychology or a related field. Study.com notes that licensure may be required.

Licensing requirements vary by state. The field is experiencing a projected 19 percent growth rate between 2012 and 2022.

Job duties will vary according to the work environment. They generally involve the observation and assessment of emotional and behavioral problems with children and adults with special needs. Some duties will be specialized such as those working with the deaf community.

Average pay rates begin around $40,000 but also will vary by state and specialty, and/or the organization you are working for. Those with experience in the field or with advanced degrees are likely to earn at the higher end of the pay scale.

Early Intervention Specialist

The early years for children are considered the years between birth and kindergarten. Children with special needs in this age group need special support. Early intervention specialists provide this support.

They work in a variety of environments from preschool classrooms to inside the home. They also work in the private sector.

The main purpose of this job is to serve as the connection between families and support. The specialist also works directly with children, providing support to improve their area of needs. This could range from cognitive or emotional developmental support to motor and sensory support.

The early years of life are often considered the most critical. As such, this specialist will work in a multidisciplinary capacity to support the child and their family.

In many cases, a teacher’s degree is the only requirement for this career. A Bachelor’s degree is often required, and any additional credentials or education in the area of child development is favored.

Zip Recruiter reports that the national average pay for early intervention specialists is $46,985 annually. Candidates holding a graduate degree or additional credentials are expected to earn at the higher end of the spectrum.

Educational Diagnosticians

An educational diagnostician does exactly what its name implies. This person diagnoses someone with special needs.

This support worker functions within a team setting, assisting all agencies that work with special needs. This is a multi-disciplinary role.

Diagnosticians work every angle of the child’s life to get a complete picture for a diagnosis if necessary. Once a diagnosis is established, the diagnostician works with families to find support.

Depending on their degrees and credentials, and their location, diagnosticians can earn as much as $68,000 to $75,000. Most diagnosticians are not working at the entry level, and have acquired experience and education in the field of special needs.

Instructional Assistant

The job of a teaching assistant is one of the most under-reported jobs, as it falls in the lower end of a pay scale. But it is also one of the most rewarding jobs in special needs. The teacher’s assistant is often the one person that a child with special needs spends the most time with throughout their day.

Relationships are formed, and this enables instructional assistants to perform their job and do it well. Established relationships not only support the child but helps them to achieve their truest potential.

Projections for teaching assistants jobs is good with research showing a potential growth rate of eight percent between 2016 and 2026. The median salary for these jobs is in the $26,260 range.

Special Education Administrator

The special education administrator is not an entry-level position. This is a leadership role where the special needs worker oversees organizations that work with special needs kids. This position usually requires a Master’s degree or a wealth of career experience in the field.

Licensure could be required and will vary by state. Administrators work with everyone involved in the support of a special needs child.

Administrators work with families and caregivers. They also work with government agencies monitoring and overseeing the life of a special needs child. In a nutshell, administrators need to know that everybody involved in a special need’s child life is doing their job.

They will have a large number of children whose needs they need to monitor. If an educational or support matter goes wrong in a special needs child’s life, the administrator will hear about it and deal with it.

Salary ranges typically start in the six-figure mark, due to the depth of their responsibilities. There is an opportunity for upward mobility into advanced administrative jobs.

Employers are looking for someone with experience working with special needs kids. They want someone that is dynamic and innovative in problem-solving and has true leadership abilities.

This is the kind of guy or gal that when he or she walks into the room, a special needs kid feels….even more special.

How Will You Change the World?

If you are looking for a special needs job outside of the teaching realm, that means you have a passion for special work. It also means you are already changing the world.

Keep going, as there are a number of rewarding career opportunities that will give you the ability to fulfill your life and your true potential. Those same opportunities will help you develop the true potential of many special needs kids’ lives too. Start clicking to search open special education jobs today. How will you change the world?

5 Steps to Getting an Online Teaching Certificate

Do you have the desire to become a great teacher? If so, getting your teaching certificate will prepare you to shape young minds and have a positive impact on the lives of the students you teach.

Thanks to online teaching certificate programs, you can become certified whenever and wherever it’s most convenient for you without putting your life on hold. The process of getting your teaching certificate online is easy. Here’s a look at the steps needed to get a teaching certificate online.

Obtain Your Undergraduate Degree

Certification and licensing requirements vary by state but generally include holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited institution. If you have not yet completed your undergraduate degree, check with your state’s department of education to determine whether a Bachelor’s degree or higher is required to earn a valid teaching certificate.

If you still need to complete your undergraduate degree, think about the grade level and/or subject you would like to teach. Specific major requirements can vary from state to state for primary and secondary school teachers, as well as for teachers in subjects such as math, science and English.

Again, check with your state’s department of education to learn about the specific education requirements that must be met to teach in your state.

Research State-Approved Online Teacher Certification Programs

There are many online teacher certification programs, but not all are accredited or approved by your state’s department of education. Approved online teacher certification programs will align with the knowledge and skills deemed necessary for effective teaching in your state.

Earning your teacher certificate from an accredited college or university will also help you take advantage of reciprocity programs if you decide to pursue a teaching job in another state.

Complete Required Teaching Certificate Courses

After you are enrolled in an online teacher certification program, you will need to complete the required coursework before you can call yourself a “certified teacher.” Online teaching certificate programs are designed for people who want to become skilled and professional educators.

Whether you’re looking to make a career change, thinking about becoming a teacher or are an educator looking for career advancement opportunities, the curriculum you’ll encounter in a teaching certificate program will give you the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to excel in teaching.

Below is a sample of the courses you may be expected to complete as part of an online teacher certification program:

  1. Historical and Contemporary Perspectives in Education
  2. Adolescent Psychology
  3. Diagnostic Assessment and Progress Monitoring
  4. Teaching in Inclusive Adolescent Environments
  5. Literacy and Learning Across the Curriculum
  6. Theory & Practice in Secondary Education

Some programs may offer additional courses for students interested in receiving certification and a Master’s degree.

Perform Student-Teaching Field Mentorships

Individuals seeking teaching certification are generally required to complete documented field experiences in the classrooms of certified teachers. You may be required to secure placement with a certified teacher in your desired content area (language, mathematics, social studies, history, special education, etc.) or you may be assigned a field mentorship depending on the nature of the certification program you are enrolled in.

Get Your Teaching Certificate

After passing the required classes and completing your field mentorship and/or student-teaching experience you will receive certification and can seek employment as a certified, state-approved teacher.

If you are interested in getting your teaching certificate online, discover the Online Accelerated Teacher Certification (OATCERT) program from Saint Joseph’s University. The 30-credit-hour OATCERT program can be completed in just four online semesters.

Request more information or call 866-758-7670 to speak with an admissions representative today.

What is the difference between a IEP and 504?

13% of all students enrolled in school receive special education services.

Educators remain flexible to manage their classrooms and reach students. After all, everyone learns differently. But, individuals with either a 504 plan or an IEP (Individual Education Plan) need a specialized approach.

As future and current educators, we all want to make sure we meet the needs of our students. Since more than 1 in every 10 students needs special education being knowledgeable will be an asset.

We are responsible to attend parent-teacher conferences, grade papers, and manage a classroom. But, we are also responsible to meet guidelines for 504 Plans and IEPs.

Knowing about these plans in advance helps you as an educator to feel more prepared. You will feel more confident in teaching students with specific educational needs.

Both 504 plans and IEPs protect students with disabilities. Each aims to meet the needs of a student but differ in their approach, services, and goals.

So, what’s the difference? Read on to learn more.

The Difference Between IEPs and 504 Plans

1. The Degree of Services Needed

Students with an IEP need special/individualized education based on an evaluation. Students with a 504 Plan need accommodations within general curriculum classes.

A student with an IEP needs a higher degree of special education services. This includes placement in special education classes or modifications/accommodations in the general education classroom.

Students with a 504 Plan typically need certain accommodations within the general class setting. These students need fewer accommodations than students with an IEP. This includes accommodations such as needing more time to complete assignments.

2. Applicable Laws and Rights

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) enables students with disabilities to IEPs. This federal law entitles students with disabilities to free and appropriate education. Enforcement of this law is from the ages of 3 to 21 years old.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also guarantees that students with a disability receive free and appropriate public education. If a student meets the requirements to receive an IEP, then an IEP outweighs the 504 Plan. If a student only qualifies for a 504 Plan then the IDEA does not apply.

Each of these laws provides services to the student at no cost. Both laws require school districts to follow the requirements outlined. Schools must follow each plan to avoid discrimination.

3. Qualifications

504 Plans include a broad spectrum of physical and mental impairments as qualifications. These impairments interfere with learning or a major life activity such as reading. Examples of impairments include mental illness, loss of motor capabilities, or specific learning disabilities.

These impairments create classroom accommodations for the student. Accommodations include a test read out loud, extra bathroom breaks, or assistive technology.

To qualify for an IEP, a student must meet one or more conditions outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Conditions include specific learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, or emotional or physical impairments.

The child’s outlined condition must also interfere with educational performance. Their condition and interference in the general classroom benefit them to receive a specialized education.

Special education is sometimes separated from the general education curriculum, but not always. Special education can mean being in classrooms with modified curriculums and instruction. These modifications exist on a continuum based on the needs of the students and their level of academic ability.

Sometimes students with an IEP are able to be in the general education classroom setting. Supervision on the part of the teacher or a paraprofessional may be necessary.

A paraprofessional is an individual who is trained to meet the specific needs of a child with a disability. A paraprofessional assists the students with tasks outlined in the IEP.

Some students are assigned an individual paraprofessional. In other cases, a paraprofessional assists all students and the special education teacher in the classroom.

4. Type of Documentation

By law, IEPs must be documented in writing. 504 plans are not required to be in writing. Schools generally do document 504 plans in writing to maintain clear communication.

An IEP includes the present academic status of the student, accommodations, and modifications. It also outlines educational goals, duration of service, and a participation plan. Lastly, the IEP shows how the child will take part in standardized testing.

A 504 Plan outlines specific accommodations the child needs. The accommodations are based on the student’s impairment.

Each time an IEP plan changes it must be in writing. 504 Plan also can change but it does not need to be in writing. Some schools do make these changes in writing for a 504 Plan to maintain clear communication.

Any significant changes to an IEP must be presented to the parent before the changes take place. These changes need to be in writing prior.

Significant changes to a 504 Plan must also be told to the parent. It is not a required for changes to be documented in writing.

5. Support System

Children with IEPs and 504 Plans have a support team which ensures that the plans are carried out. The IEP support team is more in-depth than the 504 support team.

The support team for an IEP includes the child’s parent, a district representative, and a specialist who interprets evaluation results. Additionally, at least one general education teacher and a special education teacher. All the members of the support team must be present at IEP meetings minus some exceptions.

The support team for a 504 Plan includes an educator (general or special education teacher), the child’s parent, and the school principal. The educator on the 504 support team understands the students, their needs, and accommodations needed.

IEPs and 504 Plans in the School Setting

For those seeking a career in special education, IEPs and 504 Plans will be discussed in your education courses. Just like each student with an IEP or 504 Plan has a support team, so will you!

Seasoned teachers and administrative staff can help support you in understanding the laws and guidelines necessary to provide all students with access to public education.

To learn more about careers in special education and to see if this may be the right career for you visit our blog.

If you do decide that a career in education is for you, then visit our website to find an online or special education program that meets your specific needs and career goals!