Oct 31 2006

How To Teach Students With Different Learning Abilities

Educators offer solutions to teaching students with different skills, support systems, dispositions and talents.

Like a box of chocolates, kids come in many different sizes, shapes and flavors. It’s not an easy task for educators to instruct numerous types of students, who enter a grade with different skills, support systems, dispositions and talents. Yet, every fall, that’s the challenge K-12 instructors, principals and technology coordinators commit to undertaking.

Statistics indicate that our educators will see even more differentiating factors among their students in the future. The number of students with special needs—whether educational, emotional or economic—continues to increase each year. While this creates challenges, numerous educators offer innovative solutions.

Take the teachers who participate in skills swaps, for example. In Teaching the Teacher on p. 18, we learn that special needs teachers have a knack for connecting with their students and driving home hard-to-grasp skills. Mainstream teachers, on the other hand, possess core curriculum knowledge in areas like math and science that special needs teachers often lack. Put the two together, and you’ve got a winning combination for equipping two sets of teachers with essential classroom skills.

While some of the best schools in the nation thrive by taking a liberal arts orientation toward high school education, teachers at Stratford Information Technology Academy also prepare their students for careers in technology. It’s an important step to ensure that our country produces high school graduates who are well-equipped to pursue technology careers. As freshman John Towe explains in “Highway to Success ” on p. 42, these skills will help him get a “good job before [he] even starts college.”

Steve Meeker and Kelly Witten explain how technology has become an integral part of the success at Hauke Alternative High School on p. 14. Located in Conroe, Texas, Hauke helps its students complete their high school degrees by gearing study around their unique needs. Schools such as Hauke concentrate on at-risk students, whose unique family situations, academic performance and emotional needs make it difficult for them to succeed in mainstream settings.

As Chris Rother notes in her column on p. 12, and as author Alan Joch points out in our feature article on p. 27, technology plays an increasingly important role in assessing the effectiveness of school curricula. When students fail to meet state standards, frequent testing and analysis enable schools to fine-tune classroom teaching, and both students and educators benefit from the resulting data-driven decision making.

But, as Rother and other thought leaders point out, technology aids mainly in pinpointing areas that need improvement. The real key to success is developing a strategy that taps the wide-ranging talents and experience of teachers.

Lee Copeland
Editor in Chief