Supporting teachers and school leaders

Learning Differences

28 July 2021

© Julie Hill / Oak Foundation

Schools shifted to distance learning nearly overnight. By early May in 2020, 80 per cent of teachers in the US were interacting with the majority of their students remotely. This was still the case at the start of the 2020-21 school year. Yet educators in the US are not typically trained on how to deliver high-quality instruction virtually, let alone provide the additional specialised supports for students with special needs remotely.

The Special Education Leader Fellowship (SELF), an LDP partner that trains and develops special education teachers in New Orleans, quickly jumped in to provide practical resources to educators across the country. “Teachers and school leaders are working extraordinarily hard for their students, getting creative and putting in long hours,” said Aqua Stovall, executive director at SELF. “But most lessons are simply not designed to be delivered remotely, especially for students with disabilities. It takes extra effort to make sure they are accessible.”

SELF assembled a reopening toolkit that principals and teachers could use during the pandemic to ensure that remote learning was accessible to all. In addition, it hosted free webinars for educators on supporting students with learning disabilities, integrating Universal Design for Learning into their courses and on supporting students’ executive functioning. SELF also offered coaching, feedback, and development services to educators across the country, providing real-time assistance to school staff.

Oak Foundation is proud to support SELF and many other partners who quickly pivoted to respond to the new and urgent needs presented by the pandemic for students with learning differences, particularly those furthest from opportunity. Learn more about our Learning Differences Programme strategy here.

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