School is out for summer and even though students are no longer reporting for duty, teachers still are. From June through August, our teachers become students, working to continue their own education. Through a variety of professional development workshops, they build strategies, gather resources, and learn new information that keeps them up-to-date on the latest research and instructional techniques.
For all educators, including those who focus on the arts, one of the top concerns is the ability to effectively reach students of all different abilities. That’s an area that the Florida Diagnostic & Learning Resources System specializes in and they collaborated with other local experts to present a workshop titled “Accessible Arts: Designing Art and Music Lessons for All Students.” Nearly 40 visual art and music teachers convened for a two-day seminar highlighting a relatively new educational framework known as Universal Design for Learning.
Participants were provided with an overview of the legislation that has evolved to protect students including the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Obama in 2015. Kelly Claude of the Florida Inclusion Network said “it’s the very first time that the nation’s K-12 education law includes and endorses
Universal Design for Learning. It’s mentioned 14 times in that legislation.”
Claude went on to outline how earlier legislation created an environment where UDL can thrive. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability.
Claude said that “it began with Vietnam and Korean War veterans who came back missing a limb, or couldn’t hear, or couldn’t see. They found that they were not allowed access to employment, even with very small accommodations like being able to roll into their desk instead of sit at the regular chair.” This paved the way for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which addresses equal access to programs, services, and buildings for people of all ages and all identified disabilities, including students in schools.
Addressing the needs of diverse learners requires a shift in thinking and Allyn Howard of FDLRS described a cartoon metaphor for how UDL creates an inclusive classroom environment where everyone can be successful.
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