Friday, August 31, 2007

Attending Closing the Gap like a Pro 2007

Welcome to My Point of View…..

WOW, look what time of year it is again. I know every one is gearing up for the school year 2007-2008 which also means that we are also anticipating the first conference of the season. Last year, I wrote “How to attend CTG like a Pro”. I have been asked by a few people to re-send out the information from last year. However, I am taking a leap of faith and stepping into the area of blogging to share this information. I am updating the information and adding a few helpful tools for people that are attending. So please be patient. This is going to be a long post.

Every year there are new people entering the field of assistive technology for personal reasons or because the job was thrust upon them. Closing the Gap is the first conference of the conference season for professional development for beginners, intermediate and advance AT specialist. Closing the Gap happens every year at the same time of year, same state, same hotel. This is very convenient for planning purposes. You can always anticipate when it will happen

Where: Minneapolis, Minnesota
When: Pre-conference: October 16-17th Conference: October 18-20th

No matter if you are a newbie or an old pro attending the conference, it is an exciting time. It happens at the time of year when you have to get your head into the game for training, implementing, evaluating and thinking of the students we are working with or will be working with. The conference is an awesome conference to attend and learn about the technology and how others have used a strategy or tool.

If you are attending the conference for the first time or you are a pro, it is or can be an overwhelming experience especially when you start to read the website ( for the list of workshop opportunities and exhibitors that will be attending.

The experience is a jumble of feelings. You feel excited (when you are approved to attend), panic (especially when you find out that the school hasn’t paid the bill to CTG or the hotel can’t find your reservation), anxiety (when you realize your bag was left in the last hall you were in which is on the other side of the hotel) and shear exhaustion (when you had to run from conference to conference hall). Just remember that you are not alone. You are in a community that is feeling the same thing as you are.

Every year, Closing the Gap offers some of the best presentations and presenters that you will ever have a chance to hear. You have access to presenters that are the experts in their field. They return to the conference every year so they can share their knowledge and experiences but also to learn from others. Closing the gap is about energizing your batteries for the school year. It is about motivating you to push further than you did the year before for the children and adults we serve.

There are 200 or so presentations in a 3 day period it is suggested that you develop a game plan. I personally find it is important to develop a plan because there is no way you are going to be able to attend all the workshops you want or need. Planning is the only way that you will be able to cover all your bases in just period of time. To be honest, if you don’t do some planning you are going to be running around the conference floor like you have just landed late for a connecting plane and you landed in Gate A and your connecting plane is in Gate F. No matter how much you rush and run, you will still miss the plane.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. You are such a vauable source of information, I am sure this is going to benefit many, many people. I am so thrilled to attend the conference. This information is so helpful to me.

Again you have come through for ALL of us! Have a super day!


Patrick said...

This is a great site, thanks for all the info Jeanette!! Any info on wi-fi access at the conference?

Jeannette said...

According to Jeff, wireless internet will be set up in the Plaza Tower, like last year.

"The Gold Boot Guy" said...

Ten Things School Districts Can Do to Close the Achievement Gap

Even academically talented African-American high school students express strong ambivalence toward school and fear that they will never gain the rewards of school success. Nearly all African-American students feel that a major problem at school and in mainstream society is the belief of many Caucasians that African-Americans are less intelligent and talented than other groups. African-American students deal with this everyday, and, for many, the struggle becomes so difficult that they “give up” on success in the mainstream and look for it elsewhere – in gangs, in prison, etc. This is one reason for the academic achievement gap that exists between African-American and Caucasian students. Another reason is the lack of, or resources to access, educational opportunities, such as college attendance. A third reason is the difficulty in dealing with racist practices in the real world, especially institutionalized racism.

How can school districts help to close the achievement gap?

1. Adopt state standards for educational excellence. School districts that have low or no educational standards create poorly educated students and cause students of higher socio-economic levels to leave to attend private schools. High quality standards set the stage for a diverse student population and an excellent educational system.

2. Require academic achievement tests that are nationally normed and standardized. Such tests clearly show how well students are doing compared to national norms.

3. Improve low test scores by creating plans for improvement and implementing and monitoring them consistently. Such plans should focus on excellent quality teaching and research-based program implementation rather than on test score improvement. Get financial aid from the federal and state governments to fund improvement programs.

4. Hire and retain the highest quality teachers that can be found. Insist on fully credentialed teachers, with student teaching experience, if possible. Consider re-hiring retired teachers for their years of experience and create a job share program for those who want to work ½ time.

Hire teachers of all races and ethnic backgrounds, including bilingual teachers. Create incentive programs for such teachers to hire on in the school district, including higher pay, cost of living pay, planning time during the school day, well maintained campuses, duty-free lunch and recess times, funds for classroom materials, enthusiastic and motivating principals, disciplinary support, extra pay for Masters’ and doctoral degrees, and district awards, such as Teacher of the Month, Teacher of the Year, etc. A child care program for teachers’ children will draw in stay-at-home moms.

Don’t retain teachers beyond their probationary period if there is the slightest doubt that they can perform well. If a district keeps them on, it can never get rid of them later if they fail.

5. Avoid student tracking by ability or any other criteria. For both Caucasian and students of color, academic success is positively correlated to how an individual is tracked. Only 6.9% of minority students have access to "gifted and talented" programs, compared to 23% of Caucasian students. Tracking and the quality of academic opportunities affects the gap in academic achievement.

6. Improve home to school communication. Provide funding for translators, establish a homework hotline, schedule twice yearly conferences, have report cards translated into several languages, send a monthly principal’s newsletter, plan family-based activities to bring families to the campus, and schedule regular meetings with the principal for parents. The principals and upper administrators should have “open door” policies.

Use "looping" models of instruction, in which children stay with the same teacher for two years. The advantage is that teachers have greater opportunities to build long lasting relationships with parents and students. Less learning time is lost at the beginning of a school year because the teacher already knows the students and their abilities and needs.

7. Prevent gangs. Create a balanced program of prevention, intervention, and enforcement strategies. School districts must work closely with law enforcement to share information on gang activity. Implement student, staff, and parent anti-gang education and prevention programs. Communicate to staff, students, and parents that gangs, drugs, and weapons will not be tolerated. Discipline in a timely, firm, fair, and consistent manner. Establish relationships with parents, law enforcement, and social services.

8. Require ongoing teacher training during an entire teaching career. The biggest factor in student success is the ability of the teacher to teach well. Ongoing training keeps the process of improvement continuing throughout a teacher’s career.

9. Implement research-based programs for student improvement when difficulties first begin. Get government or business funding.

10. Lower class size.

There should be no more than 20 students per class in grades kindergarten through 3. Class size should top out at 30 students maximum in academic courses. Course such as physical education can handle more students.

These suggestions will help school districts close the achievement gap between African-American and Caucasian students. To read more about this issue:

Close the Gap: Multiple Ways to Close the Achievement Gap by Mylai Tenner, Ed.S