I first started work as a special education consultant to schools 20 years ago, before Unique Learning System® was developed. I routinely asked audiences I was training about their curriculum. Many would say that the curriculum was the IEP. However, the IEP can’t be a scope and sequence of everything the student needs to learn. Some would say that the general education standards were the curriculum but had difficulty specifying how it was adapted. Many said they didn’t have a curriculum at all.
Things have changed a lot in the last 20 years. Teachers are more aware of their obligation to address the general education curriculum. Districts are more aware that they need to provide specially designed instruction for each student from evidence-based practices. Part of my work with school districts as a consultant is to develop systems and programs that support their mission while making classrooms workable and functional for teachers and students.
Here are 7 reasons why I recommend Unique Learning System in the classroom:
1. It’s appropriate for all ages while meeting the developmental needs of all levels.
This is probably one of the first things that attracted me to Unique Learning System. I work with students from kindergarten age to 22 years old, and I’ve worked with adults in the past. Finding age-appropriate curricula that meets the complex learning needs of a 22-year-old student whose developmental level is at a second grade level is tough. That student doesn’t need to work on second grade material, but instead work toward independent living and getting a job. I love that Unique Learning System provides age-appropriate material for all students and can be adapted to those with significant cognitive delays.
2. It’s tied to the general education standards.
Most special education classrooms serving students with severe disabilities don’t have just one type of student. Instead, they have students on many different levels, and often of many different ages. Trying to adapt all the standards needed for different grade levels into meaningful activities significantly takes away from the time required for teaching. Unique Learning System provides differentiated lesson materials and standards alignments so that the teacher can easily spend more time engaging students in valuable learning time.
3. It includes visuals allowing teachers to support a variety of students.
This was another huge feature to me. I know from experience how much time it takes to create all the visuals needed for specific activities. I’ve even been in districts where the administrators tried to address this need by designating staff to just produce visual supports for teachers. Unique Learning System has the visuals built into the lessons so that teachers don’t need to spend their time creating new materials or trying to adapt existing activities.
4. Goals, Preferences and Skills allows for regular monitoring with tests and products so there is ongoing assessment of progress (in addition to the IEP).
I love data and am a firm believer that teachers must use their data not only to monitor student progress and address issues but also to get credit for what they are teaching. Collecting data isn’t enough. The data can be used to make decisions about how skills are taught. The Goals, Preferences and Skills (GPS) allows for regular monitoring and assessment of students’ learning across the curriculum and provides regular snapshots of progress. And again, the teacher doesn’t need to create new tests to assess the student across the adapted standards regularly.
5. Administrators can access the portal to see which teachers are using the program for follow-up with training and support.
Trying to monitor the classrooms and all of their students is a difficult job for administrators, particularly special education directors. Directors are asked to oversee and monitor classrooms throughout many buildings, staff hired by many different principals and students with many different needs. The access to the Unique Learning System portal of classrooms allows administrators to know whether or not the program is being used. If it isn’t being used, this allows them to provide more training and support to those teachers to use Unique Learning System.
It also allows them to check the progress of individual students in the district within GPS. When parents have concerns that go beyond the classroom teacher and move to the district level, the administrator has quick access to determine what has been taught and presented and how the student is progressing.
6. The company continues to change and grow to meet the changing needs of education.
When Unique Learning System first became available, materials had to be printed. There were few computer supports and you had to get creative to use it on a whiteboard. Fast forward to today, and most teachers are using it with tablets, computers and interactive whiteboards. This not only saves time and paper, but it provides different modalities for the students to learn and remain engaged with the curriculum. Feedback from customers helped n2y develop new strategies to meet the changing needs of the classroom.
7. The price is great for the materials provided.
Finally, we know that budgets are tight and money matters. Frankly, I am amazed that n2y offers so much for so little. I love that the price of a subscription is per classroom instead of per student because it makes it so much easier for budgeting. For the amount of work that goes into all the units, the price is a bargain.
Unique Learning System may not be the only tool to provide access to general education used in a classroom. It may be combined with other more subject-specific curricula, but the framework it provides for addressing the general education standards in the special education classroom has been incredibly helpful.
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