Programs that work now

Basics of restorative practices

Restorative practices are a subsection of restorative justice. They can be used to help create healthy environments for students, staff and community members. It's important for all members of a school system to feel comfortable with their peers and restorative practices help create mutual respect and a sense of community.

Produced by: Alex Maiorana

the benefits of community schools

When students face obstacles that are out of their control, they do not learn. If a student comes from a food insecure household and is hungry when they get to school, they are not going to focus on the lessons being taught. Community schools provided the resources students need to succeed, based on the needs of the community.

A community school creates a holistic approach to engage the student, family and community in the academic and personal development of a child. These community schools become centralized hubs within low-income communities, offering academic, health and social services to students and their families. Members of the community and school administration develop a strategic plan to align the communities needs with the resources provided by the school.

Community schools provide a curriculum to enrich a student in and out of the classroom. These institutions take a personalized approach to learn that would best benefit a student's future endeavors. These schools have programs before and after the school day to offer additional resources to students like tutoring, and are open on the weekends to create a more accessible environment for parents to be involved in a students academic careers. 

These schools also offer on-site medical care. Dentists, nurses, mental health professionals and health agencies are brought to the school to provide care for students who, otherwise, might not get the healthcare they require to stay healthy. Community schools provide social support, making social workers available to meet the needs of the student population.



Developing positive relationships within the family and community can have exceptional benefits on student achievement. According to a study conducted by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, family involvement in a child's education can result in higher GPAs, better attendance, improved behavior and better social skills. Community schools offer opportunities for parents to attend workshops on leadership and involvement, English as a second language classes and activities to engage with their students in a learning environment outside of the classroom.

Any type of school can become a community school. Low-income areas benefit from these schools, as students often do not have the resources necessary to succeed in a traditional school setting. When a student is provided with opportunities to grow, they are more likely to experience a positive impact on student engagement and achievement.

Community schools thrive on the pillars of integrated student support, expanded learning time and opportunities, family and community engagement and collaborative leadership and practice to provide a holistic education for students to utilize throughout their life. In a study conducted by the Learning Policy Institute, it was found that effective implementation of community schools resulted in “improvements in student outcomes, including attendance, academic achievement, high school graduation rates, and reduced racial and economic achievement gaps.”

Written By: Sydney Lynch

Different kinds of disability learning plans

Special education is just as important as the standard curriculum in a school setting, although it was not a part of the educational system until the 1970s. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was the first time people with disabilities were required to be accommodated in schools. It was not until 1975 that disabled students were guaranteed a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

Helen Mannion, a curriculum developer, talked about parents and schools reacting to students with disabilities.

“Sometimes parents are told that it's just a ... the student will eventually catch up. But that is not a very good thing to tell a parent if they think a child is struggling because they're just potentially falling farther and farther behind. And so it's important that if a parent thinks that a student has a learning difference, that they get the testing and they get the type of instruction that they need,” Mannion said.


In 1975 one of the most well known special education resources was created. The IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, was mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, or IDEA. Between 2004-2018 the number of students who were given IEPs increased from 6.3 million to 7 million.

As the name implies, an IEP is individualized for each student with a disability that qualifies for one. There are 13 disabilities listed in IDEA that allow for an IEP. The student must be unable to learn or benefit from a common curriculum without specialized teaching to qualify for an IEP.

IEPs are offered in public and charter schools, their private counterpart is known as an Individual Service Plan. The programs are made by a mixture of individuals who are familiar with the student including their parents, teachers, administrators and the student if they are over the age of 14.

The IEP is supposed to track the student’s current performance and set up achievable goals and ways of monitoring those goals. Not only that, but the accommodations and services required for the student are included. The IEP is a mix of physical documentation and the actual program that will be used in helping a student excel and succeed in school.

An IEP is re-evaluated at least once a year and re-organized to match the current standard and growth of the student.

Some common accommodations for those with IEPs are extended time for assignments and tests, response and question variations (Like hearing questions instead of reading them) and written instructions and outlines.

Mannion talked about how accomodations can help students with disabilities, “assistive technology can make a student who has our learning difference, be able to achieve their fullest potential. So if a student can't read and they can listen to something be read to them, that can give them access to the content... There are tons of different types of accommodations that help students reach their fullest potential.”

Students can also have modifications to the curriculum made based on their learning level and areas of strength or weakness. Students can have different assignments, grading standards and can be exempt from particular projects.


Some students are also offered assistive technologies, such as keyboards and touchscreens or text to speech processors. While some of these assistive technologies can be provided by schools, they can also be bought or in some instances prescribed by a physical or speech therapist.

These modifications and accommodations help students with disabilities learn and grow at a pace similar to those without disabilities. It allows for a support system in both the school and the people who have helped those students create the plan itself.

Kristin Cardamore, a preschool teacher who had an IEP herself, said, “the IEP is the biggest thing that helps those that need the support... They're [the school staff] able to look at the IEP and determine, "OK. This is the best way I am supposed to help this child. This is how I should reach those goals with him and I should make sure I'm addressing this." It's just a way that helps provide the support for each child”


An Individual Service Plan (ISP) is similar to an IEP for students who do not attend public or charter schools. Private schools can provide special education but are not required to. An ISP for a student will likely be given through a Local Education Agency (LEA)*.

An LEA is required to set aside funds for students with disabilities in private schools. Since the funds are more limited an ISP may be similar to an IEP, but may have fewer services available. An ISP also doesn't have to ensure a free and appropriate education.

The same set of people who would create an IEP for a child must also be part of the team creating the ISP for a child. That child must also meet the same qualifications for an IEP as well as attend a private school to qualify for an ISP.


While 504s are similar to, and often confused with, IEPs they are different. Students do not need a particular disability, but if they struggle with schooling or are affected by a learning disability, they can qualify for a 504 plan.

A 504 plan is much less in-depth and so it requires a much smaller team of people to create the plan. They also do not provide an evaluation of the student like an IEP would.

A 504, like an IEP, is free of charge and benefits students who may need extra help if they are struggling with school.

At the core of these programs Mannion believes accommodations are “helping the student overcome whatever difficulty they have.”

*Local educational agency: As defined in ESEA, a public board of education or other public authority legally constituted within a state for either administrative control or direction of, or to perform a service function for, public elementary schools or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of a State, or for a combination of school districts or counties that is recognized in a State as an administrative agency for its public elementary schools or secondary schools.

Written by: Alex Maiorana

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