• 5/12/2017 Organizational Transition

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 5/12/2017 7:00:00 AM

    For decades, our organization has been engaged in the change process. My contributions to the 2014-15 Earlywood Special Edition outlined the rich forty year history of our cooperative. Some changes, such as the transition of most teachers and instructional assistants  from co-op to local employees occurred gradually.  Over the past three years, however, we have experienced rapid changes as a result of the withdraw of our two largest districts.

    In our March 17, 2017 edition, I introduced the new name of our organization, Earlywood Educational Services. Over the next few months, you will see our new identity come to life. The iconic circular black and gold logo which creatively depicted  “eec” as children will be replaced with this new image. We will also be changing our email address to “earlywood.org.”


    Our work behind our  mission of “Supporting the I in IEP” is stronger than ever. This year we implemented our first Professional Development Catalog. The 2017-18 catalog is in development. More information will be coming about programming emphasis for next year. Our priority will continue to be on the service we provide to the students and teachers within our member districts. We will  accomplish this through a laser-like focus on research and evidence-based practice. I am extremely proud of our staff and grateful for their dedication to our students.  I’m excitedly looking forward to our new school year as we continue our legacy of leadership within the field.

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  • 4/28/2017 Specially Designed Instruction

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 4/28/2017 7:00:00 AM

    A change was recently made in the IIEP system requiring the identification of the specially designed instruction (SDI) to be included within the body of each IEP goal. The SDI is the instruction that will be utilized in order to teach the student the skills needed to achieve the goal.

    Article 7 defines SDI as the process of adapting content, methods, or instructional delivery to address the unique needs of the student and to ensure the student access to general education curriculum (7-32-88). According to Matt Johnson from the Indiana IEP Resource Center, “SDI is the instruction intended to close the performance gap between individual students with disabilities and his or her general education peers. The annual goal then measures the effectiveness of this specialized instruction.”

    It's what's special about
    special education.

    A flurry of panic spread across the field as teachers discovered this new requirement within the IIEP program. While it is a new component within our template, it is not a new concept. A child’s right to specially designed instruction has been in special education law since the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA.

    When I train about goal writing, I explain a cyclical process of IEP goal development and implementation as pictured here.

    We begin with a student’s present levels of performance. Based on the data, we determine the needs of the student and provide specially designed instruction to meet those needs. The goal is written as a way to measure progress with the application of the SDI. We monitor the child’s progress towards the goal which results in a new set of present levels.

    I acknowledge that teachers and therapists who strive for both quality and compliance would appreciate guidance on “what to put in the box” within the IIEP system. Our colleague, Gloria Crowell from Indian Creek, shared these two practical resources with us. This specific, useful composite of SDI’s came from a project sponsored by the Ohio Department of Education. This comprehensive resource is provided by the Texas Education Agency. I am hopeful that this explanation and these practical resources will assist you with both the development and provision of specially designed instruction for your students.


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  • 4/14/17 Pruning Leads to Growth

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 4/14/2017 7:00:00 AM



    Trees are pruned to develop a strong branching pattern. The pruning of fruit trees not only shapes the future growth of the tree, it also increases the quality of the fruits.  In general, a strong pruning fosters the growth more than a cautious one. Pruning is important so that the tree will not invest too much of its resources into branches which bear no fruits (Franke, 2003).

    Pruning, the focusing and prioritizing of the work of the individuals on what they are best at and what is most needed for their individual growth processes, should be a regular habit for everyone. Pruning involves evaluating ongoing projects, habits, and commitments then cutting those areas which will not focus the available resources on the fruit-bearing branches. Pruning is a very difficult task. It takes courage to prune. This article provides some practical tips for you to use in your own personal pruning.

    In the garden, pruning serves first the growth of the individual plant and only secondly the growth of the garden.


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  • 3/17/2017 New Agreement & New Name

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 3/17/2017 7:00:00 AM

    As a type of special education cooperative known as an interlocal special education cooperative, we have a document that legally outlines our services and agreements with our member districts. Every so often, the document is reviewed and updated to reflect changes within the organization. Our interlocal agreement was revised and adopted by the Board in December of 2015. This document was recently filed with the State Board of Accounts and the County Recorder, the final process to make it 100% official.

    One of the changes within the interlocal agreement is a new name for our organization. "Special Services, Johnson County & Surrounding Schools" no longer appropriately reflects our scope of work in supporting our member districts. It's also a mouthful to say and we often get confused with Southside Special Services.

    From this summer forward, we will be known as Earlywood Educational Services. Along with the obvious new logo and letterhead, we're investigating the feasibility of a new email address as well.  Stay tuned for more details.

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  • 3/3/2017 A Change in Seasons

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 3/3/2017 7:00:00 AM


    The seasons are beginning to change.  However, warmer weather and sunnier days are not the only changes on our horizon. The political season within our profession is changing too. With the election of new educational leaders at the state and national level, the way we operate will likely encompass both new growth and the pruning of old practices.

    Just as you know how to dress for the weather by keeping a close eye on the forecast, I recommend that you keep a close eye on the education forecast too.

    The current “long-term forecast” for education calls for a mix of implementation and possible revision of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This article from Education Week shares the letter that Betsy DeVos sent to State Chiefs indicating that she intends to keep the established timelines for states to submit their ESSA plans. There is speculation that the winds of change may also emerge within the accountability regulations.

    As “weather-watchers,” we want to know where to turn for the most up to date information. For the climate related to special education in Indiana, I recommend that you keep an eye on the Indiana Office of Special Education website.

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  • 2/17/2017 It's All About Love

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 2/17/2017 7:00:00 AM

    I love my job

    In February and March, when educators tend to feel overwhelmed and  burnt-out, we occasionally question why we entered this profession. The answer really is very simple.  It’s all about love.

    Your work as a teacher has purpose and allows you to express your creative side. Each day is different and comes with the opportunity to inspire young minds. The article 50 Reasons to Love Teaching highlights many reasons why teachers love their jobs. Need a bit of mid-winter inspiration? Review the reasons why teaching is an amazing profession in this article or share your own reasons with me (abalsley@ssjcs.k12.in.us). I’ll post your reasons for loving the profession on our Facebook page to share the love with others!

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  • 2/3/2017 Create More Time

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 2/3/2017 7:00:00 AM


    Teachers need more time! Time can’t be bought, borrowed, or traded. It is the ultimate finite resource and must be protected as diligently as any other resource. As educators, we often plan to do more than is possible, or we allow ourselves to be victims of time robbers.

    “Time robbers” are the people or things that distract us from achieving what we set out to do. They are like the weeds of teaching. We pull weeds from our gardens because weeds rob our soil and plants of important nutrients and water. By pulling the time robbers from our lives, we will protect the precious resource of time. This article identifies 19 common time robbers and gives strategies for eliminating them. Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen of Cognitive Connections share more tips and resources as well as an app to assess the awareness of time.

    I urge you to take five minutes to identify 2-3 time robbers in your life and develop a few simple strategies to eliminate them.  

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  • 1/20/17 Climate Control

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 1/20/2017 7:15:00 AM

    Winter Flower

    Often it is easy to notice when plants have been affected by the climate. Nips from frost or the scorch from the sun on a hot day can have an immediate impact on greenery. 

    The same can be true for your students. It can be easy to notice how the classroom climate affects some children. An unstructured day can elicit signs of anxiety, or a few helpful redirecting comments can set a student back on track and grow his or her confidence. For other children, it is not as easy to quickly assess the impact of your classroom climate on their learning.  

    While we can’t control the weather for our plants, teachers have a great deal of control over the climate of the learning environments in their classrooms. The Committee for Children published three aspects of creating a positive classroom climate.

    1. Develop and reinforce classroom rules & norms that clearly support safe and respectful behavior.
    2. Promote positive peer relationships.
    3. Nurture positive relationships with all students.

    To learn more about ways to accomplish these goals, read the full article and the Conscious Discipline website. To Cultivate Growth in your classroom, make sure that you promote an optimal climate!

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  • 1/6/2017 Cultivating Your Own Growth

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 1/6/2017 7:30:00 AM

    Happy New Year

    Throughout this school year, I’ve been using a gardening theme in my articles to coincide with our theme of Cultivating Growth.  The word “cultivate” has another meaning as well. In addition to agricultural references, ‘cultivate’ also means to “try to acquire or develop a quality, sentiment, or skill.

    If you are still narrowing down your top couple of New Year’s resolutions, considering cultivating your own growth by the following suggestions from Teacher's Life and The Learner's Edge

    • Talk to more adults about topics other than school
    • Cut yourself some slack
    • Enjoy your students
    • Maintain a healthy work-life balance
    • Learn a technology that will enhance daily routines

    Wishing you the most wonderful year yet!

    Happy New Year!

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  • 12/9/2016 Cultivating Calm Environments

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 12/9/2016 7:30:00 AM


    Pondering a thoughtful gift to give this season? Consider a plant! Studies have shown that plants in homes and workplaces help reduce stress, increase productivity, and enhance positive attitudes. Similar benefits are documented in which having plants in classrooms improved health, grades, behavior, memory, and concentration. According to Really Good Stuff, the snake plant, amaryllis, venus fly trap, shamrock, and peace lily are five perfect plants for the classroom. The gift of a plant can Cultivate Growth by enhancing the classroom environment or workplace for years to come.

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