with Elizabeth Kimmel, director of Pupil Services
Elizabeth Kimmel joined Shaker Schools as the Director of Pupil Services in July.
She has extensive experience with Response to Intervention (RTI), a multitiered
system of support that monitors how students progress with researchbased
Previously, Kimmel was the Coordinator of Student Services at Lakewood
City Schools, where she was responsible for special education and all related
services at the high school, middle school, and Lakewood City Academy, a
conversion community school.
Kimmel also has a personal connection to special education: she was a
delayed learner in reading and math who benefitted from intensive early
Q: How do you close the achievement gap between typical and special
A: For a long time, there was a belief that student achievement was tied to IQ.
But we’ve learned that’s just not true for many students. So in looking at what
works and what doesn’t work, pulling kids out of class and teaching them at
a lower level really doesn’t close that gap because we’re not exposing kids to
grade-level content. Making sure that all students have access to grade-level
content and providing support for their needs, in addition to that, is key to
closing that gap. And, for many students, if the worst possible thing that can
happen is that they’ll learn more than we expected, then why not bring services
into general education? That’s not to say there are some students who need more
restrictive settings, but that’s why there’s a continuum. If you default to the
more restrictive, then you don’t know if the less restrictive works.
Q: What about for students whose needs require a restrictive setting?
A: One of the things we’ve learned is that a high percentage of students who
we’d thought of as “life skills” students really can succeed at a much higher
level. I’ve gone to cross-categorical Resource Room classrooms where there are
students who understand adapted Romeo and Juliet at the high school level. I’m a
big believer that you don’t go wrong by having high expectations for students. I
believe it’s better to increase access and support than to lower expectations.
Q: What are your short-term goals
for Pupil Services in Shaker?
A: My primary objective is to look
at how can we work to build on the
RTI work that’s already been done
and to implement RTI so that across
all buildings there is more of a
systematic approach. When you have
students who are falling in that 20
percent who are not responding to
the general curriculum, we’d want
to put in place supports of different
levels of intensity automatically, so
it just becomes part of the practice
that if a student isn’t hitting reading
benchmarks at a certain level, then
we’ll automatically consider supports
for that child.
When RTI is done right, you’ll do
a better job of identifying who has a
disability. You may have students who
may not have grown up in a language
rich home, or they could have had
trauma or a disruption in their life,
but those students will respond to
supports. And then you’ll figure out
the group who has a disability because
their rate of improvement is not at
the speed that you want. You’re also
catching those kids earlier.
52 SHAKERONLINE.COM | FALL 2017