When I completed graduate school at Florida State University, my ADD brain was in hyperdrive. For two years consisting of hundreds of hours, I worked through projects, technology platforms, writing, and making sense of data points. I learned a lot, but I was having a difficult time putting it all together and seeing how it could help me be a better educator. Throughout my professional careers, I’ve always valued data. In the decision-making process, it’s essential not to make all of your decisions on ‘gut’ feelings.

As an educator, data is essential. Without it, we can’t accurately determine whether students are grasping concepts or improving their skills. It is crucial to understand that data and grades are not the same in this discussion.

Less than a month after graduating, I began a process of analyzing student data from students I taught. I started looking for anything that might indicate why some students were scoring well on assessments, and others were not. Sadly, we still live in an era where grades and assessment scores are measures for student success in the learning environment. Little did I know, this research would lead me to a concept vaguely covered in my studies and a Tallahassee resident.

During this independent research, I found one commonality, the absence of strong executive skills. You can click here for more information about executive functioning and abilities. The lack of these skills create gaps in understanding. As the years go by, and content becomes more complex, this academic gap widens. Without intentionally applying the notion, I was using a concept known as needs assessment, which was fathered by resident and emeritus professor Roger Kaufman, Ph.D. It’s safe to say that I founded Engaged Academics on the principles that Dr. Kaufman created. His work is most commonly applied in business models, but I was able to use the same structure and apply it to students.

When we first meet a student, we do a needs assessment. A needs assessment is an inventory of where the student is academically, what issues they may be experiencing, and how they view themselves as a learner. Often, this occurs through a formative assessment style by asking questions, quizzing general knowledge, and talking through a typical week of school routines. The assessments typically include some form of reading assessments, math assessments, and attitudinal data. We also utilize the SMALSI. The SMALSI is, in my opinion, the most excellent tool we have at our disposal for understanding executive functioning from a learner perspective. We then analyze this data and determine the best course of action and what the teacher will be the best fit. Intertwined in this process is the gap analysis. This analysis takes into account where they are currently and where we’d like to see them reach in the future. This process is critical because this is where we determine what subordinate skills need to be reinforced, enriched, or learned to close the gap between the current state and desired state.

The Engaged Academics’ process is not the same as the average tutor working with a student. We have a team of professionals that continuously collaborate and discuss student needs to propel them to be their best. In addition to all of this, we work with teachers, administrators, healthcare providers, etc. When possible and needed, we will attend conferences and advocate on your behalf to make sure the school system is using best practices for your child.

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