Six Shifts to Improve Special Education and Other Interventions

Six Shifts to Improve Special Education and Other Interventions A Commonsense Approach for School Leaders

Nathan Levenson
paper, 240 Pages
Pub. Date: May 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-479-3
Price: $32.00

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cloth, 240 Pages
Pub. Date: May 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-480-9
Price: $62.00

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Pub. Date: May 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-481-6

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Six Shifts to Improve Special Education and Other Interventions offers a set of bold, new ideas for dramatically raising the achievement of students with mild to moderate disabilities and students experiencing serious academic, social and emotional, and behavioral difficulties.


Exceptional students deserve an exceptional education, not an inferior one mired in status quo of compliance practices and antiquated thought. Nate gives his readers a roadmap for ushering in more responsive, effective practices to positively change systems and improve educational opportunities for students. — Cade Brumley, superintendent, Jefferson Parish Schools, Louisiana

Nate Levenson offers an excellent roadmap for districts struggling to provide high quality instruction in an increasingly accountable environment with limited resources. In particular, his advice on analyzing schedules to free up more time for instruction and remediation has been a game changer for our students. — Steve Joel, superintendent, Lincoln Public Schools, Nebraska

Nate Levenson provides promising, transformational practices, grounded in research and experienced implementation. This text is a must-read for any systems-focused leader who is interested in smarter ways to do better for struggling students. Levenson’s practical approach outlines shifting practices and services that yield the best results for our learners who require something different than we have been traditionally providing. — Susan Homrok-Lemke, assistant superintendent of pupil services, Simsbury, Connecticut

This enlightening book differs from other so-called reform efforts in that it offers specific, workable methods of fixing problems that have existed in the special education field for nearly 50 years. — Choice

Six Shifts to Improve Special Education and Other Interventions is exactly what it claims to be. His suggestions make intuitive sense, are budget-friendly and are aligned with research. He also delves into strategies to attend to social, emotional and behavioral needs of students, making this a useful resource for both building and district-level administrators. — School Administrator

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About the Author

Nathan Levenson is the managing director of the District Management Group in Boston. Levenson began his career in the private sector, starting as a strategic planning management consultant, owner of a midsized manufacturer of highly engineered machinery, and a turnaround consultant helping struggling firms. A passion for public education led to a career switch that included six years as a school board member; assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Harvard, Massachusetts; and superintendent of the Arlington, Massachusetts, public schools.

Levenson was hired as a change agent in Arlington during a turbulent time in a divided community. He oversaw all academic and operational aspects of a district with nine schools and a budget of over $50 million. Levenson’s leadership led to wide-scale changes in academic programs by accelerating the move to standards-based education and teacher developed common formative assessments in reading, math, writing, and social studies.

He helped create and champion an intensive reading program that reduced the number of students reading below grade level by two-thirds and revamped special education services, leading to a 24 percent improvement in academic achievement in English and math. The Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy identified Arlington High as a best-practice school for reducing the special education achievement gap by more than that of nearly all other public schools in the state (a 66 percent reduction in the achievement gap). Much of this effort focused on cost effectively improving MTSS and special education services.

As a strong believer in the importance of developing staff, Levenson implemented a new system for hiring teachers and brought an emphasis on creating teamwork between administrators and teams of teachers, despite an environment that had prized isolation and turf conflict. Collaboration was based on the work of Richard DuFour’s professional learning community and Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Levenson created a less hierarchal climate within schools and departments, resulting in the creation of fifty teacher leadership roles and true distributed leadership.

Putting the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” into action, the Arlington Public Schools built partnerships with local nonprofits to provide—at little or no cost—psychiatric counselors, social workers, family counseling, a diversion program, drug and alcohol counseling, and a communitywide coalition to help keep students safe from substance abuse and stress.

As managing director of the District Management Group, Levenson assists school districts across the country in raising achievement during times of declining resources. His work in special education is on the leading edge of thinking and practice, and his support of districts with strategic planning, resource allocation, cost-effective teaching and learning strategies, and human capital development is also at the forefront of the nation’s school reform efforts.

He has overseen a number of national and statewide studies on special education including an analysis of special education costs and outcomes from fourteen hundred districts nationally and a study of best practices and related staffing for struggling students in all districts in Massachusetts. One such study was profiled in a Wall Street Journal editorial and led to a private discussion of his work with education secretary Arne Duncan and a number of follow-up discussions with his senior team. Levenson has been an adviser to state departments of education, has contributed to think tanks, and is a regular speaker on the topic of improving special education and services for struggling students.

His work has been profiled in the District Management Journal and in The Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy’s best practices in special education report, and chronicled in Stretching the School Dollar, published by the Harvard Education Press. He has published research for the American Enterprise Institute, Center for American Progress, The Fordham Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Levenson received a BA from Dartmouth College and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School, and is a graduate of the Broad Foundation Superintendents Academy.

Table of Contents

E-book available through online booksellers

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