Addressing the needs of our most diverse learners presents a tremendous opportunity with benefits for the entire education community. But teachers and administrators face common challenges: the burden of paperwork and data collection in service of a compliance culture, scarce time and resources, and a disparate understanding of how disability impacts learning.
Our education systems are failing many of young learners with the most potential — students with disabilities. Research indicates that these students have the potential to graduate at rates approaching 90% or more, yet, today, only 65% graduate on time.
Too often, improvement efforts are incomplete — for example, focusing only on individual student progress or lengthy compliance exercises, or on assessing students by the same metrics used on their non-disabled peers. This fragmented process burdens already overworked teachers, feeding a cycle of low expectations and inconsistent instruction.
The Ability Challenge was launched as a non-profit organization in 2018 to help schools develop the systems and processes necessary to deliver world-class special education programming. We provide schools with tools to help close the gap between compliance and quality in order to help all students achieve.
MEET THE TEAM
Sarah Berger Sandelius
Sarah Sandelius is a lawyer with more than fifteen years of experience implementing strategy and policy on behalf of our nation’s youth. Her work connects policy, process and performance to create strong systems that produce positive academic outcomes and students prepared for post-graduation life. In founding The Ability Challenge, Sarah seeks to offer partnership and support to schools and districts working to improve learning outcomes for students with disabilities. Sarah also founded and runs FlipTurn Education Consulting, partnering with schools and organizations around the country on strategic operations and policy projects focused on improving student outcomes. She has received many accolades for her recent work with ABC, including being selected as an entrepreneur with Cambiar Education, for the SEED SPOT’s 2020 Impact Accelerator, and for a 4.0 Schools Essential Fellowship.
Sarah spent most of her career at the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE), serving as Executive Director of Policy and Student Advocacy for NYC DOE’s alternative schools district and then as Senior Counsel for Litigation and Policy. In those roles she ran special education across 10 alternative programs, managed the Litigation Implementation Unit that successfully ended several long-running class action settlements, and created systems that helped move the City’s 1,700 schools toward providing more equitable educational opportunities for all learners. She received her B.A. from Cornell University and her J.D. from the University of Virginia. She also teaches Education Law and Policy at American University in Washington, DC.
Kristen N. Briggs
Kristen N. Briggs leads ABC’s programming development at a time of refining and thoughtfully codifying our program. Kristen joined the ABC team with over a decade of experience as a Special Education teacher, school and network leader and most recently a nonprofit director. As a non-profit director, Kristen partnered with district-level leadership teams to develop multi-year strategic plans for the implementation of high-quality instructional materials including building professional learning scope and sequences, designing and facilitating rigorous, high-quality professional learning experiences for educators and setting student outcomes goals and analysis benchmarks.
Prior to entering the non-profit sector, Kristen served as a school and network Special Education leader in New York where she designed and led the implementation of comprehensive Special Education and Student Support programs in grades K-12. Kristen began her career as a Special Education teacher and has instructional experience in middle and high school settings across all core content areas as well as experience as a mentor and Special Education content expert for graduate students at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. Kristen is a proud graduate of Morgan State University where she earned a B.S. in Psychology and also holds a Masters Degree in Secondary Education with a Special Education certification from Chestnut Hill College.