• Driven by Principles

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.

ABOUT US

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.

OUR FOUNDER

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 addition to running The Ability Challenge, Sarah 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.  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.

SARAH BERGER SANDELIUS

OUR MISSION AND VISION

The Ability Challenge seeks to transform how schools serve students with diverse learning needs by building research-driven tools and technology that support meaningful and personalized school improvement. Our vision is to create a world where schools and educational programs have equitable, effective systems and processes that provide the foundation for teaching all students, especially those with diverse learning needs, preparing them for meaningful post-secondary opportunities and careers.

The following core principles drive our work:

All students can achieve.

We believe to our core that success must be driven by a strengths-based approach and high expectations for every young person.

Adults are the change makers.

We know educators are working hard, but we can and should be working smarter and more efficiently.

Innovation is happening.

We must find the bright spots in classrooms across the country, celebrate what works and help amplify the lessons for others.

Strong systems promote equity.

Efficient processes create uniformity in how work gets done, relieves teacher stress, and frees up time to focus on meeting students’ learning needs.

Peer to peer connections are critical.

Opportunities to share, learn from and work together are essential for building sustainable change.

Differences in implementation are both a benefit and a challenge.

Local communities understand and know what will work for their stakeholders. While research and data provide foundations for change, ultimately schools must drive decisions about what and how to improve.

Compliance alone is not sufficient.

Schools can and should connect compliance-based processes to the delivery of robust, specialized instruction and other purposeful supports to help students learn.

Data will change mindsets.

Historically entrenched oppression has created and perpetuated vast divides in student outcomes. Creating proof-points around what works for diverse learners will drive our communities to reach higher and seek success for all.

Improvement is a continuous, ongoing process.

Failures are part of the process; the key is to quickly recognize problems and know how to course correct.

Solve the needs of our most diverse learners has benefits for all.

Starting with students at the margins builds a solid foundation from which all students can achieve success.

Meeting the needs of our most diverse learners helps all students achieve.