Issue 2 | December 2020 | Marcella E. Franczkowski, M.S., Assistant State Superintendent
From Marcella Franczkowski and the DEI/SES
As we enjoy the holiday season and ponder how celebrations this year may be different from any other year, we take pause to enjoy and reflect on the blessings in our lives, and the opportunities that we have had to grow both personally and professionally. While sacrifices may be necessary, and we may miss some traditions, new reflections of perseverance and accomplishments over the course of the year will be celebrated. Knowing that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves, our shared experiences this year have been enhanced by the support of others and have heightened our appreciation and recognition of every member of our education community. *Each one of you contributes something unique, significant and essential to the mission of educating our children. For you, your talents and leadership, the DEI/SES family and I are incredibly grateful.* I wish you, your professional teams, and your family a safe, healthy, and magical holiday season, capturing the wonderment of the times with the hope and innocence of a child.
Marcella E. Franczkowski, Assistant State Superintendent, DEI/SES
On October 20, Garrett County Public Schools held their first in-person SECAC/Family Event since the pandemic began in March. They had more attendees than they’ve had in the previous several years! Parents were given information on the GCPS reopening plan, accountability audit, and additional family support resources. The event was not only informative, but also fun; students of all ages from both general and special education, including infants and toddlers, participated in fall crafts and pumpkin painting!
Take Note: Baltimore City Public Schools staff use virtual phone numbers to connect with families during the pandemic.
The Good Old Days
For families who opted for face-to-face instruction, Kent County Public Schools (KCPS) under Wendy Keens dedicated leadership, successfully provided this model of instruction to 100% of students with significant intensive needs beginning the second week of the school year through December 4. The KCPS programming is familiar and refreshing! At the middle school, (KCMS) students learned and practiced skills through mailing letters to families and friends. These letters sent thanks and artwork to previous teachers, friends, and families. Imagine the moments of happiness for the recipients of concrete communication and warm thoughts in the ways of the “good old days.”The middle school students engaged in research about endangered animals, completed science experiments, and participated in holiday music and dance activities. KCMS owns bragging rights to 100% attendance during this time.
At the high school, (KCHS) students spread holiday cheer by decorating the doors and classrooms for the teachers who were teaching virtually from their classrooms; what a great tip for extended opportunities to build social skills and a circle of friends. During the first semester of this year, these high schoolers continued to work and develop adaptive life skills aligned with their academic program. COVID-safe shopping skills were practiced at school.
To the KCPS team, we extend hopes and wishes for your speedy return to face-to-face instruction as well as warm virtual hugs for the holidays!!!
New Leader Introduction
Frederick County Public Schools recently welcomed Troy Keller to join and partner with Dr. Linda Chambers in the collaborative role of Director of Special Education. Troys primary focus in FCPS is the leadership of elementary programming while Linda directs her efforts and work to support the secondary programs. Prior to his move to Frederick County, Troy held the position of Assistant Director of Special Education in Atlanta Public Schools in Georgia. In this role, both instructional and compliance responsibilities were under his guidance. Troys history also includes the Austin Independent School District in Texas, where his chief duty was supervision of the behavior and autism programs. In addition to certifications in special education and general education, Mr. Keller is a Board Certified Applied Behavioral Analyst, and brings his experiences, skills, and talents of working with students with Autism and behavioral challenges to his current leadership role. Welcome to Maryland, Troy!
Little People. Big Partnerships.
Calvert County’s Birth to Five team and their community partners are demonstrating true collaboration during Virtual Parent Trainings this school year. Tatiana Owens, the Calvert County Infants and Toddlers Program Coordinator, leads the Infants and Toddlers/Preschool parent trainings while working closely with childcare providers including Judy Center, Hippy/Healthy Families, and the Head Start program. Topics include: “Natural Environment Learning, Parent Engagement During Virtual Learning 2020,” and more. Providers, attending training for the first time may earn MSDE approved continuing education hours for completion of the six sessions. Local community partners offer parent incentives, such as gift certificates to support the extended commitment beyond the workday.
“Pre-K Family Nights,” organized by Nancy Gregory, Supervisor of Special Education, began October 29 for parents of children with and without disabilities. They meet immediately after school and evenings to accommodate parent schedules. To continue the tradition of school pizza night, community partners deliver pizza to the homes of each participating family! Other partners prepare and send learning kits to families prior to sessions. Collaboration between the Judy Center, Head Start and coordinators of the general education Pre-K programs is fruitful and treasured. Awesome teamwork Calvert County and community partners!
Change it Up!
Imagine the analysis of your data and the discovery that systemic processes demanded updates. In 2015, Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) faced this challenge. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) data and Child Outcome Summary (COS) ratings revealed that changes were needed to the service delivery model for three-year-old children not served in inclusive settings. Using the TAP-IT process and strategic data analysis, a lack of alignment of the Early Learning Assessment (ELA) with the curriculum was discovered. To redesign the system, methods and strategies that facilitated the implementation of evidence-based practices and research into regular use by daily providers were put into place. For example, personnel were trained in using the ELA for progress monitoring and the development of functional IEP goals.
Monthly team meetings were held to promote communication, fidelity of implementation, and address ongoing challenges. Teachers strategically connected the learning progressions and Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviors in the ELA across general and special education instruction, class design, parent engagement, and the development of functional IEP goals. Teachers now report peers and children with disabilities are surpassing expected ELA measured outcomes and exceptional results are noted. This year, with the continued implementation of evidence-based practices, building a foundation of child outcomes is evident in both the schoolhouse and in the virtual environment. WCPS looks forward to future data analysis that supports the new processes and practices and reveals a continuation of elevated results for children.
Access, Equity, Progress
Resources in Action
The many new challenges of this unprecedented school year have not stopped a dedicated team of leaders and educators in *Wicomico* *County* from expanding efforts to enhance student learning. Supported by “*Local Implementation for Results*” funding and local resources, teams of general and special educators from five elementary schools and one middle school are honing their skills in the co-development, co-implementation, and co-evaluation of specially designed instruction (SDI). Professional development began this summer on topics of collaboration, implementing instructional support through virtual learning, and opportunities to experience and practice a variety of interactive strategies and tools. Future topics for this year include developing effective and informative present levels statements in IEPs, writing standards-aligned goals and objectives, delivering SDI, and monitoring student progress to inform instruction.
AEP resources in action
Instructional Assistants (IAs), as valued members of the team are included in this focused effort. Leveraging the flexibility provided by one asynchronous learning day each week, WCPS brought the IAs who work with the participating teacher teams together to learn about strategies for delivering accommodations and supports during distance learning, with additional professional learning planned for later in the year. In addition to these elevated professional learning opportunities, the instructional teams receive ongoing coaching and support from the systems special education coordinators. Stipends are available to support dedicated monthly planning time outside of the school day.
Return on Investment
*Charles County* has strategically invested discretionary funding in their “Ongoing Assessment Project (OGAP)”. This intensive professional development training project, centered on mathematical practices, began in January of 2018. The return on the investment is now evident! The overall average gain for all students grades 1-5 from pre-test to post-test in math for the 2018-2019 school year was 16.5 points. Special Education students in grades 1-5 made an average gain of 15.19 points in that same year. In the 2019-2020 school year, the average gain for all students grades 1-5 from pre-test to post-test in math was 11.86 points. Students in grades 1-5 with IEP services made an average gain of 12.95 points in that same year. Slowly but surely effective strategies are narrowing the gap in math achievement! Discretionary funding has made a significant difference for students with disabilities in mathematics. Kudos to Arden Sotomayor and the Charles County Leadership team!
Secondary Transition (ST) Steering Committee team members began using Padlet with students last spring to communicate and keep all team members updated and involved. Students from Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties participated virtually in the WorWic Community College Inclusive Higher Education transition program. These students were able to access Padlet online to receive weekly schedules, daily assignments and real-time feedback from their teachers and peers.
Wicomico County online AEP Zoom session
Motivated by committee members enthusiasm for Padlet, the ST Steering Committee now utilizes this tool for real-time support. The ST Steering Committee Padlet is a virtual online bulletin board used by members to collaborate, share resources and documents, post information and pose questions to individuals or the group. The four work groups within the Steering Committee use the Padlet to share the groups mission and vision, update progress, and receive feedback from others. The transition assessments work group will soon embed links and resources for assessments. The successful use of Padlet to engage students in a virtual environment has proven to be equally valuable in promoting meaningful and frequent collaboration with ST Steering Committee members across Maryland.