Transforming Special Education

Transforming Special Education
Posted on 02/05/2016

Our talented special education teachers were interviewed and observed this week by OSPI staff as part of the MOU and demonstrated, for all, that we’re transforming special education services at Stevens Elementary.

As one of the final stages of the District’s corrective action with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) stipulates that each region within our district complete a validation visit. 

This past week, this process was completed with schools in the Central region.  Schools were randomly selected to participate, and Stevens not only happened to be one of the selected schools, but was also identified to be the “hub” of the process for the region.  Garfield High School, Washington Middle, Leshi Elementary and Lowell Elementary were the other Central region schools selected for the MOU.

OSPI staff examined multiple documents, including student evaluations, IEP, FBAs, BIPs, individual student schedules, and data collection processes.  They interviewed our special education teachers and Speech/Language Pathologist, asking them procedural questions, and questions about an individual student and how they are providing that student his/her specially designed instruction.  They observed our teachers at work, evaluating if and to what extent our teachers were following the student’s IEP and the degree to which they were providing special designed instruction.  They also interviewed the administrative staff.  OSPI-selected Stevens’ parents participated in an evening discussion with OSPI staff.

Although the district will not receive official findings for a period of time, we were given some feedback during the day as we interacted with OSPI staff.  One of our teachers was told, “I know you are providing specially designed instruction in your classroom” and when visiting the classroom, the OSPI staff member took copious notes, capturing what was happening.  During administrative interviews we received acknowledgement of the good work we are leading around IEPs, scheduling, supporting teachers in providing SDI, and fully implementing IEPs.

None of this would have been possible without the dedication of our staff and their willingness to grow their practices this year.  As a team, we “hit the ground running” when school opened, holding multiple IEP meetings, developing FBAs and BIPs, and crafting schedules that fully implemented the IEPs.  We have reorganized classroom learning spaces, and purchased curricular materials, and have integrated technology into the teaching that occurs for students with IEPs, with use of iPads, computers, and student enrollment in the iRead program and Reflex Math.  Special education staff participated in CPI training (e.g., training for how to deescalate student behavior and situations), weekly staff meetings, and on-the-spot coaching in instructional strategies. 

Central administrative staff, including Trish Campbell (Special Education Supervisor), Elaine Parnell (Program Specialist), and Wayne Herzog (Behavior Specialist) have provided intensive and high-quality support to our staff throughout this process.  At the beginning of the year, all staff, including general education staff, expressed concerns about not feeling supported and having the resources and information they needed to best serve students with special education needs.  Our central administrative partners delivered this year, providing group, small group, and one-on-one trainings and coaching.  They sat alongside our staff in the crafting of compliant and meaningful IEPs, FBAs, and BIPs.  They coached us, the administrative team, as we moved forward in shifting special education practices for the building.  They are an integral part of our team; we couldn’t do it without them.

This is also a sign of the shared partnership between all of Stevens staff to provide a climate inclusive to all students. As you visit Stevens, you’ll notice students wearing headsets, sitting on cushy seats, and using fidgets.  These are all tools to address student sensory needs, and are becoming commonplace at Stevens.  You’ll see individual accommodations in place (e.g., students working at standing desks, preferential seating, additional time to complete tasks, adjustment of tasks to reflect student learning), as evidence that equal does not necessarily mean everyone doing the same thing at the same time. 

You’ll also notice that behavior incidents are on the decrease.  The implementation of RULER, the Stevens Star program, and staff training in de-escalation techniques are some of things we have in place that are having a positive impact on our learning environment.  All staff will be trained in de-escalation strategies in March, during the early release.

None of this work would have been possible without the support of our partners, you, our parents.  As your administrative team, we have been listening, and continue to listen, to your concerns about how services are delivered at Stevens.  Change is difficult for all, and is not a smooth process.  We hit our share of bumps along the way, and have learned from them, and continue to move forward on behalf of students with IEPs at Stevens Elementary.

When on campus, if you see a member of our special education staff, please take a moment to thank them for their work.  They do it because of their passion for supporting the learning and growth of students with special needs and their eye on the goal of students meeting their potential as readers, mathematicians, writers, scientists, and friends. 

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