“R” Stands for Reform
The final letter of the CEEDAR Center moniker—the “R”—stands for Reform. Accountability and reform are terms that can cause angst. However, we focus our technical assistance (TA) approach on reform to assist states with continual improvement efforts and alignment of their professional learning systems (PLS).
Effective general and special education teachers, working in collaboration with effective leaders, are key to empowering students with disabilities and struggling students as they achieve college- and career-ready standards. Knowledgeable and skilled teachers and leaders play essential roles in student achievement; however, research shows that nationwide, our systems for licensing, preparing, developing, supporting, and evaluating teachers and leaders lack coherence, alignment, and grounding in evidence-based practices (EBP). The lack of alignment challenges professionals to determine where the inadequacies are occurring and how to continually improve the components of the system.
The CEEDAR Center’s TA approach is three-pronged and comprises (a) licensure, standards, and certification; (b) teacher and leader preparation program reform; and (c) program evaluation. To assist states in these areas, we will have a number of products available for broad dissemination on our website in the coming months. It is our belief that continual improvement and alignment in these areas will result in professionals who can prepare students with disabilities for college and their careers.
Licensure, Standards, and Certification
To assist states in reviewing licensure, standards, and certification policies, we conducted a review of state policies. We are developing additional reform rubrics to support state and district leaders in examining their structures, prioritizing needs, and making enhancements. Licensure, standards, and certification policies require flexibility and specificity to ensure that highly effective professionals are accountable for the outcomes of students with disabilities.
Preparation and Professional Development Programs
Public school professionals face mounting scrutiny for their ability to graduate individuals who are ready to become contributing members of society. Consequently, teacher and leader education programs must improve the breadth and depth of preparation to satisfy the schools’ needs in finite programs. Graduates of these programs must leave prepared to meet the increasingly diverse needs of a complex population of learners. We recognize the daunting task facing teachers, leaders, and teacher and leader educators. We believe that teacher and leader education and ongoing professional development (PD) programs should build on EBP, and it is our intention to provide TA to support this effort. The CEEDAR Center staff and a number of expert writing teams have revised and developed innovation configurations (IC) that distill the evidence base in high-priority content areas (e.g., reading, technology, culturally responsive teaching, teacher education pedagogy). Additionally, the CEEDAR Center team is developing Course Enhancement Modules (CEM) aligned with ICs to assist faculty and PD providers in continually improving their support of professional learning.
As professionals receive preparation in an ongoing manner, feedback mechanisms are critical for assessing the appropriateness of the preparation and support. There are a number of widely used and popular evaluation systems in use; however, the data collected are not always helpful for measuring support to students with disabilities. Furthermore, evaluation across PLSs should be coherent and aligned to provide seamless and consistent feedback to support the development of expertise. CEEDAR Center staff members are currently developing rubrics to inform the use of evaluation measures that are reasonable and flexible for different localities.
Students with disabilities will be better positioned to achieve college and career readiness if we continually improve PLSs; therefore, we need sound, evidence-based approaches for preparing teachers and leaders for working with students with disabilities. We view reform as a way to provide teachers and leaders with effective opportunities to learn with clear standards for effective practice and rigorous, appropriate preparation and evaluation of teachers, leaders, and students with disabilities.
A is for Accountability
At a recent IDEA Leadership Conference, Melody Musgrove (Director of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services [OSERS]) quoted U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who challenged the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to advance “from being a compliance-driven bureaucracy to being an engine of innovation to improve results for students with disabilities.” The CEEDAR Center’s technical assistance (TA) to states reflects this charge—the “A” in CEEDAR stands for Accountability. The CEEDAR Center embodies OSEP’s theory of action, which includes the following tenets: leadership, collaboration, TA, and accountability. Even more important, the CEEDAR Center’s TA approach aligns with the Results-Driven Accountability (RDA) approach (see this archived presentation for more information about RDA). The CEEDAR Center’s systemic approach hinges on leadership and collaboration. As we shared in the February 2014 newsletter, our CEEDAR Center staff comprises more than 25 members in seven states. Additionally, we partner with major organizations, including the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and centers throughout the Technical Assistance and Dissemination (TA&D) Network. At the state level, we support multilevel teams to improve professional learning systems for teachers and leaders while providing products and services to build capacity within the state. For more information about our leadership, collaboration, and coordination activities, see the February 2014 newsletter feature. CEEDAR Center staff members are actively providing three levels of TA (i.e., intensive, targeted, and universal). We have selected five states through a competitive process to partner in intensive TA. These states have agreed to review and improve their (a) licensure and certification standards to support reformed programs, (b) teacher and leader preparation and ongoing professional development, (c) evaluation systems to strengthen preparation, and (d) capacity for scaling up. The CEEDAR Center team will, in an ongoing effort, develop products and provide various services to assist states with these improvements. States that are not involved in intensive TA can also make requests for targeted TA and short-term assistance. Finally, universal TA, which is primarily provided through our newsletter, website, social media, and other dissemination activities, is available to any interested party. The CEEDAR Center team is undertaking necessary work in this era of accountability, which calls for effective teachers, effective leaders, and better outcomes for students with disabilities. Research has shown that outcomes for students improve when an evidence-based, cohesive system for improving educator effectiveness is in place. The CEEDAR Center’s theory of action includes the four fundamentals of such an evidence-based system: (a) a foundation of clearly articulated evidence-based practices (EBP) for general educators, special educators, leaders, and teacher educators; (b) TA&D to support systemic reform and the implementation of EBPs; (c) reformed systems that result from that TA&D; and (d) the teacher, leader, and student outcomes that the TA&D will achieve. As previously mentioned, OSEP’s call for RDA requires a shift from compliance to innovation and accountability for improving student outcomes. The CEEDAR Center’s TA supports states in demonstrating RDA through purposeful alignment in the following ways: The CEEDAR Center has quickly established a national presence for those interested in educator professional learning, accountability, and reform related to educating students with disabilities. As states are held to RDA, we are held to being “an engine of innovation” to enhance professional learning systems by providing effective TA to states.