CASE 2014

CEEDAR Center Presents at the CASE 2014 Spring Conference

council of administrators of special education
This past week, just minutes away from Mickey Mouse’s house, Cinderella’s castle, and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, key stakeholders from all over the field of education met in Orlando. High school principals, researchers from non-profits, college professors, district special education directors, and many others were there, including a few technology folks checking audio levels and tapping away at their keyboards, tweeting highlights from energetic presentations to followers around the world.

This was the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) Winter Hybrid Conference. Mary Brownell and Lynn Holheide represented CEEDAR at the conference, and dialogue about evaluating teacher effectiveness filled the first day. After a lively town hall discussion for local participants, the conference went live, broadcasting to more than 30 simulcast sites around the United States. After an hour-long presentation on measuring and evaluating teacher effectiveness (you can see the slides here), Mary and Lynn took questions not only from local participants in Orlando, but also from virtual participants around the United States.

It was sensational to see such a lively cross section of people deeply concerned with improving outcomes for students with disabilities; it was also exciting to see the role technology played in bringing these people together. People from California interacted in real time with people from Florida to discuss real issues and real solutions that are facing our teachers, leaders, and students today. Every student deserves a chance to succeed, and every teacher deserves a comprehensive, effective, and fair evaluation system. The CASE Winter Hybrid Conference surely moved us a step in the right direction.

Creating Effective Educators

Creating Effective Educators

The “EE” in the CEEDAR Center title is the core of our mission—to develop Effective Educators. Effective general and special education teachers, working together with leaders who support their efforts, are key to empowering students with disabilities to graduate from high school ready to begin college or their careers. Knowledgeable and skilled teachers and leaders play an essential role in student achievement; however, the systems that license, prepare, and evaluate these professionals are not always coherent or consistent. In many instances, systems are developed in response to policy without a strong foundation of evidence.

The CEEDAR Center’s efforts focus on three vital areas of systems change:
(a) licensure standards and certification, (b) teacher and leader preparation program reform, and (c) program evaluation. These three levers operate with varying degrees of functionality and impact the outcomes of students with disabilities. Most standards are intentionally broad to afford flexibility. The flexibility of standards and program diversity create challenges in defining and validating linkages between teacher and leader preparation practices and outcomes. Furthermore, professionals in leadership and teacher education programs often struggle with how to cover everything their graduates need to know for working with diverse students, including students with disabilities. Once educators exit their initial preparation programs, they often enter systems that do not support their efforts to provide multi-tiered instruction. In addition, most induction, mentoring, and professional development efforts for both teachers and leaders are insufficient for a seamless transition into the workforce. Professional development often shows limited connection to the evidence base and lacks the amount of deliberate practice and feedback necessary for individuals to become experts. Because the systems operate in isolation, professional development programs are unable to extend what was learned during initial preparation. Finally, most evaluation systems do not include specific criteria for evaluating educators’ impact on students with disabilities. Leadership evaluations are broad and rarely attend to the leaders’ roles in supporting teachers of students with disabilities. Further, systems for evaluating teachers tend to be “one size fits all” and do not take into account the needs of specific populations of students.

The CEEDAR Center promotes extended professional learning systems (PLS) that address licensure, initial preparation, ongoing development, and evaluation for all teachers and leaders. Teachers and leaders need powerful opportunities to acquire the knowledge and skills to implement evidence-based practices (EBPs). The expertise needed to be effective with students with disabilities is acquired over time and requires collaboration to purposefully align initial preparation and continuing professional development efforts. Effective educators are developed and nurtured by systems that support their learning and their work with students with disabilities. Such systems must promote a culture of professional collaboration and innovation, evaluate efforts to improve teaching and leadership, and hold teachers and leaders accountable for those evaluations.

As we partner with states to provide technical assistance (TA), we focus on ensuring that all students with disabilities are under the charge of effective educators and leaders. We support the systems to ensure teachers and leaders are committed to continuous self-improvement, ongoing collaboration, and consistent strengthening of college and career readiness for every child. The CEEDAR Center is committed to helping states develop Effective Educators.

C is for Collaboration

C is for Collaboration

c is for collaboration

The CEEDAR Center staff has been working diligently to establish a national presence for those interested in educator professional learning, accountability, and reform related to educating students with disabilities. To fulfill the CEEDAR mission, we intend to provide direct leadership and coordination support to TA participants while increasing impact through strategic dissemination. During our first year, we developed and solidified relationships with a number of collaborators through knowledge development and TA&D.

The CEEDAR Center team includes more than 25 members with expertise related to the Center’s mission. Additionally, we have established an advisory group that comprises representatives from our organizational partners who oversee and provide guidance for Center initiatives. To ensure collaboration and capacity building within each state, we develop state steering committees and leadership teams.

The advisory group comprises nationally recognized experts in the field and representatives from important organizational partners. Advisors provide input on product development for use in TA&D. Partnerships with organizations such as CEC, AACTE, and CAEP are critical as we work with states to reform preparation programs, revise certification and licensure standards, and refine personnel evaluation systems. Also, we are fortunate to be able to draw on the expertise of other centers (e.g., IRIS, GTL, National Center on Intensive Intervention) through the TA&D Network. Our connections across the country position us to leverage resources and access real-time information relevant to our work in states.

To establish the same foundation for collaboration, we expect our partner states to demonstrate stakeholder commitment by forming state steering committees with state and IHE leaders and leadership teams that include representatives from their respective agencies. These teams are then well-positioned to collaborate across sites within their states. The ultimate goal is for members of the leadership team to support others in the state who are not directly involved with the work of CEEDAR.

Technology is central to our ability to connect with partners across the country.  In a previous newsletter, our director of technology discussed his vision for the development and use of online tools for collaboration and communication. Our state partners are “networked” through our online NIC, and they participate in meetings using Adobe Connect, which is coordinated by the TACC.

Community, communication, and online connectivity make possible the “C”—collaboration­—in CEEDAR.


Excellent Teachers for Each and Every Child

Excellent Teachers for Each and Every Child

A Guide for State Policy

AACTE, a CEEDAR partner, released a guide on December 3, 2013, recommending policies around teacher quality based on research and effective state models for developing and sustaining a high-quality teaching workforce. The guide encourages a systems view of education, including factors that affect student learning—such as the quality of school personnel, the learning conditions, the school environment, and instructional resources and supports. This systems perspective involves comprehensive strategies for recruitment, preparation, professional learning and development, evaluation systems, equitable teaching and learning conditions, and funding. (See the figure on page 2).

The guide documents the changing demographics in the U.S., such as increases in the numbers of students living in poverty and with developmental issues and language needs.

Of particular interest to CEEDAR are the questions that state policymakers should ask and effective policies for recruiting, preparing, and supporting a diverse, talented, and sustainable teaching force.

The questions recommended by the guide that are relevant to the work of CEEDAR are:

Recruiting Diverse and Talented Individuals into the Teaching Profession

    • How does our state collect and report on the demographics and trends of the teaching profession? How can we use this type of data to develop better policy decisions for the state?
    • Does our teacher workforce¬—current and future—reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of our students?
    • Where are most of our teacher candidates being prepared? How do we encourage more highly qualified teachers to work in underserved schools?
    • What are we doing to encourage talented individuals to purse teaching as a career?

Preparing Teachers for the Classroom and for Leadership

    • What are the state’s licensure requirements and how do these match up with the needs of our students?
    • What kinds of partnerships between teacher preparation programs and local schools that will help teachers be ready for the classrooms of today have been forged? What more can be done?
    • What can we do to support competent and capable teachers so they are committed to remaining in the profession?
    • What kinds of career ladders and pathways for professional growth for seasoned educators are available? How can we better address the imperative of encouraging professional growth and leadership?

Supporting Ongoing Professional Learning and Development

    • What kinds of professional learning opportunities are available to our teachers? What do we know about the quality of their professional development?
    • What kind of ongoing daily support do teachers receive? How do we know? Do teachers have time to collaborate with peers?
    • Does the state encourage or require meaningful professional learning opportunities?
    • What kinds of financial support does the state provide for professional learning opportunities? Is it adequate and stable?

Promoting Comprehensive Statewide Models

    • Is there a comprehensive statewide strategy for improving teaching quality that addresses each of these issues: recruitment, preparation, induction, professional learning, evaluation, and career ladders? If so, what parts are being implemented well? What issues need more attention?
    • If coordination is a concern, what would it take for key stakeholders to work together more effectively?
    • How can stronger links be forged between these key elements of teaching quality: recruitment, preparation, licensure, and professional development?
    • How clear are state standards for the profession? Can we make these standards better understood and better used to guide practice?

The guide also contains questions about developing evaluation systems that improve student learning, addressing teaching and learning conditions, and funding a sustainable teaching force.

The guide concludes with a review of types of policies to promote a diverse, talented, and sustainable teaching force, specifying action steps in each area and highlighting states that have successful programs. Several states currently participating in CEEDAR are mentioned, including: a program in Illinois to recruit teachers from the community and legislation creating a survey on teaching and working conditions; Connecticut’s legislation connecting professional learning to evaluations, their holistic teacher evaluation models, and a law establishing a starting salary and licensing standards; California’s legislation to promote peer assistance and review to drive professional development as well as Proposition 30 that funds districts serving high portions of low-income students.

The guide concludes with references and resources addressing each of the priority areas.

Download the guide here

CEEDAR in Bozeman, Montana

Nov. 4, 2013

CEEDAR Travels to Montana

Recently, Erica McCray, Center Co-Director and Meg Kamman, Project Coordinator, traveled to beautiful Bozeman Montana to participate in the Montana Higher Education Consortium semi-annual meeting. Faculty members from seven institutions of higher education, and leaders from the Office of Public Instruction spent the day completing a needs assessment and determining priorities. The group engaged in discussions about their strengths and areas in which they want to improve to better meet the needs of students with disabilities in their state. They committed to working collaboratively–within and across institutions– on reforming and streamlining their teacher and leader preparation programs.

The faculty members present were the first to use the online Innovation Configuration process. They appreciated being able to access the Evidence Based Practices in one place and to be able to assess how well they were covering the content in their programs. Additionally, faculty commented on how they could easily see gaps and redundancies in coverage and would use the information to inform faculty and drive reform. Montana participants provided valuable feedback that is already being incorporated into the system before a wider audience uses it.

The commitment and investment of the Montana Higher Education Consortium is evident. They meet twice a year to discuss “hot topics” and are enthusiastic about engaging in Targeted TA to guide the work they were already planning to do. It is our hope that the products and services the CEEDAR Center will provide, in partnership with CCSSO, will enhance and expedite their efforts.

Putting the “Tech” in Technical Assistance

Putting the Tech in Technical Assistance November 5th, 2013 The products and services provided by a national technical assistance center relies heavily on technology and the ability to collaborate meaningfully across great distances. In the first several months of the CEEDAR Center’s existence, the leadership team has worked closely with John Donaldson, Director of Technology Operations to conceptualize and develop the necessary infrastructure. John has worked in the College of Education’s technology services for 13 years and is excited to be involved with the CEEDAR Center. John was integral to the development of the College’s Educator Evaluation System, which is used by the administration, faculty, and students to track student performance on prescribed performance indicators that are linked to accreditation and certification requirements. He believes the Center’s focus on Evidence Based Practices, as outlined in the Essential Components and Innovation Configurations, are parallel. Further, John viewed the opportunity to build the infrastructure for CEEDAR as timely because his team could capitalize on the lessons learned from the ongoing revision of the Educator Evaluation System. Specifically, he knows that the system must allow for: flexibility in associating the Essential Components with various tasks or activities, easier accessibility, and iterative changes based on feedback.

John Donaldson

John collaborates with a co-worker on the technical aspects of CEEDAR

From conceptualizing to development, John said that he and his team are constantly thinking about the end-user, asking themselves: How will the system be used? For what purpose will the system be used? How can the process or task be simplified? Ultimately, the essential components for technology tools developed for CEEDAR’s TA will:

  • Be user-friendly
  • Provide a space for collecting, accessing, and organizing documents and files
  • Be easy to retrieve information from
  • Compile data and artifacts in ways that allow an array of reports to be run for analysis and evaluation
  • Drive, generate, and capture discussion about and linked to specific documents and/or activities

To date, the technology infrastructure includes the online application and reviewer systems, which are being improved based on the feedback from the first round of applications. Additionally, the team is working on a networked improvement community for state teams to communicate and document their activities related to TA. The core of this system will be the online Innovation Configuration and BluePrint. The online Innovation Configurations will provide users with the Essential Components, places for documentation, the evidence base on the component, and a space to reform, discuss and share. The BluePrint will capture team goals and progress benchmarks. The CEEDAR Center is working to provide products and services through state-of-the-art systems that change the ways in which stakeholders collaborate to reform educator preparation and performance. We will continue to share as new technology tools for TA are developed.

Scientifically Based Reading Instruction

Dr. Holly Lane Presents scientifically based reading instruction

Hear Holly give a short explanation of Disciplinary Literacy here.

Literacy, and the foundational skills it encompasses, is critical to college and career readiness. The CEEDAR Center is committed to ensuring that teachers and leaders prepare students, particularly students with disabilities, for college and career readiness. One of the knowledge development tools that will be available is a revision and expansion of the Scientifically-based Reading Instruction innovation configuration developed by NCCTQ (now the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders One of the authors of the revision, Dr. Holly Lane (University of Florida), has spent her career researching and providing professional learning opportunities for pre- and in-service teachers in this area with an emphasis on meeting the needs of struggling readers through effective assessment, instruction, and intervention.

Holly has worked with students of all ranging from children in early learning settings, to college students who have learning disabilities. Her teaching and research are the foundation for preparing pre- and in-service teachers. She shared that through her courses and a number of projects, she helps them in becoming more effective at diagnosing reading difficulties, screening to note which young children are likely to struggle and preventing those problems, and providing appropriate interventions for those who are struggling.

Her philosophy and practice as a teacher educator, is that “it’s really important to get students involved with kids from the very beginning when they’re first learning about the constructs related to literacy development, getting them connected with children who are learning to read so they can see the theories they’re learning about actually being enacted.” She believes the traditional approach to preparation in this area tends to be fragmented by providing theory then practice and leaves teachers underprepared. Without experience in classrooms, prospective teachers have no concrete foundation for making sense of the abstract theories. We need to ensure that prospective teachers have good instructional models and guidance to help them process what they see.

As a professional development provider, Holly noted that it is all too common for teachers to admit that they had little preparation for teaching reading and no preparation for intervening on behalf of struggling readers. Overcoming these deficits requires individualizing to meet teachers’ specific needs and providing effective coaching on instruction and collecting and using data. She argues, “every teacher, and certainly every special education teacher needs to know how to help struggling readers. Learning disabilities is by far the biggest category of special education, and of kids who have an identified learning disability, about 90% of them have a reading disability. Why would we have anyone graduate from a special education teacher preparation program not knowing how to help struggling readers?”

Students’ reading skills are essential for their lifelong success. Holly offered the following recommendations for teacher education programs:

  • Ensure faculty know how to teach reading and how to help struggling readers. Faculty must know about evidence-based practices, know about the reading process and what kinds of things can trip kids up as they’re acquiring that process, and know how to help their students learn those things.
  • Think carefully about what goes into being prepared and what are all the things that teachers need to know and be able to do to teach reading and to intervene for struggling readers and to think about how those skills and how that knowledge can be built over time.
  • Allow more time for teacher candidates to develop expertise. It’s not a one-or two-semester prospect. It’s something that needs to happen over an entire teacher education program with deepening expertise each semester as they get further and further along. They need to have the linguistic foundations and be able to determine what practices have an acceptable evidence-base.
  • Keep the focus on the goal of reading instruction. Although expertise in teaching children to read words is critical, prospective teachers need to understand that everything they do is to help kids learn how to comprehend text.

Additionally, school leaders play a critical role in the ongoing development and success of teachers.

  • Place the best reading teachers in the early grades where strong foundational skills should be learned and intervention can begin early, if necessary.
  • Have curricular support specialists that know about reading and can provide individualized assistance to teachers as data coaches or to serve as in-class instructional models.
  • Provide time and assistance for teachers to collect, analyze, and process their own student data. Teachers are inundated with data, but they do not always have time to collect it or make sense of it. Also, data collected by someone else is seldom as meaningful as data teachers collect themselves.

Universal Design for Learning

Maya Israel

Sep. 3, 2013

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an instructional framework for curriculum development and planning born out of architecture and universal design of spaces and environments for inherent accessibility. UDL, according to Maya Israel (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), is a way of building and delivering content proactively to ensure that we meet the needs of all learners, particularly those who have disabilities or who struggle. Maya’s research and teaching focus on meaningful engagement and learning of students with disabilities, with special emphasis in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). She is also the lead author of the UDL Innovation Configuration developed for use in the CEEDAR Center’s technical assistance. The UDL Innovation Configuration will soon be available on our website. This product will be a useful tool for teacher and leader educators as well as school leaders and professional development providers to increase and sustain the use of UDL principles in schools.

When we asked Maya about common misconceptions of UDL, one of the first we discussed was that UDL and technology are one in the same. She described UDL as an overarching framework to plan and deliver instruction in accessible ways and pointed to various technologies that could be used as a tool to carry out universally designed instruction. Technology should be used when it is available, but it must be used purposefully and flexibly to meet students’ needs. The technologies, therefore, support UDL implementation among other instructional practices.

In Maya’s own practice as a teacher educator, she views the following steps as important to building knowledge and skills related to UDL:

1. Teach the theory behind UDL, including access, use of flexible materials, and curricular design and selection
2. Provide practical examples of application with opportunities to experience multiples means of representation, action and expression, and engagement in multiple contexts
3. Provide coaching and support through discussion and assignments for documenting and processing observations during field experiences
4. Facilitate opportunities to practice, apply, and analyze UDL implementation in authentic settings, focusing on what curriculum looks like, how well it aligns with UDL principles, and how to adapt it if necessary

Maya admits that implementation is challenging, but should be integrated as seamlessly as possible and not simply added on to current school reform efforts. This is critical considering the widespread implementation of Response to Intervention and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports as well as a recent push to include UDL in the language of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
As we all work to improve students’ college and career readiness upon graduation, the following considerations should be made:

• There is promising research to support UDL as a good instructional framework for all learners, and students with disabilities in particular
• UDL requires systems change thinking including resource availability, implementation support, and buy-in
• Teacher and leader educators should ensure that UDL principles are covered in theory and practice in preparation programs and integrate them in their own pedagogy
• School leaders should structure collaborative planning time for teachers and other professionals and provide access to appropriate resources technologies
• School leaders should be mindful in selecting curricula to be sure that they are truly “UDL-friendly” and will lend themselves to planning using a UDL framework. Even when the curriculum aligns well with UDL, implementation occurs when teachers plan and teach with the UDL framework, not only relying on the “formal curriculum.”
• School teachers should be aware that this shift in thinking may initially require more time for planning, but it offers students more flexibility and accessibility that results in increased learning.

OSEP LogoThis website was produced under U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Award No. H325A170003. David Guardino serves as the project officer. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or polices of the U.S. Department of Education. No official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any product, commodity, service, or enterprise mentioned in this website is intended or should be inferred.