R is for Reform

“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.

Evaluation Systems

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.