We were fortunate to attend the Urban Collaborative Fall Member Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA from October 24 – 27. Below is a summary of our big takeaways from the conference. – Daniel Yoo
We’ve Made Progress
Inclusion in General Education Classroom
Everyone attending the conference last month was committed to moving students to access the general education curriculum and ensuring that a continuum of services are in place to meet students’ needs. Almost every administrator knew the the percentage of their students who were primarily educated in the general education classroom. Not every percentage was the same, but every percentage was moving in right direction, towards inclusion.
Importance of General Education and UDL
Because of the move to the general education setting, conference attendees agreed that a growing need was to ensure effective instructional practices were in place in the classroom. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) was cited in almost every discussion as the set of principles and strategies for helping general education classrooms better serve all students.
Empowering Teachers and Building Administrators with PD/Resources
I was impressed with the level of work already underway to help teachers and principals transition to effective Common Core instruction in both general education and special education. Some districts have created model lesson plans co-developed by general educators and special educators. Professional development in the Common Core have included both general educators and special educators and these materials have been made available online so site leaders can replicate the training with their own staff.
Challenges to Meet
Ensuring Consistency of Implementation
How do district leaders ensure that the professional development offered or materials created actually get implemented in classrooms and school buildings? One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Brian McNulty, focused on the use of educator data teams to create and sustain change in classroom practices.
PD is expensive to deliver and difficult to find available times in the school calendar. As a result, some districts have made trainings optional or post created materials and models online for anyone in the district to access. However, this brings up the question of consistency.
Raising Expectations with Intensive Level of Needs
Rachel Quenemoen led the second keynote and shared powerful videos of students with severe disabilities demonstrating their learning (and joy) of the general education curriculum. However, a few administrators shared anecdotes of push back from special educators who might not share the same high academic expectations for students with more significant needs.
Use of Paraeducators
The Fordham Report, “Boosting the Quality and Efficiency of Special Education,” was discussed in a group setting during the conference. While there were many questions about the report, one area of agreement was the often inappropriate and sometimes over-reliance of 1-to-1 paraeducators.
How Goalbook Can Help
It was a honor to participate in the Urban Collaborative conference last week alongside such a powerful and innovative group of education leaders who are working to build an education system that serves ALL students. At Goalbook we have developed a Common Core Toolkit to help special educators model IEP goals based on the Common Core, UDL accommodations and modifications, and instructional resources. Goalbook is more than just a resource, it’s a professional learning tool for your teachers to effectively and efficiently support their students in the any classroom under the new Common Core standards.
To find out more visit: https://toolkit.goalbookapp.com
The Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative is a network of special and general education leaders working together to improve outcomes for students with disabilities in the nation’s urban schools. It’s members are among the largest and most influential school districts in the United States. To learn more visit their website at: http://www.urbancollaborative.org