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The Latest from SERC, April 2017

This month's update from SERC highlights some of the exciting learning opportunities we are planning for 2017-2018!

Each winter, SERC’s education consultants develop comprehensive proposals for professional learning opportunities for the following school year. These include activities both exclusive to SERC and those planned in collaboration with the CT State Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education. This year, SERC finalized its proposals for SERC-exclusive programming in 2017-2018 by the end of March. This month’s update from SERC highlights some of these opportunities.

SERC-Exclusive Learning Opportunities for 2017-2018

Marilyn Friend, Ph.D., an international presenter and author on special education, inclusive practices, and collaboration, will come to facilitate a pair of professional learning opportunities on co-teaching. As an increasing number of schools implement this practice of using two teachers in the classroom, the need for examining the roles and responsibilities of both teachers has become critical to its success.  Co-teaching can be effective in helping achieve desired outcomes for each student by varying the structure of the co-taught class based on the content and student need.

In “Co-Teaching: Making It Work for You and Your Students,” Dr. Friend will address the essential components and recent research on co-teaching.  Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and consider practical strategies and solutions for enhancing their practice.

Dr. Friend is also expected to kick off the first half-day of a series called “Making It Work in Your Building: A Co-Teaching Series for Administrators.” The three-session series will focus on how to set up a successful co-teaching model throughout a school by examining how to arrange co-teaching partnerships, schedule co-taught classes, support co-teachers throughout the school year, and observe and evaluate their effectiveness. Participants will learn about practices occurring locally in Connecticut. 

In early childhood education, SERC offerings will include an introduction to the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices, which support families and their children ages 0-5 who are at risk of or have disabilities; a “Funtastic” approach to early literacy, which includes engaging, creative environments and materials that meet the needs of diverse learners of all abilities; and how children’s home and community experiences with the outdoors can easily be integrated into the early learning environment and curriculum.

This latter approach provides children with opportunities to build new understandings about the world that validate what families contribute to their child’s learning. In “The Home Connection to the Natural World,” participants will explore the curriculum related to the natural sciences as well as living things in the context of the home and communities we live in, and develop and plan hands-on science activities that can be shared with families at home.

In “What Children Need for Positive Social Emotional Growth: Behavioral Supports for Children ages 2-5,” participants will learn how to use intentional teaching to guide and support positive behavior of young children as well as how to identify, plan, and implement evidence-based behavioral strategies.

Also in the area of behavioral supports, SERC will offer “Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports for Behavior: Systems, Practices, and Use of Data to Support Student Outcomes.” It is designed for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) coaches and team members and Scientific Research-Based Interventions (SRBI) coordinators.

In these multi-tiered systems of support, known as MTSS, schools create layers of instructional tiers to match levels of support to students’ needs. However, there is some confusion about the tiers and how to intensify instruction. To provide some clarity, this two-day session will review the differences between Tier 2 and Tier 3, take a critical look at the systems needed, and include a discussion of screening tools, assessments, and possible decision entrance and exit criteria. 

In “Engaging Families and Communities in a Behavioral MTSS,” participants implementing a behavioral MTSS framework in their schools will learn how to build more effective outside communication strategies and greater transparency to better support student and school outcomes. They will discover how to include community data to inform practice.

A one-hour webinar, “Bullying and Classroom Management,” will cover Connecticut’s bullying laws and policies, legal updates, and classroom strategies related to bullying and school climate. Participating educators will examine their role under the law in preventing and responding to inappropriate student behavior.

Classroom management strategies are essential for building and maintaining a positive, productive classroom atmosphere conducive to learning, but can be difficult when educators must divert their attention to deescalating behavioral incidents. The webinar will provide participants a better understanding of strategies that align with Connecticut policy and create safe and positive environments. Other workshops will also cover classroom management practices as well as restorative practices, including within a multi-tiered framework.

SERC also planned more activities related to specific learning disabilities (SLD) and dyslexia. Special education directors and supervisors will be invited to participate in a job-embedded learning opportunity called “Building District Capacity to Conduct Comprehensive Evaluations for Students Suspected of Having SLD/Dyslexia.” To self-examine their districts’ evaluation process, participants will learn to apply the content of Connecticut’s new Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD)/Dyslexia Assessment Guide (CSDE/SERC, 2016) within the framework of comprehensive evaluations detailed in Connecticut’s Guidelines for Identifying Children with Learning Disabilities (2010). They will build their capacity to create a focused action plan that addresses systemic gaps.

“Collaborative Roles for SLPs in SLD/Dyslexia” recognizes the need for the expertise of speech and language pathologists. In this roundtable colloquium, SLPs will access the resources of the SERC Library to expand their repertoire of research-based practices and speech and language assessment tools that inform the SLD/dyslexia comprehensive evaluation process. In another session, SLPs will learn “Differentiating Speech-Language Impairment from SLD/Dyslexia.”

Other learning opportunities related to SLD/dyslexia will include the 30-hour “Orton-Gillingham Introductory Training Program” on structured literacy instruction; “The Wilson Reading System: Introductory Workshop,” a literacy program based on Orton-Gillingham principles; the two-day “Just Words Introductory Workshop” for students in grades 4 through 12 who require intensive intervention to improve reading and spelling skill deficits common to SLD/dyslexia; and workshops on “Wilson Fundations” to prevent and address reading and spelling difficulties in the early grades.

These are just some of the SERC opportunities already planned for 2017-2018; details of these activities will be posted later this year at www.ctserc.org under “Events – Professional Learning.” The website will also feature new activities as they are developed throughout the year.

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