New SERC site goes live

SERC has launched a redesigned website featuring many new professional learning opportunities heading into 2018.

The new site describes SERC’s services aligned with the three elements of the agency’s vision: Equity, Excellence, and Education. The Services tab includes comprehensive lists of everything SERC offers in several areas, from support for students with disabilities to early childhood care and education.

Resources are now in one location, searchable by keyword, topic, and type (article, video, etc.), and can be listed in a chosen order (most recent, popularity, etc.).

SERC has posted the professional learning opportunities for the rest of 2017-2018 under the Events tab, with others to be added as the year progresses. Instead of listing all events in chronological order, the page lists a few highlights and lets users choose what they want to display. Users can now search the events by keyword, topic, the type of event (online or in-person on one or more days), and month, for those who do want to see all events for a particular month.

Some highlights of upcoming events include:

  • a series of special education professional learning modules;
  • a series on culturally responsive teaching and the brain;
  • workshops related to literacy and dyslexia; and
  • two separate workshops for elementary and secondary levels on providing all students with access to mathematics through universal design for learning (UDL).

SERC releases new equity doc

For more than a decade, SERC has focused on racial equity in education by examining the intersectionality between race and academic achievement. The agency previously released “Equity in Education: A Transformational Approach,” which offered five critical elements to address systemic inequities: Leadership, Professional Capacity, School Climate, School-Family-Community Partnerships, and Teaching and Learning. In September 2017, SERC released a follow-up document to focus on one of the elements: “A Transformational Approach to Teaching and Learning.”

As the preface states, “The approach and vision of this document is in the creation of an educational environment that is culturally responsive, relevant, and respectful. When teachers are highly aware of their own beliefs, attitudes, and biases and how these influence what and how they teach in their classrooms, the learning environments that they create empower students to succeed using their own cultural experiences and perspectives.”

The new document outlines the essence of culturally relevant teaching, including relationships, racial consciousness, and instructional practices. It provides a framework for “what schools and classrooms should look, sound, and feel like,” examines Connecticut’s data, and describes how SERC is addressing inequity in the state.

SERC will explore the other critical elements in subsequent documents.

Marilyn Friend facilitates SERC sessions

Dr. Marilyn Friend, an international presenter and leader in the field of co-teaching based in Washington, D.C., came to Connecticut to facilitate two sessions for SERC October 2 and 3. Participants had the opportunity to reflect on their own experience and practice related to co-teaching.

In the first session, geared for teachers, Dr. Friend presented on the various approaches to co-teaching and the integration of specially designed instruction. She focused on the station teaching approach, in which two teachers present different content and take turns instructing separate groups of students. Sometimes students work independently in a third station.

Regardless of approach, the nature of co-teaching is collaboration with another professional. While special education teachers are formally trained in how to work with other adults, Dr. Friend suggested that all educators would benefit from professional learning in this area. The session was open to general and special educators with different roles, including teachers of English learners, reading or math consultants and teachers, and speech and language pathologists.

As participants have many students with individualized education programs (IEPs), Dr. Friend emphasized that these were mostly students who could perform on grade level. More than 8 of 10 students with IEPs do not have intellectual disabilities.

IEPs must demonstrate progress by showing that student goals were met. Including goals from previous years suggests lack of progress, Dr. Friend said, which defeats the purpose of the goals.

The second session, the first of a series for administrators in collaboration with the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), focused on how schools can set up a co-teaching model and partnerships. Dr. Friend covered how to evaluate their effectiveness, particularly for students with IEPs. The remaining two sessions in the series, with other presenters, will be held in December and April.

SERC supports New London school improvement

Before the new school year began, leadership teams from each of New London’s public schools met to develop and refine their school improvement plans (SIPs). Consultants from SERC and the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) facilitated the process by building on the protocol the schools used earlier in the year to create drafts of their SIPs. The day was designed to provide opportunities for the schools to use the collective knowledge and expertise of all the people in the room in order to create highly impactful SIPs.

New London Public Schools is putting into practice the research that shows collaboration helps to improve student outcomes.

SERC heads north, supporting Vermont

SERC is providing training and support for the State of Vermont under a grant from the Agency of Education. The goal of the grant is to build the state’s capacity to facilitate the Educational (Ed) Benefit process and to improve the educational outcomes for students with disabilities.

SERC consultant Nicole Hendry wrote and landed the grant for SERC. The Ed Benefit Process helps educators assess whether an IEP provides the student with adequate educational benefit. During the summer, Hendry provided training on the Ed Benefit process for Vermont Agency of Education staff, other state agencies, and other education personnel. Participants undergoing the training then train others on the process.

SERC returns to Vermont for site visits between December and May of the 2017-2018 school year. Hendry, along with SERC colleagues Stephen Proffitt and Missy Wrigley, will together visit 10 of Vermont’s supervisory unions (school districts) and co-facilitate the on-site training alongside the new Vermont trainers. The districts will participate in the Ed Benefit process for three students’ IEPs and ultimately establish Ed Benefit practices for other IEP development.

The SERC trainers will complete a summary of each district’s Ed Benefit process to submit to the Agency of Education.