By Michael Piccirillo, Ed.D, CASDA Executive Director
I hope you had a restful Spring Break and are prepared for the final months of the school year! With State ELA tests recently completed, this month’s In Focus newsletter focuses on the theme of literacy instruction as it relates to equity, multiculturalism and students with special needs.
Special education services are widely recognized as essential to providing access and opportunity to students with disabilities. Successfully addressing the needs of this often marginalized group of students is critical to ensuring they are prepared to live successful lives. Yet, how do schools best prepare teachers, special education and general education, for the complexities of meeting the diverse and wide-ranging needs of their students? Literacy is a foundational skill for both academic success and adult life after graduation. What does the research identify as the best strategies for developing teachers skills to better prepare students who struggle with success in this key area?
CASDA has been successfully supporting school districts in the region by providing Special Education Program Reviews. These comprehensive reviews facilitated by CASDA’s expert practitioners provide valuable feedback for schools and districts to utilize in improving their special education delivery models. Recommendations are research-based and provide guidance for future professional learning. To augment this work, CASDA and corporate partner Hanover Research are providing research brief’s like the one linked in this month’s newsletter, Improving Reading Outcomes for Students With Special Needs. The brief outlines “Five Principles of Effective Professional Development” specifically to support teachers work with special education students.
Section II of the research brief offers a number of research-based findings to meet the professional needs of special education and general education teachers. One of the findings focuses on the “characteristics of effective professional development delivery.” Particularly of interest is how the principles outlined in this finding coincide with CASDA’s approach to professional learning support. For example, the principle of duration points to the value of providing sustained support over a significant period of time (14 hours or more). Beyond providing immediate feedback, CASDA’s program reviews offer the opportunity for ongoing professional learning support. CASDA offers professional learning in myriad customizable formats, such as a series of scaffolded workshops or embedded coaching and mentoring.
CASDA recognizes the need to provide professional learning opportunities that are not only research-based, but also relevant to the challenges faced by educators today. With the upcoming May 16 workshop, Building Culturally Responsive Literacy Using Text Sets, it is our hope to address the intertwined nature of literacy development and cultural background. This workshop will be facilitated by Kerri Messler, K-12 English Language Arts and Library Coordinator for Schenectady City Schools and Carmella Parente, K-12 Social Studies, World Language, and Family Consumer Science Coordinator for Schenectady City Schools. They will share their work based on research out of UAlbany Child Research and Study Center, which seeks to address how teachers can support students to successfully, “bring different skills and background knowledge to the act of reading a text that is complex.” They have adapted these concepts to support their district’s commitment to equity, diversity and social justice. We invite you to join us for what will be the first in a series of workshops on this topic.
I hope to see you at one of the many events CASDA is hosting throughout the month of May!