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CalSTAT Technical Assistance and Training

IDEAS that Work!California Department of Education, Special Education Division’s special project, California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalSTAT) is funded through a contract with the Napa County Office of Education. CalSTAT is partially funded from federal funds, State Grants #H027A080116A. Additional federal funds are provided from a federal competitively awarded State Personnel Development Grant to California (#H323A070011) provided from the U.S. Department of Education Part D of the Individuals with Disabilities Education act (IDEA). Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the U. S. Department of Education.

The Special EDge

Autumn 2007 Volume 21, Number 1

Topic: Responding to Change

Article List

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Changing Schools by Design

With Dr. Mike Jones, Assistant Superintendent, Riverside County Office of Education; and Dawn Walsh, Project Consultant for Riverside County
Office of Education’s Special Education Management Services

I cannot change what you believe, but I can change how you behave.” Mike Jones likes this line. Draconian? You might think so at first. But you don’t have to spend much time talking with Jones and his colleague Dawn Walsh before you start thinking otherwise. Both are administrators at the Riverside County Office of Education. Both are seasoned educators. Both are committed and passionate about improving schools, and both know the importance of effective change.

Impetus for Change

How to introduce major change to schools and their structures is not a matter of idle speculation these days. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and California’s accountability system are demanding that schools have high standards for all students, regardless of how they’re labeled: gifted and talented, Title I, English language learners, or special education. “It’s a new game now because of accountability and the need to be more effective with all kids,” says Jones. “A teacher can no longer be brilliant in front of the class and, when a student doesn’t get the material, simply say ‘too bad. I gave it my best. You must not have tried hard enough.’”

The new demands being placed on schools represent a huge shift, says Jones. “It’s requiring us to rethink the traditional model of schools where the kid who was having trouble learning was someone else’s problem”—special education’s. This approach, according to Jones, “created in many places a school culture that perpetuates the attitude that students in special ed. can’t handle the general curriculum, that they aren’t capable of academic rigor. Now we need to figure out ways to get students in special ed. proficient—or above—on the state standards.”

And how do you discover those ways? It’s not always easy. And Walsh believes that “attitudes get in the way as much as structures.” She is particularly vocal about the importance of finding a commonly held philosophy if any kind of change is going to happen. She is convinced that if every staff member at a school is able to recognize and embrace the belief that “we are all accountable,” then, in her experience, what needs to happen next becomes evident.

New Kinds of Behavior

Jones and Walsh both agree that, in the day-to-day workings of a school, the new culture of accountability requires of teachers a new kind of behavior in the classroom. Jones notes that “what principals now look at and evaluate when they go around to classrooms is no longer the teacher and the lesson plans and how brilliantly the teacher performs. At the end of the lesson, at the end of the day, at the end of the student’s tenure at school, the only important thing is how many of the students have learned and how much they have learned. So, when a principal comes around to view a classroom, what he’s looking for is evidence that the teacher is tracking achievement and is focused on the learning of each student. When I go in, I don’t want to see polished lesson plans. I want teachers to tell me how they know their kids are learning.” Jones insists that “the independent, ‘go-it-alone’ teacher is becoming a thing of the past, because taking responsibility for all students in your grade or class requires greater collaboration.”

And this shift toward collaboration requires change.

When asked how he starts to introduce significant changes into a school system, Jones has a ready answer: “With the assumption that all teachers want to be successful and want students to learn. We’re relying on that heart.” And he builds from there. He insists that the key to affecting significant change among teaching staff is to change the structure of the school. “What has worked particularly well for us is the creation of professional learning communities (PLCs). The structure of these requires that every teacher in a school is asked very specific questions: What do we want students to learn; how do we know that they’ve learned it and how do we evaluate the results; and what do we do when they don’t learn and what do we do when they do? And teachers need to work with their entire department and grade level to answer these questions collaboratively.”

Historical Perspective

As he thinks back over his years of helping schools change, Jones regrets one thing: “We didn’t focus enough on helping principals better understand their system as it exists and why schools are organized the way they are. In order to successfully change, it helps enormously to understand what you’re changing from, as well as what you’re changing to. This historical knowledge provides a strong underpinning for why you’re changing in the first place—both what you’re moving away from and what you’re moving toward. This gives you a better grasp of the reasons for the change, why you’re leaving a model that may have served at one point in time, but that no longer serves. It helps to make a case for change, and it especially helps in sustaining the change. This kind of self-awareness makes a leader stronger and more resolute; it provides a depth and breadth of understanding that allows you to articulate not just why it is you’re supporting the change, but what this new model will look like when you get there. Structural change can take place only after you truly understand both the outcomes that you want and the restraining patterns. Just changing structures without new outcomes based on a compelling vision guarantees that you’ll just reinforce the status quo.”

While change of this magnitude can be “top down” or “bottom up,” Jones insists that schools with the greatest rates of success typically have two characteristics: They exist inside of supportive districts, and they have strong leadership from their principals. He goes on to give an example: “In order to support any kind of collaborative model, time needs to be set aside for training, for coaching, for department or team meetings every week. Class schedules need to be changed. A school also may need help with the bus schedules, with union leadership, sometimes with money. This is all infinitely more manageable if the district supports it.”

Walsh agrees that, for this or similar structural changes to take place, staff members need time: to collaborate, to design systems, and to evaluate results. And they especially need ongoing support. She is particularly passionate in her insistence on mentoring as crucial to any fundamental change. “Given the entirely new direction in how [collaborative models] require teachers to conduct themselves, supports are critical. In our experience, these take the shape of resources that are made available to help mentor people through the process. In the RCAT* model that we’ve developed, mentors come in to serve as coaches with the content and the ongoing information about current approaches and strategies; and then they help people through the process itself, facilitating them in actually doing things in a new way—not just learning how to do them. Collaboration is not easy, and it’s not simply a matter of sitting around sharing good ideas. It’s much more sophisticated and challenging. Very few people are instinctive, effective collaborators just naturally. Most of us have to learn how to do it in a way that supports everyone—ourselves, other teachers, and, of course, the students.”

Good Schools Getting Better

There are many great schools in California. And there is always room for improvement. How does a good school get better? Jones believes that it has to do with staying tuned to your “markers”: things like drop-out rates, attendance patterns, grade distribution, ethnic enrollment in AP classes, degrees of student engagement, the number of violent infractions and discipline referrals, and so on. According to him, “You start by identifying markers that are specific to how your system is functioning. Look especially at those things that create barriers and reflect the way your system is not working. Those specific elements will determine where to put your next round of energy. They’re different in every school, and this is why it’s so hard. There’s no rulebook. People have to think creatively and adjust.”

According to Walsh, this “is why the change in philosophy is so important, because that commonly held conviction can guide those next steps. It tells you where to look and how to address whatever it is that is keeping your school from being as effective as it might be. If the commonly held philosophy is the belief that all kids can learn and that every teacher is responsible for every student, then it’s not hard to figure out what to do next if you look carefully at those markers. And when you’re talking about successful schools, it’s that philosophy of access and inclusion and responsibility for every student that builds the internal capacity of people within a system to look at themselves, to look honestly and carefully at the scores, the markers, and the barriers. Teachers can then go on and successfully address how they will make it work for all.”

Initially, both Walsh and Jones admit that the kind of dramatic change they’re talking about is frightening. But they insist that most of the fear and complaints occur only initially. In their experience, most teachers, regardless of age, end up embracing collaborative models of education, in part because they take teachers out of their isolation and give them a system of support. Jones insists that, “Once teachers learn about assessment, collaboration, and shared results, once they are given the real meat of this effort, they learn what it means to be a true professional. And their work becomes much easier.” Jones continues, “When you get people behaving in new ways through PLCs, they have new experiences and get results. The results reinforce changes in attitude, and their attention then often shifts from what’s wrong to what they can do to build on improvements in the future.” When changes in behavior result in positive outcomes, it makes sense that the behavior shapes and strengthens attitudes.

“I cannot change what you believe, but I can change how you behave.” This doesn’t sound at all draconian now. It just sounds smart.

For more about RCAT, go to; about PLCs, go to

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Letter from the State Director

by Mary Hudler, Director, California Department of Education, Special Education Division

Change is rarely easy. Whether it’s in our relationships or in the structures of our working lives, when we’re asked to “do it differently,” we’re almost always plagued by some degree of confusion, fear, or uncertainty—even when things are changing for the better.

New state and federal requirements call for several changes in the world of special
education, changes that raise many questions: how to collaborate with general educators in approaches involving Response to Intervention (RtI); how to track students’ post-secondary outcomes; how to support children with autism spectrum disorder; how to appropriately assess students with disabilities; and more. The design of these changes promises improved systems for children, but they require a retooling and a shifting of gears, and no one pretends it’s going to be easy.

Yet, change we must, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell has gone public with the need to make whatever changes are required to close the achievement gap, which has concerned educators nationwide for many years. In November, he hosted a meeting of state and national educational leaders and approximately 4,000 attendees at a two-day Achievement Gap Summit in Sacramento.

Summit participants heard from more than 125 leading education experts during speeches and panel discussions. They shared best practices and worked together to find solutions to a situation that the Superintendent has characterized as “the most pressing issue in education and the biggest civil rights issue of our time.”

In fact, the summit was a part of a yearlong effort by the Superintendent and the California Department of Education, educators, researchers, and community leaders throughout California and the nation to address and eliminate the racial and economic achievement gaps that must be challenged and changed. The serious work of the Superintendent’s P–16 (preschool through grade sixteen) Council has begun: Its members are delving into the ideas and the proposals presented during the summit, with the goal of forming a roadmap for the next steps that must be taken to close the achievement gap. The Superintendent has noted, “I want the Department of Education to become a continuous learning system. I want to use the lessons learned at this summit to educate us as to how the state can do things differently and do things better.”

Doing things differently and better involves change. This issue of The Special EDge offers information on several areas of change, along with accounts from educators who have successfully initiated and gone on to navigate significant restructuring in their schools and school districts—and to stay optimistic and committed in the process of achieving compliance with new laws and regulations. We hope that even just one of the articles here helps you in your efforts to respond to change.

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The “How-To” of Response to Intervention

The struggle to accurately assess students for learning disabilities and subsequent special services has been a challenge in special education for years. That challenge has been compounded by the fact that when low socioeconomic background intersects with cultural and linguistic difference, a student is at greater risk for academic failure. This looming risk makes even more critical the provision of appropriate, targeted instruction for children from diverse backgrounds if they are to be successful academically. Providing this “appropriate, targeted instruction” constitutes a central tenet of the educational approach called Response to Intervention, or RtI.

Despite the fact that it is a process that takes place within the general education classroom, RtI has generated a great deal of interest among special education teachers and policy-makers. Given its approach and potential impact on struggling students, this is no surprise.

A large percentage of children receiving special education services are diagnosed as having specific learning disabilities (SLD). However, there are many factors that could contribute to a child appearing to have SLD, when in fact no disability exists. A child may come from a home where adults have no time to read or where no English is spoken. As a result, the child arrives in kindergarten completely lacking in pre-reading skills—those things that mark a child’s beginning understanding of what a book is for and how it works. Or a child may have spent his early years in foster homes, or with little adult supervision, or with no preschool experience. Every teacher knows these are likely precursors to behavioral challenges, especially when a child is suddenly in school and expected to know how to stand in line, wait his turn, sit quietly at a table, and so on. Or the child may have transferred from a school that did not have an adequate curriculum, or skilled teachers, or trained teachers at all.

All of these factors certainly can work against a child’s early success in school, and they may affect his progress in learning the curriculum. But the low academic achievement in these cases results from disadvantage, not from disability. Every special educator knows how difficult it is to accurately assess students when a low socioeconomic background is combined with cultural and linguistic differences. While these conditions put a student at greater risk for academic failure, they also make even more critical the provision of appropriate, targeted instruction—some iteration of RtI—for children from diverse backgrounds, if they are to achieve academically.

So, one of the strengths of RtI—and its particular interest to special education—is the way it incorporates many checks and balances to reduce the possibility of misidentifying a student as having a disability. RtI is designed to ensure accurate assessment and identification.

Federal authority for implementing RtI comes from two sources: the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), from general education; and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), from special education. To varying degrees, both laws address the importance of early intervention; valid, reliable data from regular assessments that then inform instructional decisions; and research-based teaching strategies.

From the special education perspectives, one of the several arguments in favor of RtI is its shift in focus, away from the severe discrepancy model of identifying a student for special education services and toward a model of intervening early to prevent failure. Research shows that when resources are used to prevent failure, the cost of those preventive services is recouped three-fold by what is saved in avoiding later, more intensive supports. According to Allan Lloyd-Jones, Special Education Division consultant at the California Department of Education, RtI “simply allows for a more efficient use of resources,” especially when “research-based curriculum and strategies are applied with fidelity and data are used to ensure that students have appropriate interventions before they are referred for assessment.” He describes RtI as “a change in emphasis; toward assessing risk and providing targeted intervention, and away from determining failure.” In short, intervening early ensures that no child falls behind through lack of appropriate instruction. Those who do are most likely to be appropriately identified as students with a disability.

Because of the importance of RtI for both general and special education, the California Department of Education formed a technical workgroup, which consisted of representatives from a variety of interests and disciplines—school administrators, psychologists, teachers, parents, and various other stakeholders. This group was charged with the task of writing a document that would serve as a guide in the creation of whole-school systems that supported student success and prevented failure. In short, the implementation of RtI. The complete document will be posted to the CDE Web site after an internal review. What follows is a number of the guide’s key points.

Defining RtI

RtI is not a packaged program or a strategy that can be learned in a single training session. It is a process that uses all resources within a school in a collaborative manner to create a single, well-integrated system of instruction and interventions that are guided by student outcome data. It fits within a school-wide process of early intervention and prevention of academic and behavioral problems. RtI involves special education teachers and general education teachers working together and jointly using their resources
and expertise to help all students. Within an RtI system, students are regularly evaluated on how well they’re learning in response to the strategies and approaches used. The results of these ongoing evaluations—the data—are what guide the next steps of instruction.

RtI is a multi-step process of providing high-quality, research-based instruction and interventions at varying levels of intensity to students who struggle with learning and behavior. The interventions are matched to the student’s needs, and their progress is closely monitored at each level of intervention. Student progress guides further instruction
or interventions.

The following are three ways RtI is used in the schools:

  1. Prevention. All students are screened to determine how well they are performing. These screenings are considered in light of grade-level benchmarks; the screening results for each student are examined for any sign of academic and behavioral difficulties. Schools that employ an RtI approach provide research-based strategic instruction within general education. This helps struggling students before they fail and gives them a chance to catch up to their grade-level peers.
  2. Intervention. Within an RtI model, the progress of all students in general education is frequently evaluated. This is also known as progress monitoring. When those evaluations show that a student in general education is not progressing at a rate or level of achievement that is appropriate for that grade, the teachers provide more intense interventions.
  3. A Component of Specific Learning Disability (SLD) determination. The RtI approach is one component of SLD determination as addressed in the IDEA 2004 statute and regulations. The data from the RtI process are a part of determining eligibility for special education services, ensuring that a student has received research-based instruction and interventions before being considered for special education.

The Core Components of RtI

  1. High-quality classroom instruction. Students receive high-quality instruction in their general education classroom setting from highly qualified teachers. Instruction is given in the core curriculum, with the goal of achieving the state’s grade-level standards.
  2. Research-based instruction. The instruction that is provided within the classroom is culturally responsive and has been demonstrated to be effective through scientific research.
  3. Classroom assessment. General education teachers assume an active role in students’ assessment in the general education curriculum. This feature emphasizes the importance of implementing formative and summative assessments (see left insert) that are aligned to the California Content Standards.
  4. Universal screening. School staff conducts universal screening
    to determine which students need closer monitoring, differentiated instruction, or a specific intervention.
  5. Continuously monitoring student progress in the classroom. The classroom performance of all students is monitored continually
    within the general education classroom. In this way, teachers can readily identify those learners who are not meeting the benchmarks (or other expected standards) and can adjust instruction accordingly.
  6. Research-based interventions. When monitoring data indicates a lack of progress, an appropriate, research-based intervention is implemented. The interventions are designed to increase the intensity of instruction for the students.
  7. Progress monitoring during interventions. School staff members use progress monitoring data to determine the effectiveness of the
    intervention and to make modifications, as needed. Carefully defined data are frequently collected to provide a cumulative record of the students’ response to the intervention.
  8. Fidelity measures. “Fidelity of implementation” refers to the delivery of content and instructional strategies in the way in which they have been proven to be effective: accurately and consistently.
    Although interventions are aimed at learners, fidelity measures focus on how the intervention is provided.
  9. Staff development and collaboration. All school staff are trained in research-based instructional practices and use a collaborative approach to the development, implementation, and monitoring of the intervention process. Collaboration may include blending resources from both general education and categorical resources. Accountability for positive outcomes for all students is a shared responsibility of all school staff members, who are all seen as valued members in the effort to educate all students. Each staff member is recognized for the value of his/her own expertise and contribution.
  10. Parent involvement. The involvement and active participation of parents at all stages of the instructional and intervention process is essential to improving the educational outcomes of students. Parents are kept informed, in their native language or other mode of communication, of the progress of their children, and their input is valued by school staff in making appropriate decisions.

The Principles of RtI

  1. Believe—and know—that all students can be effectively taught. All RtI practices are founded on the assumption and belief that all students can learn. It is then the responsibility of school staff to identify the most effective curricular, instructional, and environmental conditions that enable learning to take place and to provide the necessary resources to enable all students to learn.
  2. Intervene early. It is best to intervene early when problems are relatively small and before students lag further behind their peers.
  3. Use a multi-tiered model of intervention. To achieve high rates of success for all students, instruction must be differentiated in both its nature and intensity. A tiered model of intervention is one effective way to differentiate instruction.
  4. Use research-based, scientifically validated interventions/instruction. NCLB requires schools to use scientifically based curricula and interventions. This approach ensures that students are exposed to curriculum and teaching that has the greatest degree of effectiveness.
  5. Monitor student progress to inform instruction. The use of assessments that can be collected frequently and that are sensitive to small changes in a student’s performance is important in determining the effectiveness of instruction and intervention.
  6. Use data to make decisions. A databased decision regarding the students’ response to intervention is central to RtI practices. Decisions in RtI practice are based on the collective judgment of staff and parents and informed directly by student performance data. This principle requires two things: that ongoing data collection systems are in place and that resulting data are used to make informed instructional decisions.
  7. Use assessment for three different purposes: a) universal screening to determine which students need closer monitoring, differentiated instruction, or a specific intervention; b) progress monitoring to determine if interventions are producing the desired results; c) diagnostics to determine what students can and cannot do in important academic areas.

Response to Intervention is better described as a “response to instruction.” It provides a triage process that allows for progressive increases in the intensity and duration of instruction for students who continue to struggle with the general education curriculum. Through this preventive process, schools can meet the needs of all students and reduce the numbers students inappropriately identified with specific learning disability.

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Using Data

Within an RTI process, progress-monitoring data can help to answer the following questions:

All of these questions are relevant considering whether a student is eligible for special education services as a student with a specific learning disability.

Types of Assessments

A formative assessment is a way to evaluate “where a student is” so that instruction can be shaped or “formed” to fit what a student needs. This kind of assessment is not typically graded and educators use its results to design courses and curriculum that are based on the specific needs of the student.

A summative assessment is used to check the level of learning at the end of an instructional unit. It is comprehensive in nature and provides a record of the degree of success of both the learning and the teaching efforts.

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Improving Services: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) afflicts one out of every 150 children, according to current national research. And that number is increasing. California’s Legislature responded to this disturbing trend with Assembly Bill 2513, Chapter 783, Statutes 2006, which authorized the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to create an autism advisory group that would be charged with identifying ways that public and nonpublic schools, including charter schools, could better serve pupils with autism and their parents. The resulting group, the Superintendent’s Autism Advisory Committee (SAAC) has convened numerous times over the past year and has just published its set of recommendations.

The SAAC recognizes the seriousness of the challenges facing any coordinated and comprehensive effort to sufficiently support the growing number of children with autism in California. According to the final SAAC report, the state’s system of public instruction has “limited resources and limited inherent capability to meet the intensified need for educational services” that are often needed by students with ASD. The committee goes on to list four major challenges: 1) a lack of coherent and universally accepted effective educational practices; 2) an overall lack of knowledge and training at all levels;
3) a shortage of personnel trained to provide evidence-based interventions; and 4) inadequate financial resources for preschool children
with ASD.

The committee was able to offer comprehensive recommendations for three of the four challenges. The issue of adequate financing remains to be addressed.

Coherent and Universally Accepted Effective Educational Practices

The SAAC recommends that the California Department of Education (CDE) “implement and maintain a credible source of current information about recommended practices for educating children with ASD.” It proposes “the creation of a statewide database of evidence-based practices that includes a focus on results in applied settings,” with the information reviewed by a panel of experts and made available in as many ways as possible and to as many stakeholders as possible.

Knowledge and Training at All Levels

The SAAC recommends that CDE work with special education local plan areas (SELPAs) “to establish and maintain annual regional training plans that, wherever possible, draw on existing resources and approaches. The training models should be designed for quick and efficient dissemination across California’s diverse population and varieties of district sizes and demographics.

“Exemplary site-based demonstration programs should be identified and dissemination of information about them should be supported. In addition, the committee expects that participation in training courses should be available to parents as well as professional and para-professional educators.”

Personnel Trained to Provide Evidence-based Interventions

The SAAC recommends that “the Commission on Teacher Credentialing increase the range of recognized credentials for the provision of services to students with ASD and increase the number of opportunities to receive specialized training and/or ASD-related credentials. In addition, the committee recommends that the quantity of ASD-related curriculum material be increased across the range of general education and special education staff training opportunities, including IHE [institutions of higher education] programs and BTSA [Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment].”

Seamless Service Delivery System (Birth to Five Years)

In order to make the best use of the limited existing resources, the SAAC recommends that “CDE develop specific policies on the most effective manner of informing schools about the status of educationally related research. These policies should support proposals that emphasize the importance of early intervention and interagency coordination through all phases of transition from pre-K to early adulthood. . . Ultimately, students with ASD and their families should enjoy a seamless experience of the highest level of educational services the State of California can feasibly deliver.”

The SAAC also developed a set of recommended evidence-based content categories for the ASD Clearinghouse, an outline and flowchart of a SELPA training on autism for educators and parents, and a list of current, valuable Web sites and sources of information for evidence-based practices in ASD.

The work of the committee was part of a larger statewide response. The state Legislature formed its own Blue Ribbon Committee to study the policy implications of the growing instances of children with ASD and to determine how the state can provide the services needed by individuals with autism and their families (go to for its reports and final recommendations). And the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), working with the California Department of Education (CDE), has its own project focusing on Guidelines for Effective Interventions (; see also

For a complete copy of the final recommendations from the SAAC, go to If you have any questions, contact Anthony Sotelo at or 916-327-3545.

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Effectively Supporting Students—Beyond School

Parents love it. And it’s bringing even the most reluctant of students around. The “it” in question? A revitalized approach to transition services sweeping high schools in the Paradise School District. The inspiration? A transition “training of trainers” sponsored by the California Department of Education (CDE).

The Training Inspiration

A team of teachers involved in the special education program at Paradise High School in north central California attended the CDE training this past summer. The team consisted of Mary Ficcardi, Director of Special Services; Miriam Craig, Special Day Class and ROP teacher; Margot Gegg, School Psychologist; Dan Nelson, Resource Teacher; and Diane Wood from Ridgeview High School, the district’s alternative high school. The members of this team are united in their praise for the training, which apparently inspired as well as informed its attendants.

The educators from Paradise were particularly struck by some of the statistics they were given: that individuals with disabilities have half the high school graduation rate of their non-disabled peers; that they have significantly higher drop-out and poverty rates; that they end up having higher rates of dependency on public assistance; and that they have a 34 percent lower rate of satisfaction with their lives. With these facts in mind, the Paradise team left the training committed to the importance of transition services in helping young adults with disabilities gain the skills they need to live a fulfilling and productive life—and to be part of trend toward altering these grim statistics for the better.

In support of that effort, Ficcardi reports that the training “helped us fine-tune our work toward effective transitions” and “provided strategies and technical assistance for helping students in their transition from school to adult living. We are strong with the academics, interventions, and instruction. The training helped us critique other components of our program—employment and post secondary outcomes, related services, and self-promotion.”

One major impetus behind the training was the set of new regulations mandated by the reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004. While most educators are familiar with the IDEA requirement of “free and appropriate public education,” or FAPE, this training focuses on the part of that mandate that calls for schools to prepare students “for further education, employment, and independent living,” specifically the IDEA requirements for writing measurable post-secondary goals, supporting the students’ ability to reach those goals, and then tracking student success.

Change of Perspective

Miriam Craig gives the training credit for a critical change of perspective at Paradise. “We now look at what’s available, what’s possible. Even if the students’ goals change, they get used to thinking about having them; and with our help and support they explore their post-secondary options.”

The team members from Paradise did not come away from the training thinking that the transition requirements, particularly those relating to post-secondary outcomes, were going to be easy—neither writing them, securing them, nor tracking students after graduation. According to Craig, helping students be clear on where they’re heading and what they’re working toward is especially challenging. “So many students can’t think beyond high school. But we know that this is not where things end. High school is just this blip along the way.” School psychologist Margot Gegg agrees. “It’s sometimes a surprise for ninth graders who can’t imagine life after high school. We emphasize to our students that there IS going to be a future. Then we help them look at what’s offered—through ROP* and through our local Butte College. We make it clear to them that we’re going to help them focus on pursuing their goals now. This, of course, should be the focus of that IEP at the secondary level—to channel students toward post-secondary goals.” The CDE training “provided useful tools and examples of creative goal writing. And it helped us learn how to make things concrete.”

This word, “concrete,” seems to be one hinge to the training’s success. Dan Nelson has already experienced the value of the very practical and goal-driven approach that the word suggests. He works with students who often don’t see the value of school. “They just want to get a job and make money.” But, according to Nelson, their entire attitude toward education changes when they begin to see how school actually applies to the world of work. “A couple of my students weren’t doing well until we started looking into Workability I,” a program for coordinating high
school education with a very specific career path. Nelson also saw this approach “help get parents on board. They see that we have a clear plan for their child; a destination. Parents are concerned that their children are motivated in school. And they are encouraged when they see that students are working toward concrete goals.”

Strategies for making education very practical and concrete to high school students were infused throughout the training. Diane Wood reports that “many of the students I work with are often not academically oriented. And by the time they reach Ridgeview High School, most have been unsuccessful in school. The training gave me, as a resource teacher, a framework to develop an educational plan for my students built around vocational and post-secondary goals. As I discuss these goals with students, my hope is that they will be able to recognize more clearly the connection between what happens in the classroom and a successful future after high school.”

Gegg also noted that “we initially thought that implementing this new item of post-secondary tracking was going to be a lot of work. But it’s not as onerous a task as we first thought. And with the help of the training, we see tracking as a valuable way to find out what’s working and how successful our program is in preparing students for success.”

Wood says that the training “helped us understand the ways we are accountable.” She reports that the training was not a static take-information-and-go-home event. Instead, “at the training we were able to share ideas and collaborate.”

Positive reviews of this transition training came from places beyond Paradise. State SELPA Chair Glenn Sarot hosted the training in Imperial County, with people attending from as far away as Newport Beach and San Diego. And he, too, praised the training for the concrete way it addressed IDEA transition mandates. As a former career counselor, Sarot spoke about the helpfulness of the training as it offered specific strategies for moving students out of what he referred to as the “fantasy stage” of thinking about their futures, into the “trial stage,” and then onto the “career selection stage.” In his experience, children with disabilities are particularly prone to getting stuck in the fantasy stage. He felt this CDE training was to be particularly applauded for giving teachers strategies for helping students break out of that pattern.

Sarot was also candid in his appraisal of the new IDEA regulations on post-secondary accountability. He called them “a tough pill to swallow.” But he appreciated the training’s “powerful activity of working with groups on scenarios” that “provided a guided experience in how to make goals concrete, measurable, and achievable”—not just for students, but for educators as well. According to him, the training’s collaborative activities greatly increased the comfort level of staff members, and they came away from the event very clear on what it was that they had to do—and how they could successfully do it. He acknowledged having some trepidation at the sections of the law that use words such as “will” and “shall” in describing how teachers are accountable for students reaching post-secondary goals. But again he spoke of the practical strategies the training provided for writing those goals so that the burden of completion is shared, manageable, and possible.

For him, the key to the success of the training—and the success of any transition effort—is measurability; how to find the most appropriate language, how to imagine the end result, how to frame the next step, and how to realize the final goal. He echoed the words of the Paradise team in describing the training as concrete, practical, and immensely helpful—immediately for teachers, ultimately for students.

The CDE will continue to offer this transition training in the spring of 2008. Visit for more information and the training schedule.

Opportunity for Middle and High School Educators

Have you created an innovative, successful, and replicable program at the middle or high school level? Does that program focus on general and special education collaboration, transition to adult life, reading, positive behavior supports, or family-school partnerships? If so, then money and prestige await your efforts.

CalSTAT, a special project of the California Department of Education, Special Education Division, is pleased to announce its 2008–9 Leadership Site Award program. Finalists will be invited and financially supported to attend the CalSTAT State Leadership Institute. Winners of this award will also have the chance to share their work with other educators and to advance their successful efforts. A listing of the numerous, additional benefits, along with information about deadlines, specific eligibility requirements, and application forms, will be available on the CalSTAT Web site on January 7, 2008. Go to and. Or contact Marin Brown by phoning 707-481-9139 or e-mailing

Awards Available for Regional Institute Hosts

Have you created an innovative, successful, and replicable program at the middle or high school level? Does that program focus on general and special education collaboration, transition to adult life, reading, positive behavior supports, or family-school partnerships? If so, then money and prestige await your efforts.

CalSTAT, a special project of the California Department of Education, Special Education Division, is pleased to announce its 2008–9 Leadership Site Award program. Finalists will be invited and financially supported to attend the CalSTAT State Leadership Institute. Winners of this award will also have the chance to share their work with other educators and to advance their successful efforts. A listing of the numerous, additional benefits, along with information about deadlines, specific eligibility requirements, and application forms, will be available on the CalSTAT Web site on January 7, 2008. Go to and. Or contact Marin Brown by phoning 707-481-9139 or e-mailing

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Reflections on Change: Sanger High School’s 180

By Carole Whitteberry, Special Education Teacher, Sanger High School

“I don’t want anyone to know I’m in special ed.”
“The teachers will be mean to us.”
“I can’t do it. It’s too hard.”
“The other kids will think I’m stupid.”

In 2001, as part of a credentialing class, Denise Martinez and I surveyed RSP and SDC* students about taking their core curriculum in general education classrooms instead of with us. These were some of the responses students gave us. Overall, the majority of our kids did not want to risk the exposure. While we expected some student trepidation, we were unprepared for the depth of their fears.

However, we couldn’t entirely disagree with these students. For the most part, Sanger High School had an older faculty that, while experienced, followed traditional teaching methods: lecture, bookwork, occasional projects, and tests. All teachers taught five classes, with one period for prep. RSP students who were more skilled were mainstreamed into selected classes with more sympathetic teachers; less skilled students received their “parallel” core curriculum with SDC students. RSP teachers taught reading and writing for five periods, with a maximum of five to six students per class. There was little collaboration unless there was a problem in the general education classroom.

“So much for mainstreaming kids into more classes,” we thought, and shelved that idea.

About a year later, our relatively new Pupil Services Director, Cindy Toewes, gave us a mandate: Sanger High School would become a full-
inclusion site. We fought it because we knew our kids, our colleagues, and our administration. We also knew that inclusion worked most easily in the elementary school setting. We were convinced there was little potential for success for the program, and there was huge potential for hurting our students’ emotional well being by this change.

Simultaneously, Sanger High was designated an II/USP School and became part of the Immediate Intervention/Underperforming School Program. Our test scores were low. And although the entire faculty knew we were in trouble, there was no consensus as to how to increase student achievement. Administration, both at our site and at the district office, made the difficult decision to look for large-scale solutions elsewhere. Consequently, Sanger High accepted leadership training from the Riverside County Achievement Team (RCAT) and also participated in “High Schools That Work.”

We created a multi-disciplinary team that was comprised of department chairs, administrators, and some teachers who volunteered. This team focused on communication, collaboration, and data-driven decision-making. Internalizing these concepts was a slow process—and it wasn’t easy for anyone on the team to change—but over the next three years the team did indeed bring these new models home and begin to implement them. Teachers were being encouraged to share assignments, test scores, and teaching strategies. Administration scheduled collaboration time into the workday by creating Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) grouped by discipline. Curriculum maps and pacing charts were created in these PLCs, based on the California content standards. The question was no longer, “What do we teach?” but rather “What do the students need to know to master the standards?” Communication between colleagues and administrators was key to the process. And teachers could no longer go into their classrooms and shut the door; this was no longer an option. This increased collaboration spread throughout the campus rapidly as everyone became committed not only to raising the bar for student achievement, but also to giving students the tools and strategies they needed for success. We were undergoing a culture change—from isolation to collaboration—without realizing it.

There was, of course, resistance alongside of acceptance. During staff development meetings, there was some quiet snickering and eye-rolling whenever anyone used the phrases “below the green line” and being in the “fishbowl”—references to two concepts about communication and sharing that RCAT uses and that were new to most of our faculty. But at the same time, people were taking the messages to heart. There were spirited discussions about teaching methodologies, and even those who were most resistant to change began to see the need for it—and the potential effectiveness of the changes we were introducing.

Our special education service delivery model also changed during this time. In 2002, two Sanger High teachers, Charlene Enoch and Denise Martinez, made their first attempt at collaboration. The RSP students with the best skills and most confidence in their abilities were matched with general education teachers who were committed to the approach. Some of these teachers were chosen for their exceptional communication skills; others were already friends with special education teachers and were willing to try this experiment. Charlene and Denise worked closely with the general education teachers to implement strategies to support the RSP students’ learning, as well as to suggest curriculum modifications and alternative assignments. In 2003, two more teachers were added to the group, and we made our first attempt at “full inclusion” as a departmental model.

It was perfect—on paper! In reality, we were working sixty to seventy hours a week. By February, two teachers had to go on blood pressure medication, and three of the four were requesting transfers to elementary sites. Needless to say, that model lasted exactly one year. Being responsible for the students in our individual caseloads, assisting all of the teachers in a department, making curriculum modifications, and maintaining our paperwork requirements all turned out to be just too much. There was not enough time to spend with our own students, nor were we teaching as much as we wanted; we each had two instructional periods only, with the rest of our time devoted to meeting teachers, assisting in classrooms, and modifying curriculum.

But that traumatic year did have positive results. We watched our kids gain confidence as they mastered curriculum that had been deemed “too hard” for them; we saw great teaching and learning by our general education colleagues as they figured out what to do with “those” students in their classes; we honed our own interpersonal skills. Without even discussing it, we started “sharing” all kids, general and special education alike. The same worksheets and notes went to everyone who needed them, and oral testing was available for any student for whom it was beneficial, including English learners. We also had the support of our assistant principal, JoDee Marcellin, who listened to our ideas and plans, as well as complaints, and backed every change we as a team felt was necessary. Without her support, the program would not have been as successful.

The paraprofessionals were an integral part of our team, as well, and they deserve a great deal of credit. Many of them agreed to work in general education classes that were outside their comfort zones. For example, some of them had not had an Algebra class since their own high school careers. But they rose to the occasion, learning new material and completing “homework” alongside the students. Some of them have since completed Associate of Arts degrees at the local community college, and at least one is planning to become a credentialed teacher.

That next year, we modified our efforts and involved only English and mathematics, with teams of two special education teachers working with selected general education teachers from those departments. This refined focus made student management easier. And since the team concept didn’t work with all pairs of special education teachers, our next shift was to assign certain English and math teachers to certain special education teachers—a “team within a team” model. During this time we realized that, while inclusion is for all students, it may not be for all teachers. To participate in inclusion, special education and general education teachers both need exceptional communications skills, the willingness to try new things, and a fairly thick skin, as not everything goes as planned!

We saw a lot of changes in six years. In fact, at times it seemed as if the only constant was change. Did it work? Well, in 2003 our overall special education API was 351. In 2006, it was 566. In 2003, 4.3 percent of our special education students passed the English portion of the high school exit exam, and 4.1 percent of them passed the math. In 2006, 37.5 percent passed the English portion, while 41.9 percent passed the math. We went from being an II/USP school in 2001 to being a California Distinguished School in 2005, a Title I Academic Achievement Award recipient in 2006, and a CalSTAT Leadership Site in collaboration in 2006.

That’s the hard data, the quantifiable numbers crunched by Ms. Marcellin. The soft data is this: more of our special education students are participating in the general education curriculum than ever before. Teachers are lecturing less and engaging in multiple-modality learning more. Curriculum maps are constantly being revised, and the results of common assessments are analyzed by teachers after every benchmark. Teachers engage in ongoing conversations about students and learning, and teacher isolation is minimized. Collaboration no longer means merely general education and special education teachers talking together; it means colleagues working together for all students.

Without the culture shift that Sanger High underwent, none of this would have happened. It took the harsh fact of low test scores to make us take a long, hard look at ourselves—and how we could better serve all students. Inclusion was implemented at a good time; it was made possible by the culture change, and it was supported at the same time by the new developing norms.

It would be nice to be able to point to a single factor and say, “There! That’s what fixed our school!” The reality is that it involved several factors that came into play at the same time: a cultural shift, inclusion, the emphasis on cooperation and collaboration, the use of data to drive instruction. And, of course, the most important factors: the people. We had the encouragement of administration on all levels and the commitment of very hard-working teachers and paraprofessionals. It worked for us because we became a team.

For more about Sanger High School, go to; about RCAT, go to; about the High Schools That Work effort, go to

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2008 Calendar

January 13 (San Diego)

Celebrate the Promise: Community Day School Annual State Conference

This conference offers information about community day schools and supports educators who work in them. The event will provide opportunities to meet with others to share and discuss student expectations, best practices and educational options, budgets, and strategies for presenting the work of these schools in the strongest positive light. San Diego, CA.For more information, phone 909-398-0617; e-mail;
or go to

February 1–2 (San Francisco)

Strengthening and Sustaining Inclusive Communities: Person-Centered Thinking in Home, School, Work, and Play

Sponsored by CalTASH, this annual conference is designed for individuals with disabilities, parents, educators, adult service providers, advocates, and others concerned with issues of quality of life for people with special needs. Sessions address researched-based practices in inclusion in both school and community settings, ways to support individuals with disabilities in the work force, assistive technology, and more. San Francisco. For more information, phone Ann Halvorson at 510-885-3087; e-mail; or go to

February 20, 29; March 18 (Costa Mesa)

Students with Special Needs—Can They Make the Grade?

This three-day training, sponsored by the Orange County Office of Education, is designed to help special
education teachers of students in grades 7–12 and paraprofessionals support students in meeting achievement goals and developing their academic literacy skills. The event will focus on effective reading instruction, assessments to help guide instruction, and strategies that will help students access the core curriculum. Costa Mesa, CA. For more information, contact Pam Tupy by phoning 714-966-4372 or e-mailing

February 21–23

Riding the Wave of Change: Charting a New Course

This CARS+ (California Association of Resources Specialists and Special Educators) annual convention addresses the latest research-based teaching strategies, provides opportunities to meet and interact with other special educators, presents information on children with different disabilities and the best strategies for supporting them, and more. For additional information, visit the CARS+ Web site:

February 24-26 (San Francisco)

Closing California’s Achievement and Opportunity Gaps: Our Mission Is Possible. The Time Is Now.

This third biennial Education Trust-West Conference supports those educational institutions serving low-income, Latino, African American, or Native American students. San Francisco. Contact Gary Reinecke at, or visit

July 17–19 (San Diego)

RtI—Right On! How to Implement Response to Intervention

This tenth annual San Diego Summer Leadership Institute is designed for teachers, administrators, parents of children with and without disabilities, and related services and support personnel—anyone interested in promoting the educational success of all students through research-based, preventive instruction. It features such internationally known educators as Richard Villa, Norm Kunc, and Rich Reid, as well as elementary, middle, and high school teams successfully implementing RtI. San Marcos, CA. For more information, phone or fax Jeff at 619-795-3602 or e-mail him at Find a flyer and registration forms for the conference at


Facilitation Skills for Chaotic Times

Designed for schools and districts that are struggling to make positive changes—and determined to ensure that the changes lasts—Facilitation Skills for Chaotic Times is a development program available at numerous locations throughout the state. It is nine to ten days in length and delivered in modules that consist of three to five programs. For the exact dates, costs, and success stories, go to Currently scheduled events are listed as follows:

Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Mid January through May.
Contact Katie Gaines at 925-682-8000, ext. 3908.

Solano County Office of Education. Winter/Spring 2008.
Contact Muriah Germano at 707-399-4462.

San Diego County Office of Education. Late Summer 2008.
Contact Jaime Tate-Symons at 825-299-3761.

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Web Resources

Published by the California Department of Developmental Services, Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Best Practice Guidelines for Screening, Diagnosis and Assessment is available online at this URL. The core concepts and best practices for autism offered in this book are supported by evidence-based findings in an effort to assist families, service providers, and public officials in making informed decisions about early identification and intervention for children with autism.

The guide Career Planning Begins with Assessment is available online at this URL. Published by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, the book offers youth service practitioners information on selecting career-related assessments and on determining when to refer youth for additional assessment. It also addresses such issues as accommodations, pertinent laws, and ethical considerations. Finally, the guide gives administrators and policymakers information on developing practical and effective policies, creating collaborative programs, and enhancing interagency assessment systems.

WorkAbility promotes the involvement of students, families, educators, and employers in planning and implementing an array of services that help students successfully transition to employment, lifelong learning, and quality of life.

The principle document used in transition trainings is Transition to Adult Living: An Information and Resource Guide. A complete version is available at the above Web site. See especially Appendices J&K for a wealth of online resources. (When accessed online, the links in the document are live and clicking on them will take you directly to other online resources.) A text-only version of this document is available at

This page from the California Department of Education’s Web site offers supporting documents to the California High School Exit Exam: study guides, teacher guides, sample test questions, and exam blueprints for both Mathematics and English/language arts, as well as technical reports and resources for additional assistance.

This page from the California
Department of Education’s Web site offers an online compendium of intervention models for the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE). These models and programs are submitted by school districts and other educational institutions.

Response to Intervention
This free, online issue of the NICHY (National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities) newsletter features an article on SIM,
Strategic Instruction Model, an approach to helping students learn new concepts. Research shows a SIM approach to be one hallmark of student success.

Web Sites for Progress Monitoring

• Intervention Central offers free tools and resources to help school staff and parents promote positive classroom behaviors and foster effective learning for all children and youth:

• The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS)
offers standardized, individually administered measures of early literacy development:

• The Student Support Services Project from the Florida Department of Education and Florida State University provides a comprehensive overview of curriculum-based assessment:

• The National Center on Student Progress Monitoring, funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), provides technical assistance to states and districts and disseminates information about proven progress monitoring practices for grades kindergarten through five:

• National Association of State Directors of Special Education offers numerous publications on progress monitoring and response to

• The IRIS training center offers Web-based instructional materials about working with students with disabilities and progress monitoring:

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RiSE Library

The RiSE (Resources in Special Education) Library lends materials to California’s residents free of charge. The items listed on this page are just a sampling of what is available. Go to to view all library holdings and to request materials by e-mail. To order materials, either phone or e-mail Judy Bower: 408-727-5775;


Best Practices for Educating Students with Autism
Stephen Bevilacqua, Editor. Horsham, PA: LRP Publications. 2001. 70 pages.
This book serves as a guide for determining the effectiveness of your district’s autism programs and for creating new autism programs that work. Call #23027 and 23028.

Educating Children with Autism
National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. 2001. 307 pages.
While outlining an interdisciplinary approach to educating children with autism, this book explores what makes education effective for a child with ASD, identifies specific characteristics of programs that work, offers recommendations for choosing educational content and strategies, and addresses other key areas. Call #23035 and 23036.

Helping Children with Autism Learn: Treatment Approaches for Parents and Professionals
Bryna Siegel. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2003. 498 pages.
This volume explains how to take an inventory of a child’s particular disabilities, breaks down the various kinds of disabilities that are unique to autism, discusses the current knowledge about each kind, and reviews the existing strategies for treating them. Call #23539.

Professional Learning Communities

On Common Ground: The Power of Professional Learning Communities
Richard DuFour, Robert Eaker, and Rebecca DuFour, Eds. National Educational Services: Bloomington, IN. 2005. 272 pages.
The authors in this book move from theory to practice as they describe a professional learning community as the means to authentic sustained school reform. Call #23968.

Response to Intervention Framework for Intervention
Sonoma County Office of Education. 2006. This interactive CD-ROM includes resources for helping schools plan and implement intervention systems that will improve the achievement of struggling students. The CD-ROM includes over 150 interactive pages of information about intervention, profiles of assessment tools, listings of intervention curricula, self-study inventories, and more. Call #23965 and 23966.


Implementing Ongoing Transition Plans for the IEP: A Student-Driven Approach to IDEA Mandates
Pat McPartland. IEP Resources: Verona, WI. 2005.134 pages.
Offering a concise yet comprehensive program for graduation-track special education students, this book focuses on the seven areas mandated by IDEA: functional assessment, daily living skills, post-school adult living, employment, community experiences, related services, and instruction. Call #23575.

Successful Kindergarten Transition: Your Guide to Connecting Children, Families, and Schools
Robert Pianta and Marcia Kraft-Sayre. Paul Brookes Publishing: Baltimore. 2003. 124 pages.
This practical guide, written for preschool and kindergarten professionals, helps early childhood educators develop and implement effective plans to help children make a smooth transition to kindergarten. Call #23440.

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California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalSTAT)
A Special Project of the Napa County Office of Education| 5789 State Farm Drive, Rohnert Park, CA 94928
Fax: 707-586-2735 |