Monroe Co. Special Education News

Doing what's right for our students - one child at a time.

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Welcome to the New! - March 10, 2016

Welcome to Spring! This time of year always reminds me of the newness of life. We see new buds popping out on trees and new green shoots pushing their way out of the ground, soon to be dressed up in bright yellows, pinks, purples, and blues. It's a hopeful, expectant time of year that signals the arrival of both Spring Break and Easter. It's also a time of intense focus and effort, as we begin high school transition meetings, kindergarten registration, and standardized testing. For better or for worse, Spring is upon us. So in the spirit of newness, I thought I would try something new - a new method of conveying information about all things Special Ed-related in Monroe County. I am excited to have this new format to share information and updates regarding our Special Education Department and the services we provide. As always, I appreciate all you do for our students and I hope you are enjoying the newness of Spring all around you.

Monitoring Update...

You may recall that earlier in the year, every public school system in the state of Tennessee had to submit ten Special Education student files for web-based monitoring. The files were selected by the State and represented a mix of student disabilities from each system. Many of the files chosen from Monroe County were recent transfer records from other systems, which lacked many of the necessary signatures and other required components. Thank you to everyone who worked so quickly and efficiently to get those records into top shape. Your work did not go unnoticed.

On March 8, 2016, we were notified that the State's review of our records was complete and that there were no records out of compliance. Congratulations! This is a huge feat for us and means that Monroe County should not be flagged for a comprehensive, on-site monitoring of the Special Education Department during the coming school year. Similarly, during our fiscal (financial) monitoring last year, there were no findings of error. Our hard work is paying off! Let's keep it up!

It's Testing Time in Tennessee!

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Multi-State Alternate Assessment (MSAA)

As Testing Coordinator for the new MSAA, I have been busily working on importing student and teacher data into the MSAA portal this week. As you know, the MSAA is the new online assessment for our most significantly disabled students in grades 3 - 8 and 11 (replacing the former TCAP-Alt Portfolio Assessment) in Reading/Language Arts and Mathematics. The testing portal will open on March 30, 2016 and will close on May 13, 2016.

Once the MSAA portal opens, teachers will be able to access the assessment online or print the test if they prefer to administer a paper-and-pencil version. It is not expected that students will independently operate the online or paper test, but rather that this is a one-on-one experience between the teacher and student. It should look and feel very much like an instructional interaction using the same communication method the student uses daily. The only difference is that the questions are provided and cannot be altered. If a student gives a wrong answer, the teacher may not correct the student. Students may encounter questions with unfamiliar content. This is to be expected. Just like their peers in general education, students will miss questions the teacher believes they know. Students will guess at answers. Sometimes, students will struggle to solve questions. These are natural student experiences during an assessment.

The teacher may start or stop the assessment as needed, use manipulatives, pictures/symbols, or tactile supports, and read the test and enter the students answers on their behalf (unless the question indicates otherwise). Testing can (and should) occur in the student’s natural environment. Other students and adults may be present and engaged in instruction while the student and teacher complete the assessment.

Students with complex communication needs, for whom we do not yet have a reliable form of communication, can complete the Student Response Check (SRC) to determine if the assessment can be ended or needs to be fully administered. If you will be administering the MSAA, it is imperative that you follow all testing directions and training guidelines. The same high levels of test security that are expected for the TNReady and EOC assessments will apply to the MSAA.

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Portfolio Science and Social Studies

Since the MSAA will only address Reading/Language Arts and Mathematics, we were required to assess the Science and Social Studies progress of our most significantly disabled students through the portfolio method. Debbie Reed and Phoebe Ryans have started the process of uploading the collected information into the MIST portal for scoring. The input window will close on April 8, 2016. We have not yet received any guidance as to when or how these scores will be made available.

Brigance for K-2

This year, we gained approval from the State to use the Brigance Achievement Test as our assessment measure for academic growth for our most significantly disabled students in grades K through 2. The Brigance testing window is April 4 - April 22, 2016. Teachers with qualifying students in grades K - 2 should contact Debbie Reed for testing protocols and administration procedures.

If the State's assessment plan for next year advances, we will no longer assess our students in kindergarten and first grade. The State will develop a new assessment for students in second grade and will also provide an assessment plan for our most significantly disabled second graders as well.

Monroe County Spring Break: March 25 - April 1, 2016

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I'm sure I didn't have to remind you of our Spring Break dates. But, I did want to take a few moments to wish you a very relaxed, re-energizing break. Whether you get to spend some time at the beach, in the mountains, or in your own backyard, I truly hope you have a safe and blessed Spring Break. You deserve it!

Every Child Deserves a Champion!

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Click the box below for an inspiring video.

Ms. Pierson, died shortly after presenting the TED Talk featured in the video clip above at the age of 61 in Houston, TX. She once wrote: “Teachers don’t make a lot of money. They are usually not deemed worthy of news coverage unless there is a scandal or a strike. Most of the time, their major accomplishments are shared only with colleagues and family members and not the media. The celebration is often cut short by some catastrophe the next day. Yet, in spite of the highs and lows, I cannot think of another profession that brings both joy and challenge on a daily basis.”

Understanding Dyslexia: A Guide for Parents and Teachers

The State Department frequently receives questions from parents and educators regarding dyslexia and its relationship to specific learning disabilities. Additionally, several recent policy changes have precipitated a need to provide further guidance around this issue. In particular, school districts recently began implementation of the Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI²) Framework, which provides increasingly more intensive, research-based interventions aligned to students’ needs. This is also the framework used to identify students with Specific Learning Disabilities according to Tennessee state law. As a result of these changes, a group of State-level stakeholders was convened to develop guidance for clarifying issues related to dyslexia. This guidance document can be found (here). Please feel free to make copies of this pamphlet to have available for parents or regular education teachers who may want additional information about dyslexia.

Need a Smile?

You Might Be a Special Education Teacher if:

  • You want to slap the next person who says, "Must be nice to work from 8 to 3 and have your summers free!"
  • When out in public you feel the urge to correct the behavior of other people's children by first identifying the antecedent conditions and functions of the behavior.
  • You encourage your spouse by saying, "I like the way you are putting your things away."