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All subscribers will receive a news brief of information and resources via email once a month from September through May, excluding December. Each news brief will highlight a key topic in education related to supporting the learning needs of all students.

The news brief is a collaborative effort of the Virginia Department of Education Training and Technical Assistance Centers at George Mason University and James Madison University.

Current issue of our news brief

  • May 2018 | QUOTE “Training teachers to understand bias will not eliminate it, but it could create an institutional environment in which it is clear that understanding bias and its effects is critically important. The long-term return on investment is inestimable.” – SORAYA CHEMALY

Past issues of our news brief

  • April 2018 | Some measure of parent and community involvement has always been a cornerstone of public schools. However, that involvement has usually been directed and guided by the schools and, for the most part, has focused on fundraising initiatives, volunteering, and supporting school activities. We now understand that families and the broader community also must be included in decision making and school governance. We also realize that the learning that occurs within the family and community contributes to school success, and so we need to give greater recognition and support to these collaborative efforts (NEA, 2011).
  • March 2018 | Does your student require assistive technology? How does the IEP team know? )
  • February 2018 | “Inclusion is a right that values the membership and participation of children with disabilities in typical settings.” (Gupta, 2014, p.9)
  • January 2018 | Trauma informed care is increasingly becoming part of the conversation in promoting mental health in schools. It has been defined as, "a system level philosophy of service delivery which integrates choice, collaboration, empowerment, safety and trust to create an organizational culture sensitive to trauma" (Keesler, 2016, p. 482). Title II, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 calls for states to provide examples of "carrying out in-service training for school personnel - in (i) the techniques and supports needed to help educators understand when and how to refer students affected by trauma, and children with, or at risk of, mental illness..." In response, the VDOE is striving to develop a workforce that is trained in supporting students' mental and emotional wellness. Through professional development, the VDOE seeks to develop trauma-informed staffs that are able to support the needs of all students.
  • November 2017 | "Special education leadership is as complex, unique, and diverse as the students it intends to serve. The roles, duties, and responsibilities of special education leaders change as swiftly as the policies, budgets, best practices, and systems of accountability that governs their ability to meet the challenges of the students under their charge. Moreover, special education leadership is a multifaceted educational enterprise that is predicated on the ideal of social justice, in that it is based on the ideals that all children can learn, all children should have access to a quality education, and all children should be included in the educational system irrespective of their respective disabilities" (Seltzer, 2011).
  • October 2017 | What is the difference between Dual Language Learners and English Language Learners?
  • September 2017 | Specially designed instruction (SDI)is the adaptation, when appropriate, to address the unique needs of individual students with disabilities. Adaptations may address content, methodology, and/or delivery of instruction. The purpose is to ensure that students with disabilities can access the general education curriculum and meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the public agency that apply to all children. SDI is organized, planned and implemented to address the student's IEP goals. It is intentional and systematic. (Section 300.39(b)(3) of Title 34, Code of Federal Regulations[CFR] and Friend, 2017).
  • May 2017 | Students with a growth mindset often achieve more than those who think success simply comes to those born with talent. Individuals who embrace a growth mindset realize they can reach goals by working hard, asking for help, and trying different strategies to accomplish tasks. When students believe achievement is the result of their effort, not their luck, they "worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning" (Dweck, 2016).
  • April 2017 | "Self-determination allows young people to make choices and decisions to direct their own lives" (I'm Determined Project, Module 4). Self-directed learning, a component of self-determination, includes taking initiative and being responsible for one's learning and requires choice- and decision-making skills. Tools are available to assist all students in the process of self-directed learning and leading their Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings and other conferences. (I'm Determined Project, Module 4)
  • March 2017 | Do you work with children? If yes, how do you know if they are mentally healthy? According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (2017), mental health includes "our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act." It is important at every stage of life and early intervention, when needed, can make a tremendous difference in transforming children's lives
  • February 2017 | What is a predictor of post-secondary success for students with intellectual disabilities? Inclusion, access to the generaleducation curriculum in general education classes with peers without disabilities, is one of the researched and highly qualitatively correlated in-school programmatic components that the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) lists as a predictor of post-secondary success for students with intellectual disabilities. In fact, inclusion is listed as a high impact predictor in the outcome areas of education, employment and independent living. (Post School Success, NCTACT; Predicting Outcomes, NCTACT)
  • January 2017 | Classroom routines and procedures that are well defined, taught, displayed, and referred to frequently are necessary at all grade levels (Leinhardt, Weidman, & Hammond, 1987). Not to be confused with classroom rules, routines and procedures are flexible and proactive. When teachers integrate clear structures, research shows an enhancement in student learning (Soar & Soar, 1979). As students are taught and become increasingly familiar with classroom routines, procedures, and expectations, they are able to "predict the events throughout their school day, they are more likely to be engaged and less likely to display problem behavior" (Kern & Clemens, 2007).
  • November 2016 | Function Based Thinking (FBT) is a proactive model for thinking that uses an evidence-based, systematic process to observe and define problem behaviors which lead to the selection of the most appropriate interventions to match the function of the behavior. While Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) have been widely used for students who require a behavior intervention plan, a framework does not exist to serve students who may need minimal support. FBT can be a valuable tool for understanding the actions of all students in a classroom. (Hershfeldt, Rosenberg & Bradshaw, 2010)
  • October 2016 | Co-teaching, a service delivery option in schools implementing inclusive practices, means two or more licensed professionals sharing planning, instruction, and assessment for a group of students (Murawski, 2003; Murawski & Spencer, 2011). Interested in resources and opportunities to support co-teaching? The VDOE Excellence in Co-Teaching Initiative is a good place to start your exploration.
  • September 2016 | Number talks are"...classroom conversations around purposefully crafted computation problems . . . that students solve mentally" (Parrish, 2011). Number talks facilitate the development of computational fluency "while thinking and reasoning like mathematicians" (Math Perspectives, 2007). "During number talks, students are asked to communicate their thinking when presenting and justifying solutions . . . which leads to the development of more accurate, efficient, and flexible strategies" (Parrish, 2011).
  • May 2016 | Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research- based set of principles to guide the design of learning environments that are accessible and effective for all. UDL guidelines address the WHY (engagement), the WHAT (representation), and the HOW (action and expression) of learning ( In a traditional classroom, a teacher may devote a great deal of time and energy to planning lessons but unknowingly create barriers that exclude some children. Using UDL principles, educators can be ready to reach all learners at any age or grade level.
  • April 2016 | Person-Centered Planning for Students with Autism Everyday transitions can be difficult for some students with autism. Knowing how students cope with small transitions is essential for long-term transition planning. Transition planning for adulthood can be easier if teachers begin early, engage the students in preparatory activities and ensure the process is person-centered.
  • March 2016 | As winter turns to spring, so do schools turn their thoughts toward graduation! This spring, some Virginia students will be among the first to receive the Applied Studies Diploma. Like the "Special Diploma", the newly named Applied Studies diploma will be awarded to 2016 graduates with disabilities who complete the requirements of their Individualized Education Program (IEP) and do not meet the requirements for other diplomas. This diploma option provides for curriculum enhancement and is NOT a replacement for statewide assessment.
  • February 2016 | Dynamic Assessment (DA) a clear link between assessment and instruction. It incorporates a child's response to instructional feedback. Its distinctive feature from traditional assessments is that it determines the students' potential for change when given assistance (McMaster, Ritchey and Lembke, 2011). Also known as authentic assessment, instructional assessment and mediated assessment, DA is a type of formative assessment providing information on how a student interacts with the curriculum at hand. It helps teachers determine the zone of proximal development or entry level for instruction. That interaction is guided by the assessor and becomes the driving force for the assessment. It is a process for data collection rather than a protocol and is considered to be an evidence-based practice.
  • January 2016 | College and career readiness are the latest educational buzzwords, but what do they mean and how do they apply to ALL teachers? The idea of focusing on college readiness in the K-5 setting may seem daunting or even inappropriate, but through engaging students in critical thinking activities, all students and teachers can begin to climb the ladder to a successful post-secondary life. Colleges and businesses have stated time and again that students are not prepared for graduating with the necessary critical thinking abilities (Darling-Hammond, Wilhoit, & Pittenger, 2014).
  • November/December 2015 | " 'Bullying' means any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or aggressors and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma. 'Bullying' includes cyber bullying. 'Bullying' does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict." (Code of Virginia: § 22.1-276.01. Definitions)
  • October 2015 | Constantino (2008) observed that “Schools are masterful at one-way communication” (p. 74). Parents and family members receive a lot of information from schools that they may not be able to access and understand. Schools need to ensure that parents and families have regular access to clear, concise, and easily readable information about their children's school and classroom. What can schools do to make this happen?
  • September 2015 | "Dyslexia is a neurobiological disorder that affects the development of both decoding (pronunciation of the written word) and encoding (spelling). " (Mather and Wendling, 2012, p.3) In short: Not all struggling readers are dyslexic. The severity of this neurological disorder is on a continuum. It is not primarily a difficulty with reading comprehension. The term has been used and confused but the full and current definition comes from the International Dyslexia Association. Many states do not use the term dyslexia in their regulations, but others, including Virginia do (Mather & Wendling, 2012).
  • May 2015 | Visible poverty can become a common justification for students' lack of academic progress. For our students, poverty reaches beyond the financial status of a family and is often relative to the situation or the society in which they live. Poverty is a complex issue. Deficits created by poverty may be financially driven, but may also be attributed to family support, community involvement and emotional stability. In the book, The Pact (Davis, Jenkins & Hunt, 2003), three young, successful men speak of beating the odds and state, "Anyone with enough compassion has the power to transform and redirect someone else's troubled life." Effective educators recognize poverty's presence, but do not allow it to become a barrier to education.
  • April 2015 | “Co-teaching: Two or more professionals sharing the planning, instructing, and assessing of students” (Murawski & Spencer, 2011) is a service delivery option in schools implementing inclusive practices. Murawski & Spencer go on to say that what these two teachers are doing together is substantially different than what one teacher could do alone. In order for that to happen, we must remember that good teaching involves planning what you are going to do, doing it well, and assessing what did and did not work. Co-teaching involves the same elements, but equally shared - a professional parity.
    • March 2015 | Formative assessment is the process of “frequent, interactive assessments of students’ progress and understanding to identify learning needs and adjust teaching appropriately.” (Looney, 2001, cited in Wiliam, 2011 & Knight, 2013) Why use formative assessment? “Major reviews on the effects of formative assessment indicate that it might be one of the more powerful weapons in a teacher’s arsenal.” (Marzano, 2007) It “provides a way for teachers to dramatically increase engagement”, “. . . increases students’ belief that they can succeed” and allows “. . .teachers to see their students’ progress.”
      (Knight, 2013)

    • February 2015 | “Instructional coaches are essential for professional learning. Coaches help teachers take ideas and practices they are learning and bring them to life. Instructional coaches partner with teachers in respectful humane conversations so teachers can choose and implement research-based teaching practices that will help students learn more effectively.” (adapted from Knight, Unmistakable Impact, 2011)

    • January 2015 | Creating authentic learning experiences is essential in the transformation of math education and instruction. Authentic learning is student work that is real, actual, and genuine in all the aspects experienced by students (Knight, 2013). Too often we fail to ask the questions: “Is what I’m teaching purposeful? How is it relevant to the world I live in now?” It’s questions such as these that create pathways between content and real life application. Absence of these reflective questions results in students who have no idea why they are doing what they are doing (Pink, 209). Think of it as the fourth R: reading, writing, ‘rithmetic…and relevance (Pink, 2009).
    • November 2014 | A child's math ability at school-entry is a better predictor of academic achievement, high school graduation, and college attendance than any other early childhood skill (Szekely, 2014). High quality elementary math instruction is vital for student success in middle and high school math classes. Period. From preschool through 5th grade, students need a solid foundation built on their discovery and exploration of math concepts, procedures, and problem solving. As a result of active involvement and hands-on experience, they are more confident that math does “make sense” and is relevant to them (Cook, 1995).

    • October 2014 | Data-based decision making is defined as "a continuous process of regularly collecting, summarizing, and analyzing information to guide development, implementation, and evaluation of an action; most importantly, this process is used to answer educational or socially important questions." ~ (Buffum, Mattos & Weber, 2009)

    • September 2014 | Multi-tiered system of supports "is a framework and philosophy that provides resources and supports to help every student become successful in academics and behavior.” This system "utilizes evidence-based, system-wide practices to provide a quick response to academic and behavioral needs. These practices include frequent progress-monitoring that enables educators to make sound, data-based instructional decisions for students."

    • May 2014 | Transition: Movement, passage, or change from one stage to another. As we think about our journey through life, we realize that we often face transitions. Changes in family, home, friends, school, jobs, etc. are all transitions in life that we must start learning to deal with very early. Believe it or not, our training in the area of transition needs to begin as an infant. When we are very young, we transition from family to community, infant to toddler to Pre-K to kindergarten and, before your know it, from high school to work and college. Transitions occur constantly throughout our lives.

    • April 2014 | Higher quality learning results from the intrinsic motivation of self-determination. Motivating students to want to learn is an outcome you can count on when students relate learning to their own wants and needs. When students learn to identify their needs, they are able to learn strategies and problem solve in ways that will benefit them throughout their school careers and, ultimately, throughout their lives. (Source: Increasing Student Success Through Instruction in Self-Determination (2004) American Psychological Association, )

    • March 2014 | Universal Design for Learning (UDL) creates a climate of success for all students. It is a set of principles that guide the design of inclusive classroom instruction and accessible course material. Tracing its origins from the Universal Design (UD) movement, the goal of UDL is the elimination of barriers from the learning environment and providing options and access for everyone.

    • February 2014 | Noncompliance, or the failure to follow a specific teacher direction, is a common concern. Fortunately, when teachers can predict when noncompliance is likely to occur, prevention strategies can be used to increase the probability that students will follow directions.

    • January 2014 | Priming and practicing procedures can create safe classroom environments that promote successful high stakes test performance.
    • November 2013 | The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (2008) has a three-part definition of disability.

    • October 2013 | The Virginia Department of Education has created more opportunities for students with disabilities to earn a Standard Diploma..

  • September 2013 | Concussions are sustained by thousands of students in grades K-12 every year.

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