An e-Newsletter linking people and resources to support quality practices in the education of all students

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

The e-Newsletter is a collaborative effort of the Virginia Department of Education Training and Technical Assistance Centers at George Mason Univ. and James Madison Univ.

TTAC e-Newsletter: Ready, Set, Go

Current issue

May 2022 | Grow from Solo: Collaborative Instructional Leadership

Past issues


April 2022 | A Recipe for a Positive Learning Environment

March 2022 | What’s My Line? Elevating Sentence Writing Through Structured Literacy

February 2022 | Embedding Sensory Connections into Everyday Routines

December 2021 | Compassionate Family Engagement

November 2021 | Vocabulary: The Solution to Math Success

October 2021 | New Social Emotional Standards to Guide the New School Year

September 2021 | Hold on Tight: Accelerate Math Learning!

May 2021 | When We Know Better, We Do Better: What the Science of Reading Is Telling Us

April 2021 | Effective School Administrators = Successful Students and Schools

March 2021 | HLPs in Action From Lift off to Locating the Landing Zone: Families and Educators as Co-Pilots

February 2021 | HLPs in Action: Building a Strong Sensory Foundation to Create a Supportive Learning Environment

December 2020 | School to Work Transition: If it’s Broke, Fix it

November 2020 | Teacher Mentoring in Challenging Times

October 2020 | HLPs in Action: Literacy Legislation meets High Leverage Practices

September 2020 | HLPs in Action: Student Involvement in IEP Goal Development

May 2020 | Raising the Bar for Reading Instruction using High Leverage Practices

April 2020 | Social Emotional Learning: High Leverage Practices to Create Safe Learning Environments

March 2020 | Hands on! Strategies and Technology: Dyslexia Part II

February 2020 | A Most Specific Learning Disability: Dyslexia Part I Over the past several years, there has been an increased awareness and movement to improve outcomes for students with Dyslexia and Specific Learning Disabilities in the area of Reading in Virginia and across the nation.

December 2019 | Assessment: Using High-Leverage Practices to Understand and Inform- Assessment at its best forms, guides, and reinforces quality instruction. Without assessment, classroom instruction is like driving in the dark without headlights. Using assessment is...

November 2019 | Collaborate, Communicate, Cultivate: Using High-Leverage Practices to Increase Student Achievement

October 2019 | Inclusion Is a Right- “Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members [emphasis added] of families, communities and society” (National Association for the Education of Young Children, p. 2).

September 2019 | Licensed Behavior Analysts in Virginia Schools - The 2019 Virginia General Assembly adopted a budget that allows school divisions to use at-risk funds to hire Licensed Behavior Analysts (LBAs). Many people in schools are familiar with Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) but may not have direct experience working with them in an educational setting. With this approved staffing expenditure, it is likely more and more educators will collaborate with BCBAs within their division.

May 2019 | Families as Partners in Education- When parents are involved with their children’s education, we all win -especially the children!The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act(IDEA, 2004) ensures that the rights of parents are legally protected and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires each local education agency to jointly develop with parents and family members a written parent and family engagement policy (ESSA, 2018).

April 2019 | Mindfulness: Teacher Self-Care in the Classroom- Teachers play an essential role in caring for and nurturing their students. The constant giving of one’s self can often take precedence over dedicating time for self-care. Teacher mindfulness is one evidence-based practice connected to enhanced ability to self-regulate cognitive, emotional...

March 2019 | Coaching to Meet Your Goals- Coaching in education gives educators the chance to reflect on what they are doing, so they may better meet their own goals for their practice. Coaching may involve working with an instructional expert or leader, with peers, or it may be self-coaching.

February 2019 | Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports- VTSS is a data-informed decision making framework for establishing the academic, behavioral and social-emotional supports needed for a school to be an effective learning environment for all students...

January 2019 | Trauma Sensitive Schools- Between the years of 1995 and 1997, Kaiser Permanente, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), conducted the largest investigation thus far on the correlation between childhood abuse and neglect on an individual’s overall health and well-being later in life...

November 2018 | Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) - The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 solidified the mandate for specially designed instruction (SDI) as part of a student’s right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). According to IDEA Sec. 300.39 (2004), special education, “(s)pecial education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including...

October 2018 | Applied Studies Diploma Curriculum Map- The mission, of the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Department of Special Education is to, “provide children with disabilities the knowledge and skills they need to live, learn, work, and participate in communities of their choice with the maximum amount of independence as possible.”

VDOE’s “Profile of a Virginia Graduate” includes revised graduation requirements for a standard or advanced diploma in the Commonwealth. The revisions require high school students to demonstrate proficient workplace and citizenship skills. Similarly, students graduating with an applied studies diploma graduate “life ready” by completing the requirements of an individualized education program (IEP), which includes individualized post-secondary transition goals.

September 2018 | Key Sentence- Ninety-seven percent of surveyed elementary teachers believe that handwriting instruction is important. Twelve percent of these same teachers noted that they were not prepared to teach handwriting (Graham, Harris, Mason, Fink, Moran, & Saddler, 2008)

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

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 | Mental Health- Do you work with children? If yes, how do you know if they are mentally healthy?

February 2018 | Does your student require assistive technology? How does the IEP team know?

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).

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