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SEAC Function 1

Advise Regarding Unmet Needs

The SEAC is charged with identifying Unmet Needs within special education and bringing them to the attention of the State Board of Education (SBE) and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE).

2022-2023 Priorities

Priority 1

Remaining aligned with The Path Forward Strategic Action Plan through the MDE, SEAC members will concentrate on the development of recommendations regarding high quality professional learning, spotlighting quality tier one instruction and the use of data for all Michigan students with disabilities.

Priority 2

Consistent with the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 34CFR300.114-300.120, the MDE OSE will develop specific monitoring activities and technical assistance resources for all public agencies regarding obligations pertaining to the least restrictive environment (LRE). The messages to be communicated are largely for district administrators, general education teachers, etc. SEAC members will provide input and feedback on developing monitoring activities and associated technical assistance resources.

2021-2022 Priorities Recommendations

Priority 1

Understand and develop advice regarding viable, additional diploma track options which will in turn improve graduation rates for special education students while also providing options for those at risk of dropping out.

Presenters

  • Jennifer Hirst – Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), Innovation & Special Programs Unit, Consultant
  • Dr. Scott Koenigsknecht – MDE, Deputy Superintendent, P-20 System and Student Transitions
  • Shannon McVoy – Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Bureau of Services for Blind Persons - Transition Services Manager
  • Dr. Valerie Milton – MDE Office of Career and Technical Education (OCTE) - Research Consultant
  • Dr. Brian Pyles – MDE OCTE Director
  • Jeanne Anderson Tippett – MDE OSE

Recommendations

  1. Look at the end goal for each student with a disability and tailor graduation requirements to meet their individualized needs. This may be through the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC) or work-based learning through trade industries. Consider an endorsement system for a diploma/certification, (i.e., visual arts, mechanics, etc.)
  2. Align career and academic pathways to state employment needs. Provide a wide array of internships.
  3. Provide solid resources and support to staff working with students with disabilities and students in the juvenile system to both plan for and provide better outcomes for graduating.
  4. Family Matters documents:
    1. Provide education and discussion for families and students on available options beginning in early middle school.
    2. Provide information regarding 5th and 6th-year completion options to both school personnel and parents.
  5. Provide options for students with disabilities to remain in school until age 26.
  6. Rebuild strong partnerships with vocational programs early in a student’s high school education to better prepare students for employment once out of high school. Find ways to shift the mindset and have real-life employment examples tied to skills taught in the classroom so students and parents view the career option as a viable one. Post examples of successes online.
  7. Ensure supports exist for all communities in Michigan to provide career and technical education (CTE) programs, vocational programs, internships, and education beyond the MMC.
  8. Regularly review data from other states to see what has been successfully implemented and what has failed to determine other avenues Michigan may wish to adapt/adopt/avoid.
  9. Strengthen the understanding and use of a personal curriculum (PC) leading to a diploma.
  10. Ensure all stakeholders in a student’s education are informed regarding legislation involving alternate diploma options.
  11. Tie Individualized Education Program (IEP) social/emotional goals into preparation for life after high school, (i.e., anger management, time management, best practices in working with customers/bosses/peers, etc.).
  12. Utilize vocational rehabilitation (VR) to assist, in a dual enrollment capacity, in earning a diploma in a way that will be more meaningful for many students with IEPs who need work experiences beyond MMC requirements.

Priority 2

Discover and share practical solutions to obtaining and retaining special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and ancillary staff which work for all schools regardless of economic status.

Recommendations

For Ancillary and Special Education Staff

  1. Create supportive networks for those working in several buildings and those isolated in sections of a building.
  2. Provide ancillary staff/service providers a designated place to do their job (not shared, closet, hallway, etc.).
  3. Designate a “resource staff person” to fully support staff, to answer questions, help find resources, and be a familiar and welcoming face.
  4. Relieve extraneous duties, (i.e., greeting buses, lunch duty, coaching).

Licensure

  1. Provide a set of common expectations across districts and the state for skills needed.
  2. Ensure licensure tests reflect the expectations for the filling of positions for which people are applying.
  3. Create pathways for paraprofessionals to become special educators (i.e., Grow Your Own Programs).
  4. Provide credit for field experience hours for paraprofessionals tied to incentives to pursue teaching special education certification.
  5. Provide reciprocity of licensure.
  6. Review “bands” teachers are certified in (early childhood, middle, high, etc.) for transportability.

Incentives for Retention

  1. Provide benefits. Reinstate union benefits. Remove the cap on districts regarding how much they can fund health care.
  2. Provide resources needed to do the job (classroom budget).
  3. Lower taxes.
  4. Provide professional living wages.
  5. Student loan forgiveness.
  6. Offer-scholarships to keep educators in the profession.
  7. Districts reallocate budgets to provide additional support staff (i.e., social workers, psychologist) on -site so caseloads are manageable and to prevent burnout.
  8. Locals need to be careful about assigning the hardest cases, that more veteran staff members want to pass on, to newer professionals. Newly hired staff should be learning and growing and have manageable numbers and cases so they do not leave the field for private work.
  9. Locals need to assure maintenance of manageable caseload numbers.
  10. Provide paraprofessionals, and other new special education staff, mentor support for their first year. Those who serve as mentors should be provided additional pay.
  11. Provide a four-day school week. Hold a support day on Friday for students who need it. Hold professional development days for teachers. Learn from several district models around Michigan or from other state models (Montana).

Professional Development

  1. Provide professional development specifically designed for paraprofessionals.
  2. Teach people how to work with behaviorally challenged students allowing them to be successful.
  3. Develop and implement onboarding programs within districts which welcome, value, and support all special educators while creating a community environment where all employees will want to stay.
  4. Expect to provide more support for lower income areas that may not have access to early childhood education. Consider additional environmental factors and provide additional funding when these needs are discovered.
  5. Being a paraprofessional must be treated as a profession, not a job. Training teachers and administrators how to use paraprofessionals effectively is needed, paired with identifying what the exact responsibilities would be of that paraprofessional given the individual needs of each student. Match the skillsets of the paraprofessional with the child’s needs. There should be “phasing” of the support, based on concrete data of the student’s progress.
  6. Gather input from teachers, paraprofessionals, and ancillary staff. What do their needs look like across the state? What are the commonalities? What are the differences? How can we learn from each other?

Attracting Potential Special Education Staff

  1. Provide positive media coverage and seek legislative support. Teach people to respect the profession. Public persona must change if the field of education is to be respected.
  2. A big marketing push to bring educators into the field is needed.
  3. Extend the “links” program, through the Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) project to also capture another population of people who may be interested in special education as a career (paraprofessionals, special education teachers, social workers, etc.).
  4. Partner with higher education to draw more people into education. Focus postsecondary education requirements for becoming a special educator, ancillary staff, and/or paraprofessionals on education. Rethink the way teachers become teachers. How can we influence changes to higher education programs to meet the urgency of now?

Responsibilities for Others

  1. Districts provide programs to incentivize current students to go into education (teaching).
  2. Express/help our legislators understand and respond to the “urgency of now.” They must understand this is a real problem.
  3. Create CTE programs to include a paraprofessional track to help develop a workforce, which may include a “Disability 101” component.
  4. Have Michigan's legislature revert to the original intent of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and stop funding students with disabilities who have and individualized education programs (IEPs) until the age of 26.
    This means Michigan would only fund students with disabilities through age 18, thus eliminating the need for staffing for the 19-26 age group. This would allow staff to move into positions in the K-12 system, helping to alleviate some of Michigan's staffing crisis. In addition, it would eliminate the costs associated with these 19-26 year-old programs, in turn providing much needed funding to recruit and retain teachers in the K-12 system.

Priority 3

Create advice for schools and parents in using a Personal Curriculum (PC) to improve outcomes for students with disabilities.

Recommendations

  1. Create guidance documents for posting on the PC website and on the Family Matters website.
    1. Decision tree guidance on determining appropriate students for PCs. However, not to be used as a tool for getting everyone a diploma. The PC should not be substituted for students capable of graduating using the MMC.
    2. Sample checklists to assist a team in determining whether a PC is appropriate or inappropriate for the unique needs of a student with an IEP to graduate. A PC must be unique to each student and, if denied, it must be on the basis of that one student’s needs.
    3. Ensure required links to state or agency resources and websites regarding PCs are provided to students annually. This is currently a requirement, but nobody is checking to ensure it is done. Districts are providing their own quality control and may need reminding of the requirements in the Revised School Code 380.1278b (5) (B) (p): A school district or public school academy annually shall notify each of its pupils and a parent or legal guardian of each of its pupils that all pupils are entitled to a personal curriculum under this subsection. The annual notice shall include an explanation of what a personal curriculum is and state that if a personal curriculum is requested, the public school or public school academy will [review] the request. The school district or public school academy shall provide this annual notice to parents and legal guardians by sending a written notice to each pupil's home or by including the notice in a newsletter, student handbook, or similar communication that is sent to a pupil's home, and also shall post the notice on the school district's or public school academy's website.
    4. Create a quick fact sheet using data showing PC myths debunked.
  2. Require more than a checkbox on the IEP form to show an educational development plan (EDP) or PC has been completed. Add something to show the projected dates when each will be revisited.
  3. Engage the Michigan Transition Coordinators group and MRS in support and training of statewide organizations in the understanding of PCs and the ultimate distribution of information to families and parents.
  4. Provide success stories from actual students who benefitted from having a PC as well as schools successfully utilizing the PC. Record and market experiences.
  5. Workshops/professional development discussing PCs, EDPs, and transition plans provided regularly beginning in middle school and continuing through high school. These would be provided by ISDs and districts and include:
    1. Families by district.
    2. Counselors.
    3. Teachers, administrators, and staff.
    4. State agencies who may assist in the development of a PC.
  6. Parents want a diploma but do not always understand what a PC is and how it may be used to help earn a diploma. A simplified version has been created by Family Matters. These resources need to be widely distributed to parents in all districts in Michigan. These documents should include recent guidance from OSE explaining the difference between an MMC diploma and certificate of completion.