Friday, March 11, 2016

Terese Jurgensen~ Director of Student Services~ March 11, 2016

Special Education Update

As we evaluate our programs and student numbers at Howard-Winneshiek, it is important to take a closer look at our numbers of entitled individuals, our current programming as well as prepare for our upcoming school year. We have made some outstanding progress in the lives of our students here at Crestwood, and it is important to always be mindful that our special education students are protected by Federal Law as stated by the Office of Civil Rights as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. During IEP meetings, when I am going over the Parent's Rights, I often comment to our parents that students who have an IEP have more rights to be in the building, than I do. It's true! Therefore, as the Special Education Director for Howard-Winneshiek Community School District, I take my role as the director very seriously, and many would say, "passionately." As a special education parent myself, I am blessed to say that our programming for Howard-Winneshiek has come a very long way in the last 2 years. Even more importantly, our special education, general education and staff members work very hard every day, with the care and diligence that our students deserve to close the gap for our entitled students. Let's review the data:

Current Student Numbers in Special Education:
  • Preschool/Transition Kindergarten: 7 students 
  • Notre Dame Catholic School: 6 students (total will be 8 students by end of school year)
  • Elementary: 70 students (total 74 by end of the school year)
  • Junior High: 27 students (16 of these will be in high school next year) 
  • High School: 32 students (3 of these will graduate - putting our numbers in the high school at 45 next year)
Current Student Numbers in Decorah Schools:
  • Crossroads Behavior Focused: 8 students
  • Decorah Public School: 15 students
  • Riceville Public School: 3 students
  • Mason City/Four Oakes: 1 student
This puts our total numbers at 175 which is 15% of our student population. 

Something to Think About:

At Crestwood Schools, we are offering a variety of unique programming opportunities for our students who attend in our district. Last year, with specially designed instruction in the areas of reading comprehension, fluency, math, writing, behavior programming and social thinking strategies 25 students were staffed out of special education because they met their goals. The number 25, does not reflect our students who graduated. Reviewing data from the previous 5 school years, the only way students had been staffed out of special education services were through graduation. That is amazing and there were several reasons for this:
  1. Specially designed instruction in small group settings in the special education classroom.
  2. Students having the opportunity for the CORE + MORE! Students received specially designed instruction in small group settings AND received the same instruction as their same age peers in the classroom. 
  3. Implementing Social Thinking Strategies into special education classrooms and general education classrooms. Whole Body Listening, Zones of Regulation, Super Flex, Social Detective, Executive Functioning Strategies, to name a few. 
  4. Multi-Tiered Systems of Support - Cadet Time and Professional Learning Communities in the general education setting in the preschool and elementary schools. 
  5. Through this process, as students were staffed out, we were able to entitle more students who needed specially designed instruction. This kept our numbers the same with increased direct instruction for students who were entitled.
  6. Transition Classrooms in the high school which give our students an opportunity to meet with the special education teacher daily for instruction and support for core classes. 
  7. Increased Collaboration between general and special education teachers.
  8. Professional Development opportunities for special education, general education, associates and parents or our students.
  9. Decreasing the need for 1:1 associates because of teaching our students how to self-regulate, focus, organize their thoughts and materials and providing appropriate accommodations. 
  10. Providing Parents professional development, helping them to understand their rights and removing fear while at the same time, increasing communication. 
As the Director of Special Education, it has been one of the great joys of my life to be an active participant in the lives of our students and families at Howard-Winneshiek Community School District. We have an amazing special education staff and as we collaborate and learn together, we are only going to improve in all areas to serve the children and families on our rosters. Looking towards next year we will be adding a high school special education teacher to serve the increase in the number of students and taking a closer look at supporting our Notre Dame and Decorah students as well as informing the parents who have chosen other school districts to educate their children and their special education needs. 


Executive Functioning Strategies

The frontal lobe of our brains continues to grow cognitively from the time we are born until approximately 25 years of age. It is here where our Executive Functioning, the ability to organize our thoughts and actions to self-regulate our behavior skills develop and allow us to access these important life skills. Over the course of the the last few years, I have had the opportunity to sit down with countless students and parents and review the executive functioning strengths and weaknesses of individual people. It has been so rewarding for me to see students learn how to focus, organize their work, improve working memory and self-regulate, just by understanding first and foremost, this is a SKILL, not a weakness or a lack of motivation that is holding them back. Few students, however, have impressed me like this student I videotaped a few weeks ago. He and his mother believed that he would never be successful in school or even like school for that matter.  The fact of the matter, however; was that he needed executive functioning supports and strategies which he immediately went to work on learning.  Here is his story.....


Secondary Professional Development

Mike Mattos - Solution Tree outlining the basis of RTI/MTSS. 

Secondary staff collaborating on MTSS

On Monday, March 7th the Howard Winn CSD worked hard during their professional development meetings. The focus of the secondary staff, grades 7-12 was learning about Multi-Tiered Systems of Support or Response to Intervention as some would refer these tiered support systems. Here is an excellent video by Solution Tree which outlines the basis of RTI. The basis of MTSS is that, "We believe that all students can learn at high levels. It is our job to create the environment and supports to get them there."
Response to Intervention Framework - Cognitive & Behavioral Supports
Is it Skill or is it Will ?

Above: Dory Fravel, 5th grade special education teacher, shares the Super Flex Curriculum that teaches students how to be flexible thinkers & learn how to problem solve. 

Right: Keith Anderlik, Elementary Success Team, is fortunate to have lunch buddies every day! Here are some amazing 1st grade students!

Have a Wonderful Week!
Thank you everyone, for making a positive impact
on the
life of a child today!

Terese Jurgensen
(563) 929-6344

Please do not hesitate to call or email me!

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