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Training helps Texas district meet state and federal standards: Spectrum K12 provides IEP Goals and Objectives Professional Development training for large Houston district.

The special education teachers in Houston's large Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District had a problem. They were challenged to write personalized student goals for Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that adhered to both federal and state mandates requiring all students receive instruction based on state curriculum standards.

Federal mandates such as the No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act require that districts adopt academic standards for all students, including special education students. These mandates require special education teachers in Cypress-Fairbanks, a district with 92,000 students, to write IEP goals that reflect the student's academic progress in the general education curriculum. The IEP goals must be aligned to Texas state curriculum standards. In addition, the plans must be based on a student's current grade, a requirement that poses additional challenges in cases where students are working far below their grade level.

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"It's been a real challenge for us," said Nadine Fidler, the district's assistant superintendent for educational support services. The need to tailor their IEPs to Texas state standards became so pressing, she explained, that district administrators decided to seek a partner who could help them train their teachers.

The district turned to Spectrum K12 School Solutions, which brought a deep well of special education experience to Cypress-Fairbanks. Spectrum K12 offers professional development training called "Student Focused IEP Goals Aligned to State Content Standards." This training program provides educators with the skills and tools needed to determine current academic and developmental levels of performance that allow the alignment of IEP goals to the general education curriculum.

The district's confidence that Spectrum K12 could tailor its professional development training to meet their district's needs was rewarded. "Teachers leave the training with a good understanding of what is needed to write goals that are measurable academically and behaviorally and meet federal and state requirements," said Pam Villarreal, district coordinator. Each of the company's instructors is a former administrator with at least 25 years experience in working with special education and at-risk students. Over the last nine years, Spectrum K12 has trained more than 6,000 administrators in 30 states, in districts both large and small.

Spectrum K12's work in Cypress-Fairbanks began last spring with a series of two-day professional development sessions with 25 special education administrators. "The materials were good, the training was good," said Fidler. "Spectrum K12 was receptive to meeting with us, customizing the training to meet our needs and using just the Texas standards to design instructional materials."

The training covered the use of customized checklists to ensure that each student's IEP included objectives and benchmarks that meet each child's personal needs and are state and federally compliant. In addition, the sessions addressed issues such as writing instructional goals that can be implemented efficiently and measured effectively by selecting appropriate progress monitoring procedures.

"It's a very actively involved training," Fidler said. "Using an approach specific to Texas made it very meaningful." She added that participants were pleased to receive training in an IEP goal development process that "serves the whole student."

This fall, Cypress-Fairbanks administrators will relay what they learned to the district's special education teachers. "Our teachers will be far more aware of where their students are in terms of state curriculum standards, and that's very important," Fidler said. "They're going to recognize their kids' needs better and where they currently perform in the general curriculum. This really gives us a framework that works."
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Title Annotation:RTI in Practice
Publication:District Administration
Date:Sep 1, 2008
Words:571
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