2017 News Archive


Update on the Alternate Academic Diploma option in Tennessee

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has made available to states a diploma option for students with significant cognitive disabilities who are assessed on the alternate assessment. In order to take advantage of this option, the Tennessee Department of Education proposed the adoption of an alternate academic diploma at the October State Board of Education meeting.

Opportunity to provide feedback: To learn more about the requirement to earn an alternate academic diploma, what is being proposed, and how to provide your feedback on the Alternate Academic Diploma visit this link http://www.tnstep.org/news/?id=619

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Parent and Community Engagement - Hawkins County Schools

The first Parent and Community Engagement sessions with our partners, STEP (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents), TN began in East TN.

Hosted by Hawkins County Schools, East TN Special Education Interventionist Rob Taylor and STEP - TN Executive Director Karen Harrison partnered to host morning and evening sessions for small but highly-engaged groups of parents of exceptional students and invested community members. Participants discussed how to increase inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities, practical strategies for increasing student engagement through different approaches to instruction, and user-friendly methods for parents to communicate their student’s strengths, needs, and learning styles to teachers and support staff. See event flyer.

Feedback for these sessions was overwhelmingly positive and we look forward to providing additional sessions upon district request!  Contact your regional SPDG Interventionist for more information.

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Upcoming Webinar Series: Increasing Access to Core Instruction in the General Education Classroom

TNSPDG and TNSTEP invite parents and educators to attend a series of 'live' webinars in September 2017 focused on Increasing access to core instruction and inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities. Information from this webinar series will enhance teachers’ skills to be responsive to the learning styles and needs of students with and without disabilities in the classroom and provide parents with practical tools to use to give effective input to teachers that will help their child be successful.

ALL WEBINARS WILL BE RECORDED for later 'on-demand' viewing.

Series Kick off Webinar
Tuesday, September 5th
Accommodations and Modifications for Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners
Time: 11:30 am - 12:30 pm Central / 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm Eastern
Register for the September 5th webinar online

Other upcoming webinars in this series - all webinars will be held from
11:30 am - 12:30 pm Central / 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm Eastern

  • Sept. 12, 2-17 - Universal Design for Learning to Promote Inclusive Classrooms  Register Now
  • Sept. 19, 2017 - The Differentiated Classroom Increases Inclusive Opportunities Register Now
  • Sept. 26, 2017 - Increasing Access to Core instruction - Continuum of Services and least Restrictive Environment   Register Now

For more information on these webinars visit the TNSTEP site or call 1-800-280-7837 or watch this site for announcements.

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Rosa's Law: Federal Regulations Updated to Reflect Intellectual Disability Terminology Changes

Rosa's Law (Pub. L. 111-256), signed in 2010, amended sections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Rehabilitation Act), by removing the words “mental retardation” and replacing these outdated terms with the words “intellectual disability” or “intellectual disabilities.”

The law is named for Rosa Marcellino, a girl with Down Syndrome who was nine years old when it was signed into law. Then-President Barack Obama underscored Rosa's influence at the signing ceremony by pointing out that she "worked with her parents and her siblings to have the words 'mentally retarded' officially removed from the health and education code in her home state of Maryland."

Final regulations, published on July 11, 2017, implement these statutory changes in applicable Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services regulations.

To read about all of the changes, please visit this link to the news item on the STEP website.  More information on Rosa’s Law

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SPDG Strand Two Summer Train the Trainer Event

During the week of June 11th, the State Personnel Development Grant team trained selected district facilitators and special education supervisors for Strand Two: Intensive Intervention. Kate Martin, an instructional programmer for Special Populations, brought her literacy expertise to the training, developing both fall and winter sessions thus far. The above graphic shows the words used by participants to describe the event and the training they will take back to their districts to train special education teachers. One participant wrote, “The best professional development I have ever had!

As the originally selected 30 districts begin re-presenting this strand, the three interventionists for the grand divisions will continue to support the work and training. You can see a list of participating districts and the interventionists here.

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Choices Toolkit: A Simple Option for Student Choice

As we discuss opportunities for student choice, a simple and easy way to add them is a choices toolkit. This toolkit is a bucket or basket in your classroom filled with items students may find useful while working on assignments. It does not require planning on your part, but offers students options and creates not only independence, but gives them a chance to advocate for themselves what their needs are in learning.

In this linked article, TN SPDG Interventionist  Anika Chambers details the contents and use of a choices toolkit.

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Infographic: A Quick Look at SPDG Progress

This infographic below shows how we are doing, as a state, on implementing the goals of the SPDG initiative. Using attractive and easily understandable graphics, it summarizes our progress and even includes quotes from participants.

TN SPDG TN SPDG: Strand 1 - Improving Access to the Core Curriculum for Students with Disabilities 2016-17 (Infographic in pdf form)

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Video: Differentiation Strategies-Jigsaw

We want to thank districts who invited us to observe classrooms! We enjoyed speaking with individual teachers and the opportunity to see the great work happening in the classroom. Clay County provided an opportunity to model a differentiation strategy, the jigsaw, for teachers to implement in their classroom.

In the video linked below, the jigsaw grouping for a 7th grade ELA class is shown. This is one differentiation strategy that could be incorporated in the classroom. This strategy incorporates small groups. This session also highlights the importance of setting expectations for small group instruction. Thank you to Hermitage Springs School and Mr. Franklin in Clay County for having us!

Jigsaw Strategy Video

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Best Practices Work for All - Bell Aire Elementary

Bel-Aire Elementary in Tullahoma, TN has taken part in training with SPDG, the State Personnel Development Grant in Tennessee. Over the course of the year, they have received training in the Universal Design for Learning, covering best practices that include differentiation, growth mindset, data-informed instruction, and intentional interventions. Below you will see 3 sets of images from their school and the work they have done to create a culture of student learning for all!

In addition, check out Bel-Aire’s video on Inclusive Practices!

Image 1/3: Flexible seating can provide a comfortable environment for students to focus on their learning.

Image 2/3: Anchor charts help students visualize information they have learned, but may need to refer back to at any given point.

Image 3/3: Growth Mindset helps students to see failures as opportunities for growth and learning rather than disappointment and a desire to give up.

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Webinar Recording - March 2017 SPDG: Strand Two Welcome

NEW! Webinar Recording - SPDG: Strand Two Welcome

Facilitated by Theresa Nicholls, Assistant Commissioner for Special Populations and SPDG Project Director, and Kate Martin, Intervention Specialist on March 17, 2017. This webinar provides an overview of upcoming SPDG strand two activities including training content, learning objectives, train the trainer information, and the role of the special education supervisor.

Technical Notes: In order to access this webinar recording you may need to download and install the AT&T Connect participant application (software). If you do not have administrative level access to your machine, or are attempting to view this recording on a mobile device, you may need to contact your local tech support for assistance.

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Murfreesboro City Schools Utilize UDL to differentiate the Learning Environment

In this presentation at the Partners in Education Conference on February 1, 2017, Amy Miller and Jennifer Clunie from Murfreesboro City Schools shared ways to differentiate the learning environment using principles of Universal Design for Learning. 

Presentation Slides: Murfreesboro SPDG Schools: Community of Practice

In this presentation, examples are provided for environments that support mindset, connections and community.  UDL principles are explained, and multiple means of engagement are described through a virtual tour of classrooms.  A highlight of the presentation is a video of quick interviews with Murfreesboro teachers embracing SPDG practices.

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Webinar Recording - Jan 2017 SPDG: State of the grant

NEW! Webinar Recording -  SPDG:  State of the Grant
Facilitated by Theresa Nicholls on Jan 10, 2017, this webinar provided leadership of the TN disctricts participating in the SPDG grant with an overview of current grant activities and goals. David McKay, SPDG Team evaluator from the University of Kentucky was a guest speaker.

Technical Notes:
In order to access this webinar recording you may need to download and install the AT&T Connect participant application (software). If you do not have administrative level access to your machine, or are attempting to view this recording on a mobile device, you may need to contact your local tech support for assistance.

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