2013 NAPSEC Leadership Conference
NAPSEC held its annual conference in Phoenix, AZ again this year. Attendees enjoyed the sessions, networking events and the conference facilities. Attendees heard from knowledgeable speakers who offered hands on expertise for their programs while having fun networking with colleagues. NAPSEC will be heading to New Orleans for 2014 & 2015. Please plan to join us!
2013 Leadership and Innovation in Special Education
Casa Pacifica Centers
for Children & Families
The California Department of Education had numerous concerns regarding our school. Our regional accrediting body (WASC), downgraded our status to a limited term, and our local school districts had reduced referrals due to major concerns about our effectiveness. Crisis was the norm, with multiple, serious incidents, property destruction, containments and assaults occurring almost daily. We met with representatives from our local school districts and county offices to hear all of the complaints and difficulties they had experienced. This was extremely hard to hear as we had a number of caring staff that worked extremely hard, day in and day out. We definitely needed this wake up call. The school environment was not conducive to learning, so we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
Phase I - Agency wide, we began a cultural shift on campus. We were moving away from an “us against the kids” attitude towards a relationship based therapeutic focus. Our leadership team instituted a process we call our “Culture Compass”. We focused on our values and beliefs. In the education department, we instituted daily community meetings that allowed us to check in as well as continually review our core values and beliefs. We also moved away from our restraint programs and developed our own system called Safe Environments for Learning & Growth (S.A.F.E.©). This program contains no floor/wall prone restraints, and focused on safety and preserving the relationship with the child.
Phase II - We visited The Children’s Guild and we were immediately drawn to their approach in working with challenging youth, especially their system of “Four Pillars” that guides their planning and focus for achieving results. We added a pillar, and termed it our SCOPE method which focused on Systems, Curriculum, Outcomes, People & Environment. This gave us the direction we needed to begin the turnaround of the school. Fortunately, our environment was working to our advantage, so our next focus was the Systems, Curriculum and People.
Systems - We had a pretty traditional points and levels system (colors) and a weekly party, “Friday Fun Day”, for students who finished at the top two levels. This system was very ineffective; points were too arbitrary and weren’t hard to earn, so we eliminated this system. We maintained a point sheet, but restructured it such that it was tied to IEP goals and students could work their way off of this altogether.
Curriculum - It had been our practice to assign worksheet packets for students to work on independently. Teachers would assign them daily and we would have a “Finish it Friday” for any work that was not completed. We put our first efforts into the practice of teaching and creating more engaging and stimulating lessons as a way to engage students and reduce challenging behaviors. We implemented Character Based Literacy© out of Santa Clara University and encouraged Project Based Learning, Integrated Thematic Units and STEM infusion.
All of this, combined with a diligent focus on hiring individuals with a tremendous amount of passion and natural gift for working with the most challenging youth, has allowed us to see a remarkable transformation and become the school of choice of our local school districts, increasing our community student population by over 60%.
In a nutshell - what has allowed us to survive::
1. Quality Curriculum & Instruction
2. Quality People
3. Focus on developing a welcoming and relationship based culture
4. Programs that allow every kid to connect and find a path
The Children’s Guild
Transformation Education, trademarked as TranZed, is a new, and more effective model for managing and operating child serving organizations. Transformation Education is unique for four reasons:
1. It is an innovation that has broad application to the fields of education, child welfare, and not-for-profit management.
2. Transformation Education integrates the disciplines of anthropology and neuroscience to transform dysfunctional child serving organizations and schools.
3. Transformation Education focuses on changing children’s behavior by transforming how teachers, clinical staff and organizations think and act toward children rather than on how children act.
4. Transformation Education recognizes culture as a child’s first and most effective teacher.
The effectiveness was demonstrated and outcomes verified by an independent study conducted by George Washington University in 2009. These findings were:
Student Outcomes for 5 out of 8 years - at least 80% of the behavior disordered adolescents placed in The Children’s Guild’s group homes were successfully discharged to their own home, a foster home or independent living. The successful discharges of these children for 7 out of 8 years were 60%.
The national average for returning children who can not be educated in a public school back to a public school was 52.7%. Thirty-five percent of these children were deemed disadvantaged by being eligible for free and reduced lunch. The Children’s Guild population return of children who could not be educated in a public school was 8.4 % higher. This result is enhanced by the fact that these children were more disadvantaged than their national group, i.e., 80% of the children were eligible for free and reduced lunch.
Critical incidents defined as exclusions from class, seclusions from peers, and need to be physically restrained from assaulting teachers, other children or engaging in self injury demonstrated a constant decline for each student over 39 months from 1.84 incident per month to 0.42 incidents. Fewer critical incidents mean more time for learning in the classroom and more returns to public school.
The length of stay for students placed in The Children’s Guild three day schools decreased approximately 7 months over a 12 year period and the group home students length of stay decreased 9 months over an 8 year time period, indicating that The Children’s Guild was able to achieve its goals more efficiently over time. This is important given the cost of serving these children. Each child in the day school’s tuition for a ten month year is $55,000 per year and each child’s tuition in the group home for a twelve month year is $94,000 per year.
Property damage decreased from $6,000 per year, per student, to under $200 and has held steady at this number for the past 11 years.
The results of Transformation Education have been so successful that our training and consultation service has delivered approximately 436 workshops since its inception three years ago to 42,000 professionals and parents in 42 different states and two foreign countries.
Kennedy Krieger School Programs
In the summer of 2010 Kennedy Krieger Schools Programs initiated organizational change within its K-8 program, Fairmount. This organizational change introduced leadership in the form of a newly hired Principal, working with the Educational Director and with the Assistant Principal. This team of administrators was given the challenge to revitalize the school and provide an organizational structure to improve operations and school culture at all levels. Often times these types of re-structuring processes are completed by senior leadership only without direct input from all levels of staff. In December of 2010 this leadership team met to determine a cross disciplinary membership for a newly established School Improvement Team (SIT) to discuss the reorganization of the school.
The first task initiated and completed by the SIT was the development of meeting norms. The norms functioned as a clear set of guidelines to foster a collaborative working team. The SIT was then able to identify its priorities and to elicit the most "burning questions" regarding the school structure from its members and from the school community. Through these questions determining the core values of the community and translating those into organizational values by which the SIT and larger school could begin the work of "re-missioning" and setting its new course.
By January, SIT recognized the need to use facilitation methods, data-driven decision making, and to gather feedback from the wider school community. The group began using web-based surveys, including school climate or temperature checks and knowledge and information audits to inform them of the current conditions in the school.
By May, the school began a roll out of the new mission statement and the first complete definitions and structure of the new Professional Learning Communities within the K-8 program. SIT developed these communities using the theoretical framework of SLC, distributed leadership, and PLCs along with the student data analyzed by SIT.
The following month SIT began engaging community staff in a collaborative process, in order to determine student groupings and class schedules. SIT identified new leaders, from education and related services to provide guidance for each emerging community and to enhance communication between staff. This new leadership included purposeful distribution to Lead Teachers and Lead Clinicians who provide leadership to each community. Fairmount emerged as a four community PLC in the summer (or fall) of 2011.
Through written communication and the annual “back to school night” the restructuring of the school was met with positive reviews from parents and the local school systems.
There is a palpable change in the climate of the school when you enter the building. The process re-energized administration and gave staff at all levels a true purpose and buy-in as to how decisions would be made. The students are thriving, the staff morale is greatly improved, and the school program has a new level of professional growth and development that is truly twenty-first century. As new challenges are encountered, such as how to utilize iPad technology in the school to benefit students, the PLC model has proven the perfect venue within which to conduct action research to provide the data for good decision making.
Recognized for Achieving NCASES Accreditation
Programs accredited in 2012, but not in attendance:
The Day School at the Children’s Institute
St. Coletta of Greater Washington
Thank you for joining us - see you next year in New Orleans!