Connecting the Dots

Posted by Michael Musick on 11/15/2018 9:34:00 AM

Last month, the School Board received the Lake Oswego School District Special Education Audit that was conducted in the Spring. Dr. Laura Katzman, Program Director for the Urban Special education Leadership Collaborative Education Development Center, presented the 70-page report. District leadership commissioned the report so we could have an objective assessment of what is working well and what needs improvement.

According to Dr. Katzman, “The District could be a leader in this work.” Because of our emphasis on equity in our strategic plan and the implementation of Response to Intervention (RTI) and professional learning communities (PLC) over the past four years, the District is positioned to support each and every student in their academic journey.

We can do more.

Last year, Dr. Anthony Muhammad came to LO to talk to our staff about equity and inclusion.  He is a nationally known educator and author who speaks about a culture of collaboration and building teacher efficacy to reach all learners. His message included ways to enhance our efforts to focus our equity lens to provide culturally engaging lessons and supports, and he said, “Unless all the adults in your school believe that every student can learn at high levels, then we do a disservice to all of our students.”  This goes for students of color, students who experience poverty, and students who have special needs. All of these students have been underserved by our schools and community. That, in turn, produces low student performance. We started addressing this issue by providing professional development for all staff focused on identifying implicit bias and by implementing RTI and Collaborative teacher time (PLCs) on Thursdays.

The recommendations that Dr. Katzman suggest are designed to bring special education services into alignment with general education. Patrick Tomblin, our executive director of special services, is excited to execute a world-class roadmap so every student experiences a welcoming and supportive environment and academic success. Please read the entire report here. I have pulled out each of the recommendations that we will be working on in collaboration with our teachers, staff, and parents:

  • Create a special education strategic plan focused on educational outcomes that align with the District’s overarching focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Examine alignment between RTI and special education service and staff; collaboratively develop protocols and disseminate best practices, both for academics and social-emotional learning
  • Examine current evaluation and classification policies and practices; track data disaggregated by socioeconomic status, disability classification, race/ethnicity, and gender
  • Address the achievement gap by focusing on the RTI model, providing professional development for Universal Design for Learning (UDL) model, and continue monitoring attendance, behavior, and course performance while focusing special education supports and services on student outcomes
  • Include students with disabilities in “All Means All” and provide messaging that illustrates that special education students should succeed as do their peers without disabilities
  • Examine how learning specialists and educational assistants are deployed
  • Provide collaborative opportunities for general and special educators
  • Shift special education supports and services provided in general education in the student’s home school
  • Develop a continuum of supports and services focused on access to and success in the core curriculum
  • Provide professional development for special education and general education staff to ensure students receive accommodations and modifications to access the general education curriculum
  • Include social-emotional learning in current RTI model and identify key stakeholders to support this work at the building level

We are grateful for Dr. Katzman’s findings and we are excited to work together with our staff, SSPAC, parents, teachers, and administrators to ensure each and every child receives what they need to achieve academic success. You can find the detailed report here.