Grant aims to improve special education results
A $5.3 million grant received by the Iowa Department of Education will be used to get more students with disabilities to meet their reading benchmarks by the end of third grade.
The grant, which runs over a five-year period, is being called Ensuring Effective Specially Designed Instruction in Iowa. Both the University of Northern Iowa and ASK Resources are partners in the development of the program.
The program focuses on Specially Designed Instruction, commonly referred to as SDI, in which the delivery of instruction is designed to maximize the educational experience for all students. The grant is specifically aimed at students on Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs. The program will focus on learners in preschool through the third grade.
In order to be awarded the grant, said Barbara Guy, the state’s special education director, the Department had to establish a results-oriented, measurable plan.
“We had to identify an area of focus,” she said. “The strategy we are using is increasing the effectiveness of SDI.”
Guy said there are four components to developing an effective framework of SDI:
- Diagnose for instructional design, which means being able to get assessment information, look at the information, identify what that the student needs to learn, and develop instruction that will work.
- Design for instructional delivery, which means identifying strategies that match what the child needs to know with how the child learns best.
- Deliver instruction in a format that will maximize the learner’s engagement with the teacher and content.
- Engage for results, which aims to create strong parent-school relationships to maximize the student’s outcomes.
“We must be able to measure the effectiveness of specially designed instruction,” Guy said. “We all want to be able to talk about it in the same way. That’s what the grant is all about: creating effective SDI, and ensuring that everyone in the state is implementing effective specially designed instruction.”
There are two intended outcomes: increasing student outcomes and helping teachers with their work.
“Special education instructors want to do a good job, and this will provide them the tools,” Guy said.
Starting this fall, work will be dedicated to the development of material and processes, and providing supports for coaches so that they have some knowledge of the SDI framework before they start providing supports for teachers. The coaches have not been identified yet.
In year two, the pilot program will roll out in 70 as-yet-to-be-named schools around the state. Within the five years, there will be a total of 210 schools involved.