Bridging the Gap between
General and Special Education Teacher Training Faculty
The Montana Office of Public Instruction, Special Education Unit, has always been interested in and encouraged the involvement of Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) in State-coordinated activities such as the State Special Education Advisory Panel, Comprehensive System of Personal Development Council, State Professional Development Plan and State Performance Plan. The IHE is an activity under the Montana State Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD). The State Educational Agency (SEA) has supported a Higher Education Consortium for the past twelve years. One outcome of the Consortium is to create a mechanism to foster greater involvement of IHEs in important educational initiatives to ensure there is consistency between the message of the SEA and IHEs regarding future teachers on important educational initiatives.
During the first few years, the challenge was to get the active participation in the Consortium from special education faculty from all IHEs in Montana, which included universities, State and private colleges, and tribal colleges. In the past few years, general education faculty has also been encouraged to participate in the Consortium. In September 2005, all Montana IHEs sent both general and special education staff to Consortium meetings. This has created a bridge of communication and networking between general and special education faculty. The Consortium now has co-leaders, one from general and one from special education. These co-leads collaborate with the coordinator of the State CSPD system, who is a staff member of the Montana SEA. The Consortium is made up of general and special education faculty from all the IHEs in the State including those listed below:
Through the twice-a-year meetings and SEA support, the IHEs network, share, and plan strategically in a common direction. The State CSPD Coordinator and Montana State Director of Special Education are the key connections and provide leadership for all Consortium activities.
The following are just some of the results of this IHE collaboration:
- By-laws have been developed for the Consortium.
- The Consortium now has a website where materials and information are housed.
- The IHE Consortium has created a true community of practice.
- An agreement was created among each IHE that allows students to transfer from one IHE to another without penalty. Transferability of credits has become a problem of the past for IHE students.
- There is a joint collaboration and networking with general and special education faculty.
- The Consortium has provided valuable advice to the SEA regarding the highly qualified issue in ESEA and IDEA.
- The Consortium addressed the Montana endorsement project. This is a collaborative program among all the IHEs giving opportunities for teachers to be endorsed in other areas and provide a mechanism for para-educators to complete an endorsement program.
- Involvement of IHEs in the Montana Professional Development Grant and CSPD Council
- The IHE Consortium conducted a faculty enhancement academy that involved general and special education faculty. This activity has brought preservice, inservice, and technical assistance together for a common cause and created a model other States can replicate.
- The Consortium focused on the issue of Responsiveness to Intervention (RTI) and the current direction for the SEA and LEAs. Strategies were developed to include RTI in the teacher training program curriculum.
- The IHE Consortium explored the topic and practices relating to dispositions. Each IHE committed to improving the manner in which they address dispositions at their respective college or university.
- The group invited national speakers on the practice and strategies of co-teaching. Many Montana universities have implemented or enhanced co-teaching programs.
- The Consortium has been trained using the IRIS modules, which address research-based academic/behavioral practices.
- The Consortium focused on the use of universal design and differentiated instruction.
- The Consortium devoted time to the issue of “Indian Education for All” the group shared ideas on how they are using the program at the IHE level.
- Members explored the topic of mentoring. Mentoring activities across the State are now better coordinated.
- Increased the membership capacity to incorporate the use of Teacher Work Samples in the student teaching experience.
- Provided strategies and models in enhancing effective partnerships between Montana teacher training programs, school districts and other agencies.
- The Consortium devoted a meeting to review the lastest legal issues relating to Institutions of Higher Education
The Consortium meets at least twice each year; the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE) is asked to facilitate each meeting. Other responsibilities of TAESE include the following:
- Assist with the development of the Consortium agenda.
- Prepare the materials packet for each meeting.
- Keep the Consortium updated on current national special education issues and TA&D projects that assist IHEs, such as IRIS and the Monarch Center.
- Conduct information searches on critical topics for IHEs such as highly qualified teachers, research-based practice, and the Response to Intervention process.
- Submit outcome evaluation data to the SEA regarding the Consortium activities.
- Develop and maintain a website for the Consortium.
- Develop and conduct registration for Consortium meetings.