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Transition Continuous Improvement Process ….is transition planning!

The Transition Department at Prairie Lakes AEA is busy with many things this time of year including our annual Transition Continuous Improvement Process reviews.  The Transition Continuous Improvement Process (TCIP) has been in place in  for five years now…and I am proud to say has stayed the course through a few changes but is still doing what it was intended to do… the six critical elements of transition in our AEA’s special education IEPs and create a learning system to help our teachers with their work in helping  plan for the future of their students.  Understanding how student strengths, needs, preferences, student assessments and post high school expectations all align in transition planning can make a huge difference to student outcomes.  The TCIP is a learning process.    We have developed a TCIP feedback form for teachers that helps explain needed changes and celebrate well outlined plans.    Sometimes after the TCIP review,  an IEP may require changes/amendments, but more and more we are seeing ones that are meeting the criteria for all six of the critical elements of transition!  That’s data I am proud to see….but more importantly that is great news for our students and their futures! Better student outcomes and results…. that’s what our work is all about!  If you have any questions about the TCIP reviews please feel free to contact one of the transition coordinators-we would be glad to share the process with you!


April Transition Trainings Update

students on computersWe are excited and wanted to update you on our upcoming Transition Trainings!  As of today, the I Have A Plan and More Training on April 23rd is full, and we have a few openings yet for our training on April 10th.  We are so excited about the trainings, and feel that you will walk away from both with new practical ways to implement the information right into your classroom instruction!

If you haven’t signed up yet, and would like to for the April 10th training, please use the following link:   April 10th Transition Training

We are keeping a short waiting list in case there are some cancellations, so if you already have signed up and find out you cannot attend, please email Laurie DeWall so she can let the next person know they can attend.

We look forward to learning with all of you!


One more thing on Concept-based Curriculum…and transition of course!

Since I have been in education for a long time, it is easy to become jaded about every new education “latest and greatest” way to help improve student achievement.  It would be easy to lump Concept-based Curriculum into this list, but one of it’s basic premises seems to make perfect sense… we have to help students UNDERSTAND what we are teaching them and not simply help them memorize rote facts.  That’s where the concepts come in.  If we are honest with ourselves, we have all memorized facts to reach a desired goal…(has anyone taken their driver’s test lately?)  Yet, it is safe to say that most of the time, those facts are as quickly forgotten as they were learned, since they are no longer relevant to us.    And I will be the first to admit that it is much easier for me to buy into learning something IF I see the relevance of  it.  Bottom line, our students are no different.

Concept based instruction, as we have stated in earlier posts, takes learning from the two-dimensional level (knowing only facts) to the three-dimensional level (understanding the overall concept). Take a lesson on Martin Luther King, for example.    A two-dimensional lesson would be to simply have students read his “I have a dream” speech.  A three-dimensional lesson would be to have students “think about leadership/civil rights/etc as they read his speech, and then discuss  the impact of those concepts  on a much broader level.  Our workshop leaders, Lois Lanning and Lynn Erickson, shared that this helps students to be able to transfer and to generalize this information across the curriculum.  It is easy to see how this would help all students become better critical thinkers, thus impacting their post-secondary success.

This is not to say that facts are not important.  They are obviously the foundational building blocks that support the deeper, conceptual understanding.  And the beauty of concept-based curriculum is that we retain those building block facts longer when we process them on both the factual and conceptual level:  we can start to connect the dots to the bigger picture and it begins to make more sense!  The irrelevant facts  – – when attached to concepts – –  suddenly become relevant!

So, as you work to help your students successfully transition to be as independent as possible, remember to teach them how to critically think and not simply regurgitate facts.  Helping them understand the over-arching concepts is key.  After all, isn’t that what they truly need?


Four Critical Elements of Concept-based Curriculum, Instruction,and Assessment

After being part of a special Institute for Iowa Instructional Teacher Leaders and Coaches sponsored by Prairie Lakes AEA this past fall led by Dr. Lois Lanning and Dr. Lynn Erickson we were challenged to continue our learning….to seek more information about the Concept -based Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, to review the materials that were shared and think about how our work and the work we do with others could or should change based on what we learned.

As I went back to review the materials again this past month, one of the things that jumped out at me was a power point slide that was presented to us by the two speakers/authors above that talked about the “Four Critical Elements of Concept-based Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment.  The slide that they shared with us  states these four critical areas:

  • Curriculum guides the instruction of important concepts and transferable ideas.  It reflects high standards that include key facts and skills.
  • Effective concept-based lessons address the varied needs and characteristics of all learners.
  • Assessments reflect what students Know, can Do, and Understand.
  • There is alignment of curriculum, instruction, and assessment goals.

When I read through those four critical elements I am reminded of the importance of good curriculum for all of our students, both in general education programs and special education programs.  All students need to know and understand the important concepts and transferable ideas of their various classes.  The second critical element reminds me that when teachers are using effective concept based lessons they are addressing the needs and characteristics of all learners, not just those at the very top of the class or those who are struggling …..they are meeting the needs of all learners.  The third characteristic says that the assessments that we give students reflect not only what the student knows, can do, but also what they understand….an assessment that does those three things is more than the memorization of facts….it is about the learning that goes along with knowledge of facts and how those facts were part of the understanding of what was being assessed.  The fourth critical element emphasizes the alignment of curriculum, instruction, and assessment goals…..and as educators we know that aligning the work we do always makes good sense.

To find out more about Concept-based curriculum, Instruction , and Assessment contact any of the Prairie Lakes AEA Learning and Leading consultants.  They can help you as you begin your journey in understanding concept-based curriculum and the positive outcomes it can bring to your students.


Reflections on Tourism/Hospitality/Service Industry Job Opportunities

I recently had the opportunity to spend a week at large national chain resort in Hawaii.  Yes, I had a wonderful time, the weather was great, and I feel rested and relaxed and I’m ready to take on the remainder of the year…and I also learned loads about the tourism/hospitality, and service industry jobs.  The resort that we stayed at allowed me to see first hand  the many jobs and job opportunities that are available throughout the world.  More importantly it allowed me the opportunity to watch first hand the skills that workers in these fields must have.  If you want to observe 21 Century Skills at work….become a tourist for a week at a mega resort!  From the moment we arrived at the airport to the moment we returned we had the opportunity to see the service/tourism industry at its best.  Everyone that we came in contact with from the airport security personnel to the resort cleaning staff were polite, professional, and on task.  As I thought about the many jobs I observed, I wondered if we as teachers/educational staff and parents are doing the right things to prepare our students for their many opportunities in the  future?   The employees of tomorrow will need to have  people skills, understand and utilize technology, and and be willing to continue to expand their horizons.   Are we preparing our students for the future?  Understanding and teaching 21st Century Skills has never been more important!


Register NOW for our April Transition Trainings!

We hope that all of our middle school and high school special education teachers have received an email about TWO SEPARATE TRAINING DAYS coming up in April.  Due to the format, each session will be LIMITED to the first 65 teachers that register.  We have had an AWESOME response, so both trainings are filling fast!

Wednesday, APRIL 10th from 9:00 – 3:30 at the Pocahontas AEA Office: Sean Roy from PACER & Karen Thompson from ASK Resource Center will present on the “Relationship between Transition Planning and Postsecondary Success.” Topics include: Employment, Preparing for Postsecondary Education, & Engaging Parents.

Tuesday, APRIL 23rd from 9:00 – 3:30 at the Pocahontas AEA Office: Topics will include – Incorporating I Have a Plan Iowa information into the IEP process, the updated Transition Matrix, and AEA 8’s new Transition Blog, featuring sites to help with the transition process.

Register by clicking on this link:  Transition Trainings April 10th & 23rd

** Districts will be reimbursed for substitute teacher pay.

** Lunch will be provided.

An email will be sent to you within ONE week of submitting this form, confirming status of your registration.