The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE): Division for Special Education Services and Supports is collaborating with local school districts and state, regional, and local partners to implement initiatives designed to improve results for children and youth with disabilities. These initiatives, which are funded by a five-year State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG) awarded to the state from the United States Department of Education, include professional development and technical assistance activities designed to provide school personnel and families with the knowledge and skills needed to implement educational programs and interventions that have proven to be effective in improving outcomes for children and youth with disabilities.
The Georgia SPDG, which is funded through 2017, includes GraduateFIRST, a nationally recognized project that utilizes a data-driven intervention framework developed by the National Dropout Center for Students with Disabilities to successfully address barriers to graduation for students with disabilities. Developed and implemented during the previous SPDG (2007 – 2012), the project expanded in 2013 when SPDG personnel partnered with colleagues from the Office of School Improvement to implement GraduateFIRST in Focus Schools identified as needing improvement based on performance of students with disabilities.
In addition, the SPDG will expand its graduation focus with the development of a College and Career Readiness Project that focuses on successful transition planning and improved postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities. During Phase I of this project, technical assistance will be provided to selected school districts based on data indicating noncompliance related to the secondary transition requirements (e.g. measurable transition goals, assessments, and services) for students aged sixteen and above. In Phases 2 and 3 of the College and Career Readiness project, the districts will implement Project ASPIRE (Active Student Participation Inspires Real Engagement), a student-led IEP initiative that builds self-confidence, self-determination, and self-advocacy skills which are essential in preparing students for the educational, career, and independent living decisions that they will need to make in adulthood.
The SPDG Autism Early Intervention Project is partnering with the Marcus Autism Center’s Educational Outreach program, which is dedicated to the provision of community viable models of professional development that enhance the on-site capacity of each system served, resulting in better outcomes for children and their families. The project focuses on disseminating the most current social neuroscience related to the social, communication and emotional development in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Normative social and emotional frameworks provide a mechanism to enhance the provision of educational programming for all children by creating a universal design for learning. A particular focus is placed on financial sustainability and reducing the impact of disparities created by socioeconomic status and geographic location (i.e., urban vs. rural) by supporting the development of internal coaching teams and utilizing web-based learning for ongoing mentorship. Additionally, the program is designed to engage a multidisciplinary audience as a means to build capacity within each system for in-service training, coaching, and peer-to-peer mentorship using focus schools sites within the system as a mechanism for building capacity.
Go to the SPDG Website to learn more about the specific activities, participating schools, and resources.