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Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties
Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties
Implementation Progress Report
ContentsImplementation Progress Report and Next Steps Update: Executive Summary3Background3Key achievements3Next Steps3Recommendations progress update4Recommendation 1: A consistent systemic approach to maximise specific learning outcomes of students with Learning Difficulties4Recommendation 2: Building staff capacity to meet the needs of students with Learning Difficulties6Recommendation 3: Partnerships with families9
Implementation Progress Report and Next Steps Update: Executive SummaryBackground
The Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties was an advisory body established in 2012, to provide the Minister for Education and Training with recommendations for classroom level intervention and support of children and young people in ACT government schools with learning difficulties. The Final Report from the Taskforce was presented to the Minister for Education and Training in July 2013. The report identified 14 strategies under the three key recommendations: A Consistent Systemic Approach, Building Staff Capacity and Building Partnerships with Families. The recommendations outline strategies for supporting students with learning difficulties who may be present in any P-12 classroom, and builds on the already high standard of professional practice in ACT public schools.
Key achievements The Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties project outputs achieved for the October report.
Pilot studies are underway in Taylor and Theodore primary schools in implementing the Response to Intervention (RTI) framework and builds on the work of Namadgi School who implemented the RTI framework across the school in early 2013.
The delivery of the Learning Difficulties Conference 24 September 2014 with 80 participants. The Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties members also attended the conference.
A series of 4 workshop sessions for families and their children have been delivered in using the ipad more effectively as a learning tool at home.
School representative teachers with specialist training in learning difficulties continue to build capacity by providing ongoing support in their schools. These teachers are supported by school psychologists and field literacy and numeracy teams.
The Directorate website has been updated to improve access to Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties reports and information.
A second presentation to the Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties members was delivered 24 July 2014 and highlighted achievements, resource development, professional learning data survey and next steps forward.
A Release of Content Agreement with Dyslexia SPELD Foundation (Western Australia) has been signed to allow access to published material from Understanding Learning Difficulties- a Practical Guide. This content will be used in the development of Parent Fact Sheets for the Directorate Learning Difficulties website page and for the Learning Difficulties Teacher Online Resource on the Directorate Digital Backpack Learning Difficulties LIFE page.
A series of videos have been developed on RTI and on teacher assessment tools to support the teacher resources on the Digital Backpack Learning Difficulties LIFE page.
Through the Directorate contract with Gateways Education, workshops and information sessions are being delivered to staff to support the Dual Exceptionality component of the Gifted and Talented Students Policy.
The Directorate Learning Difficulties website page will be launched.
The Learning Difficulties teacher online resource will be completed and available on the Digital Backpack Learning Difficulties LIFE page.
Development of the 2015 Transition Plan and Learning Difficulties Final Report
Recommendations progress updateRecommendation 1: A consistent systemic approach to maximise specific learning outcomes of students with Learning Difficulties
Strategy 1. Development of protocols that include identifying, supporting and making adjustments for students with learning difficulties.
The Directorate will develop processes to articulate the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities for identifying, supporting and making reasonable adjustments for students with learning difficulties.
The Learning Difficulties Teacher Online Resource working party comprising of Directorate staff and a number of external/community experts, continue to develop the resource for teachers in identifying, supporting and making adjustments for students with learning difficulties. The online resource will include a series of fact sheets and be available to staff on the Directorate Digital Backpack Online Learning Difficulties LIFE page.
It is anticipated the online resource will be available on the LIFE page mid Term 2, 2015.
Strategy 2. Addition of endorsed evidenced based approaches to the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2009-2013 to support the needs of students with learning difficulties.
The Directorate will investigate evidence-based approaches to supporting the needs of students with learning difficulties and develop a mechanism for endorsing such approaches.
The ACT Education and Training Directorate (ACTETD) Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2009 2013 has been replaced by the ACTETD Strategic Plan 2014 2017. The priorities, strategies and targets within the previous Strategy have been elevated deliberately to ensure literacy and numeracy is highlighted as core business and is reflected in the priorities, strategies and indicators in the new Strategic Plan for all Directorate staff.
Strategy 3. Focus on learning difficulties and diversity in learning to be included as a key component in the Directorates leadership program from 2014.
The Directorate will include a focus on learning difficulties and diversity in future leadership programs from 2014.
The Directorate communicates the importance of the Taskforce recommendations to school leaders through identifying it as a priority in the Education Capital: Leading the Nation 2014-2017 Action Plan (High Expectations, High Performance domain).
Planning is underway in developing the 2015 Learning Difficulties Transition Plan to include future professional learning modules for principals and leadership teams.
Strategy 4. Inclusion of how to meet the needs of twice exceptional students in the Directorates Gifted and Talented Policy.
The Directorate has commenced the review of the Gifted and Talented Policy and will include provision for twice exceptional students.
The Directorates Gifted and Talented Student policy was launched in February 2014. The policy and supporting documentation included advice and information about students who are twice exceptional or have dual exceptionality.
A fact sheet for parents on dual exceptionality formed part of the series of parental guides that support the policy and is currently available on the Directorate website.
On 25 August 2014 Gateways Education, highly respected leaders in gifted and talented education, presented the first of a series of 12 professional learning workshops to support the implementation of the new Gifted and Talented Students Policy in ACT public schools. 77 ACT public school Executives and Gifted and Talented Liaison Officers (GATLOs) attended this first workshop, designed specifically to meet their needs. It covered the introduction and implementation of the Policy in schools, the evaluation of current school based programs, and best practice and research for gifted learners. Twice exceptional students will be discussed in upcoming workshops over the next three years.
Strategy 5. That the Directorate investigates models similar to Response to Intervention Models and what support would be needed to implement them within ACT government schools.
The Directorate is currently investigating models similar to and including the Response to Intervention Model and will assess the appropriateness of such models in the ACT context including the identification of the support required for implementation.
Since early 2013, Namadgi School have been implementing the Response to Intervention (RTI) framework across the school.
The RTI pilot studies continue in Taylor and Theodore primary schools till the end of Term 4 2014. A project officer is supporting the pilot RTI study.
A correlation study was also undertaken by the project officer and explored how the USA reading assessment, DIBELS, correlated with Australian reading assessments currently being used in the ACT to identify students at risk of reading difficulty.
The professional learning package developed for teachers (see Strategy 6) includes a focus on the RTI framework and includes a series of videos on RTI available as a teacher resource on the Digital Backpack Learning Difficulties LIFE page.
Recommendation 2: Building staff capacity to meet the needs of students with Learning Difficulties
Strategy 6. A comprehensive professional learning pathway with increasing levels of specialist knowledge to support a consistent systematic approach to learning difficulties.
The Directorate will identify professional learning strategies and pathways to strengthen a consistent and systematic approach to supporting students with learning difficulties.
A comprehensive professional learning package for teachers in understanding learning difficulties has been delivered over Terms 1 to 3 2014.
Schools have identified a teacher/s to attend the suite of professional learning workshops. These teachers continue to develop expertise and contribute to building staff capacity through delivering workshops and providing a focus on learning difficulties in their schools. These teachers are being supported in their schools by school psychologists, literacy and numeracy officers, disability education staff and Student Wellbeing staff from central office.
The Learning Difficulties Conference was delivered on 24 September 2014 to 80 teachers with a range of expert presenters and VIP guests in attendance. The Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties panel members also attended the conference and a keynote speech was delivered by Irene Lind, the Taskforce Chair.
LIFE page Learning Difficulties online resources for staff
A professional learning community resource on Learning Difficulties is located on the Directorate Digital Backpack Online LIFE page and continues to provide staff across the Directorate a place to share teaching and learning interventions and evidence-based resources for students with learning difficulties. The page reflects the professional learning package that has been delivered and includes digitally captured teaching practices and discussions, resources, presentation videos and PowerPoints, handouts, links and supports.
It also includes a series of training videos on RTI and in teacher assessment tools, developed by the Directorate. This suite of innovative resources has enabled access to high quality resources which has been used for capacity building in schools.
Strategy 7. Targets for completion of training to ensure that a pathway of expertise is established to embed knowledge in all sectors and across leadership.
The Directorate will develop targets for participation in training in the area of learning difficulties across the system with initial targets to be identified for primary, high school and college settings.
The professional learning package has set targets for completion where data will be collected to monitor attendance and the quality and value of the professional learning workshops.
Teacher attendance figures in the October 2014 quarter: 115 teachers from 52 schools.
This brings the total for the 2014 year to 1068 participants in teacher professional learning.
By end 2016 all schools will have at least one teacher trained in building the capacity of school staff to support students with a learning difficulty.
By end 2018 these teachers will have delivered annual training on learning difficulties to classroom teachers in schools.
By end 2018 all school leaders will have participated in annual professional learning on learning difficulties.
Strategy 8. Each School Network to be supported by officers with specialist skills in learning difficulties.
The Directorate will further strengthen the specialist expertise to support students including those with learning difficulties and will establish processes for access to network support.
Staff capacity is being built across schools by the teachers that have attended the professional learning phases. These trained teachers provide professional learning within their school through utilising the resource kit Understanding Learning Difficulties: A Practical Guide and the Directorate Online LIFE page in Learning Difficulties. This has been a valuable resource in building this capacity and building a community of learners.
The Learning Difficulties Conference showcased evidence of the developing community of learners across the Directorate with examples of best practice and innovation in meeting the needs of students with learning difficulties. This was demonstrated through online forum discussions and a question and answer workshop with presenters from a number of schools.
School psychologists, literacy and numeracy officers, disability education staff and student wellbeing staff continue to provide additional support to school staff and across networks through the Network Student Engagement Teams (NSET).
Strategy 9. Systemic professional learning for Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) working in the area of learning difficulties.
The Directorate will identify and provide appropriate professional learning opportunities for learning support assistants in the area of learning difficulties.
To support the Learning Support Assistants professional learning workshops that have been delivered, assistants can also access handouts and presentation resources from the Directorate Online LIFE page in Learning Difficulties.
Strategy 10. Clarification of the role of Learning Support Assistants working in the area of learning difficulties.
The Directorate will clarify the roles and responsibilities of school staff in providing support for students with learning difficulties.
The Learning Difficulties project team have been invited to be part of the planning with the Directorate Human Resources (HR) section to provide input to the current review of mainstream class learning support assistant duty statements. This forms part of the review process of learning support assistant duty statements under the ACT Public Service Administrative and Related Classifications Enterprise Agreement 2013-2017, Clause T21. This will be undertaken in Term 4 2014.
Ms Rosemary Butt (Lecturer in Education at the University of Canberra) has agreed to be part of the discussion with HR and the Learning Difficulties project team, as her recent doctoral thesis on LSAs in the ACT provides sound research and suggestions for improvement in defining the LSA role.
Strategy 11. Investigate and determine a system wide approach to assessment of students with learning difficulties.
The Directorate will investigate leading practice options for assessment of students with learning difficulties to develop a system wide approach.
A common system wide set of assessments to help identify students with possible learning difficulties is available to school staff in the assessment of students with learning difficulties.
A 2 hour workshop for teachers in using assessment and screening tools was delivered in August as part of the professional learning package.
The school psychologists Learning Difficulties Good Practice Guide has been updated to include a system wide approach to assess for a learning difficulty. This approach is also available to teachers on the RTI Life Page.
Recommendation 3: Partnerships with families
Strategy 12. The Directorate to develop multiple communication mechanisms to support families of students with learning difficulties.
The Directorate will develop a range of communication mechanisms that support families of students and schools meeting the needs of students with learning difficulties.
Improved community access to the Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties Final Report and background information on the Directorate website has been actioned. The Final Taskforce Report, February and June quarterly reports are all accessible.
The Directorate Learning Difficulties website page is currently being developed in collaboration with ETD Media. It features a Parent/Carer Communication Pathway Flowchart with schools, a range of fact sheets and other useful links to agencies/support services, resources and information. It is anticipated the page will be launched mid Term 1, 2015.
IPad Workshop Series
A series of Ipad workshop sessions over 4 weeks involved 10 families in August and September 2014. The four workshop sessions focused on families and their children working together to learn how to use the iPad more effectively as a learning tool at home. These proved very popular and had excellent attendance over all sessions. Parents/carers have requested that opportunities for further workshop sessions continue to be available.
Some comments from families (edited):
Thanks so much for presenting these sessions. We particularly liked discovering a huge amount of opportunities out there on the IPad. We would love some longer hands on sessions that give you time to practice with the support of people who know what they are going and can help as you need help. My son enjoyed the sessions.
Thank you for providing these workshops, hand-outs and other resources. There are a lot of Apps available from iTunes, and many claim to be educational, however, it was extremely useful to get first-hand knowledge of which Apps are being used or are likely to be useful in the current school environment. In particular for how the Apps can be integrated into the assessment process for students. A number of the Apps have been downloaded and are being used now to facilitate homework / assignments and they have been fantastic. I think students are a bit more excited about being able to use the iPad to do homework, and with the new Apps and accessibility options identified in these workshops the struggle to get engagement is reduced significantly.Thank you once again for all of the support and great information provided. I would welcome it if they were continued.
Strategy 13. The Directorate to investigate enhancement of partnerships with therapists and other professionals working with teachers, parents, carers and directly with students.
The Directorate will build on and enhance the current partnerships that support students with learning difficulties particularly those across ACT Health and the Community Services Directorates.
The implementation of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will lead to changes in the provision of therapy services for children and young people resident in the ACT with developmental delays and disabilities who are eligible to access the NDIS. These services will move to the non-government sector by December 2016. Assessment and referral services and supports for children and young people not eligible for the NDIS will remain the responsibility of the ACT Government. Therapist support for teachers to assist them to make adjustments to enable students with a disability to access and participate in their education program will also continue to be a mainstream service and the responsibility of the Education Directorate. ACT Government is working on a whole of government model for the provision of these mainstream services.
Strategy 14. Promote the provision for adjustment to assessment tools (Board of Senior Secondary Studies, Australian Scaling test, NAPLAN) to parents, carers, students and staff.
The Directorate will promote the availability and nature of provision for adjustment to assessment tools for students with learning difficulties to parents, carers, students and staff.
Planning is underway to include information to schools in the teacher online resource (see Strategy 1) which will include processes for adjustments for students with learning difficulties in regards to NAPLAN and the Board of Senior Secondary Studies (BSSS) adjustments.