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Working for You: Executive Director's Report

Executive Director Ann Brennan's Activity Report and Legislative Update
April 2, 2020

OSPA Executive Director Ann Brennan acts as OSPA's liaison and advocate at the Statehouse, Department of Education, State Board of Education and State Board of Psychology. Here are her latest efforts to keep school psychology at the forefront of all discussions.

ODE Related Activity

1) Coronavirus related ODE Skype meetings with State Superintendent De Maria and other ODE staff: State Superintendent DeMaria is conducting weekly education stakeholder meetings, Ann Brennan is a participant. If OSPA members have issues or questions they wish to be raised, please email them to Ann Brennan at this email address: annmo929@gmail.com.

 2) ODE Related Service Provider Shortage Workgroup Update:  This workgroup met a total of 10 times, with several additional conference calls throughout for the subcommittee meetings. OSPA had three representatives on the workgroup: Ann Brennan, Executive Director, John Biltz, Executive Board member and Susan Davies, School Psychology Professor, University of Dayton. Important completed short - term accomplishments from the workgroup are:

  1. The development of information resources in a one-page format for each related service provider, highlighting their training and roles and responsibilities. These are placed on ODE’s website in a section highlighting Related Service Providers, and were developed to be resources for administrators to fully understand the services these professionals are prepared to provide. These can be accessed at this ODE link:
    http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Special-Education/Related-Services
  2.  The production of a video, filmed on location in each provider’s school district. Bradley Paramore represented school psychology in the OSPA appointed school psychologist part of the video. Each professional speaks about why they selected their profession, what they find rewarding from it and how it positively impacts on students. The purpose of this video is to be used to both educate the public about the services provided as well as to be used to recruit future professionals. These can be accessed at this ODE link:
    http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Special-Education/Related-Services
  3.  The State Survey of Related Service Providers: focused on factors related to recruitment and retention to go to a random sampling of related service providers. The survey questions were developed by a subcommittee of the workgroup and were sent and results compiled by Mike Fuller (School Psychologist and Director of the Center for Innovation and Data Services, Muskingum Valley ESC and Marsha Lewis (Ohio University). The goal related to this survey was to find out from practitioners the most compelling factors impacting on recruitment and retention to inform the workgroup’s final recommendations. The survey results have been published and are included in the final report, which can be accessed at this ODE link: http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Special-Education/Related-Services/Related-Services-Workgroup-Report-and-Recommendations-1.pdf.aspx?lang=en-US

Another product of the workgroup was the ODE approved Memo on the use of “An Educator on Special Assignment to Assist with Delegated School Psychologist Related Duties”. ODE has begun distributing the MEMO to administrator groups. OSPA has sent out to our listserv and will post to our website. All of OSPA’s recommended revisions to the original MEMO were included, and the MEMO was based on a draft that OSPA submitted to ODE/OEC over 2 years ago.

 3) State Superintendent DeMaria recently established a Workgroup on Improving Educational Experiences and Outcomes for Students with Disabilities. A Steering Committee was appointed, which has met six times. The goal is to develop a special education long-range improvement plan. Writing committees have been established and they include stakeholders from related service providers as well as other educators, and parents and ODE representatives. The Writing Committees will focus on the following topics: teacher effectiveness and professional development, disproportionally, literacy, and transitioning. OSPA was invited to recommend members to these committees, we recommended Keith Mesmer, Emma Sacha and Julie Morrison, and all have been appointed. The deadline for work was to be completed and recommendations is December 31, 2019. The deadline has been extended as the Steering Committee is still meeting to review the writing team recommendations.

 4) ODE WHOLE CHILD ADVISORY COMMITTEE APPOINTED: ODE/OEC have made appointments to the Whole Child Advisory Committee and OSPA was invited to appoint a representative. Bradley Paramore and I recommended Mark Gallagher, OSPA member and school psychologist working in Marysville City Schools. Mark served as an OSPA representative on the SEL Standards writing team and also coordinates PBIS implementation in his school district. The following is the ODE description of the purpose and tasks of this new advisory group:

Whole Child Advisory Group
CHARGE OF THE WHOLE CHILD ADVISORY GROUP
The Whole Child Advisory Group will guide the Ohio Department of Education on the essential activities needed to meet Each Child, Our Future Strategy 7 to support the whole child. The advisory group will help establish best practices and develop and identify resources to support meeting the mental, behavioral, physical health, wellness, nutrition and safety needs of Ohio students. The group will:
• Develop a whole school, whole community and whole child framework;
• Promote the value of a whole school, whole community and whole child approach;
• React to and inform appropriate guidance, models and examples from Ohio districts to guide the
adoption and implementation of the whole school, whole community and whole child approach at the local, regional and state levels. These models would include process, funding, capacity-building and a collaborative partnership approach. Related to guidance, models and tools, the group will:
• Provide guidance for schools on the proposed student wellness and success funding;
• Share training and professional development resources and training housed within state, regional and
local organizations;
• Advise on the development of a clearinghouse of best practices and evidence-based practices related
to the whole child; and
• Promote collaboration with professional associations for future planning and sharing of resources.
TASKS OF THE WHOLE CHILD ADVISORY GROUP
• Develop a working knowledge of the current whole child supports the Ohio Department of Education provides;
• Review Strategy 7 and connections to current and future work. The Department will update the group on events and actions that have been completed;
• Review the Behavioral Health and Wellness Education Advisory Committee recommendations and understand their connections to Strategy 7, the whole child framework and the Department’s Center for Student Supports;
• Review existing whole child frameworks to inform the development of Ohio’s framework;
• Cultivate a shared, unified understanding of the whole child framework to develop a statewide message
and talking points;
• Share effective community partnership experiences:
o What makes the partnership effective?
o What supports are needed to replicate successful partnerships in other communities?
• Discuss development and deployment of a Whole Child Network of districts engaged in promising
practices (similar to the School-Based Health Network).
At the most recent meeting of the group held on January 29, Sean Slade, the Director of Global Outreach at ASCD, discussed with the group the WSCC whole child model that was co-created by the CDC and ASCD (formerly known as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). The highlights according to Mark Gallagher included the school improvement assessment, which he described as very powerful, and the ASCD resources that align with the school improvement assessment outcomes, and potential spaces for Ohio to adjust or amend the WSCC model. Next steps include commenting on the current tenets laid out in the WSCC model and providing feedback on how we could make adjustments or additions for Ohio.
www.ascd.org

 5) State Board resolution passed to recommend revisions to the Third Grade Reading Guarantee: The State Board of Education on September 17, 2019, recommended the legislature revise state law to require reading intervention for more students after third grade. The board unanimously approved a resolution recommending multiple legislative changes to the state's Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

The state currently requires schools to use improvement and monitoring plans for students identified as reading below grade level through third grade. The BOE recommends that requirement be extended through fifth grade.

"The Board recognizes that providing reading improvement and monitoring plans beyond grade three would be beneficial and provide continued literacy support for students who have been identified as needing it," the resolution states.

The panel also backed legislative changes requiring "intensive reading instruction" through fifth grade for students that have received remediation for two prior school years for not reading at grade level and were held back at least once through third grade. The resolution also suggests providing intervention through grade five for students exempt from meeting the guarantee's promotion score under existing law.

Another recommendation called for a legislative change allowing local officials to determine wither English learners should be exempt from the guarantee promotion score "based on the student's English language proficiency." Currently, such an exemption is allowed when a student has been enrolled in a school in the U.S. for less than three full years and has had less than three years of English as a second language.

"The Board recognizes that English learners master English language skills at paces that may vary from student to student, and studies show that the average amount of time to master English language skills exceeds three years," the resolution states.

6) Attorney General Yost unveils school safety video course: Attorney General Yost indicated his office developed the video course with the assistance of outside experts, including the U.S. Secret Service. That information was then broken down into videos of eight to 28 minutes.

"The beauty of this process is that those who are involved in school safety don't have to find time away to travel to a conference, don't have to take time away from their day duties to try to learn about threat assessments or have to build a threat assessment team. They can get it right online and it's free," he said.

Lina Alathari, with the National Threat Assessment Center of the U.S Secret Service, said threat assessment is "everyone's responsibility," and that educating parents, teachers and students on ways to identify signs of distress can help law enforcement and school officials identify and deal with potential threats.

"I think the word threat assessment connotes something negative, but it actually is about assessment and care. Early intervention is key," she said. "You want to identify any students in distress."

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria said the goal is to create partnerships within schools and districts so everyone is communicating about potential concerns.
Excerpted from Gongwer

7) ODE/OEC Stakeholder Meetings on Draft Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities 2-24, 2-25, 2-28-20. Stakeholders appeared to be represented by primarily related service providers, including several school psychologists, SLPs, OT’s, additional stakeholders come from the OCALI staff, OCECD, Ohio Legal Rights advocates, pupil services directors and others.

The following issues were raised at Ann Brennan’s table, which included a Cleveland City Schools school psychologist; a Director of Student Services and an OCECD representative.

3301-51-02: FAPE: The rule removed the “district of residence” reference, indicating the rule is regulated by federal law and rule. Other changes in this section were primarily editing and changing the name of school district to educational agency – which is the new terminology throughout all the rules.

We discussed the confusion around the determination of district of residence and district of service, and the need to further clarify in guidance, or retain and repeat in the rules in the relevant sections, rather than just state in the definitions rule.

3301-51-03 Child Find: The major additions are the new federal rule compliance language related to disproportionality which is regulated by 34 CFR 300.646 and .647.

We discussed how districts comply with notifying parents of the districts obligations under this section, how they communicate with parents. The OCECD representative brought up the issue of some parents not understanding written forms of communication. The Cleveland school psychologist agreed. The group recommended that ODE provide parent friendly short videos to be used by districts to explain all parts of the special education process.

There was agreement among all of the participants at our table that the current Procedural Safeguards book for parents and practitioners does not provide enough guidance, all preferred the former “Whose IDEA Is It? “book. This issue applies to all the rules.

3301-51-04 Confidentiality: There were no substantive changes in this section, primarily editing and adding of language clarifying that any transmission of records between agencies must comply with FERPA.

3301-51-05 Procedural Safeguards: The substantive changes are: 1) the removal of state rule language regarding parental consent for a change of placement. ODE staff (Bernadette Laughlin) indicated there is no federal law or rule authority for this state rule language. 2) added language required by 34 CFR 300.519 which delineates duties of the surrogate parent and the method for assigning one.

Under section (K) (1) (b) (i) Dispute Resolution, Administrative reviews there is new language that is more specific and directive for the administrative review process. ODE staff indicated it was added to be consistent with Ohio law, ORC language.

Additional concerns and issues that came up at our table included:

  • Parental consent: functional illiteracy of some parents, stakeholders from Cleveland and from Southeast Ohio counties expressed that is a significant percentage of parents, and how best to obtain parental consent. Group again recommended ODE produce parent friendly videos describing parental rights and responsibilities under the Ohio Operating Standards and IDEIA.
  • Reasonable efforts language with regard to obtaining parental consent for an initial evaluation: stakeholders asked for more guidance from ODE regarding what meets this requirement, if parent fails to respond.
  • Reasonable efforts language for parental consent throughout this rule, for service and reevaluations: again stakeholders asked for more guidance on meeting these requirements.
  • Question regarding reevaluations: if after reasonable efforts and parent fails to respond there is a need for more consistent guidance from ODE on what a district can go forward with in terms of reviews of records and additional assessments in order to complete the reevaluation.
  • Question brought up regarding the ODE Memo issued by former OEC Director Sue Zake on the authorization and process to add a related service not on the IEP. The participants requested this be addressed in the rule or official guidance be added in the Procedural Safeguards Guidance document.

3301-51-09 Delivery of Services: ODE staff summarized this section indicating the major changes are adding the new transition services section, consistent with federal law and rule and current practices.

Issues of concern to the stakeholders, for this particular rule, additional stakeholders included representatives from OT trainers, and the Director of the SLP Board.

Service provider workload determination section: Workload/caseload ratios and related issues: We had a long and productive discussion on this, the OT trainer representative asked that caseload numbers be removed and more specificity added to calculate workloads and caseloads for OTs particularly due to the issue of OT assistants’ caseload calculations not being clear in the current rule. The school psychologists, pupil services director and the Executive Director of the SLP Board, and Ann Brennan disagreed with this recommendation for removing the caseload numbers, however we all agreed that the requirement for school districts determining appropriate caseloads/workload should be more explicit and strengthened in the rule language. We recommended that ODE in consultation with the professional associations include a model template for calculating workload/caseload numbers for each related service provider, as each are unique. We recommended this be in an official guidance document as well as in the newly created Related Service Provider section of ODE’s website. Additionally, we recommended this caseload/workload determination process required of districts be more explicitly linked to the Waiver section in this rule – including adding the linkage language to the official guidance document.

We also recommended the rule indicate evidence of compliance with the caseload/workload determination process would be requested through OEC compliance monitoring.

Ann Brennan offered rationale for doing so, having ODE explain to districts that waivers are required if State prescribed caseload maximums are exceeded, and the collection of this information could inform ODE and professional associations where shortages are most acute. This helpful real time data could be used to propose targeted action to address the shortages.

Ohio Legislative Recent Activity

1) Education related provisions in the Coronavirus package bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor:

The following is an excerpt from the a Gongwer news article summarizing the education provisions:

Education-focused provisions included language waiving state-mandated tests and the report card accountability system for the 2019-20 school year. (Amended Bill; Senate GOP Synopsis)
Gov. DeWine, who has called K-12 testing "the least of our problems" during the pandemic, previously voiced support for the move and seeking waivers from federal accountability and assessment requirements.
Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said the decisions on the report card and testing were necessary with Ohio students and teachers at home indefinitely due to the pandemic.
"It's just an unfair situation to try to determine how well a school has done or not done with their students when you're under this situation," he said.
He said the state also would be "asking an awful lot" if it required students to test in the wake of the closures, if they return to school at all before summer break.
The measure also ended a lengthy, divisive debate among lawmakers over the short-term future of a private school scholarship program.
The law freezes the number of schools in which students are eligible for EdChoice Scholarship Program vouchers at the 2019-20 level of 517 for the coming school year. Siblings of current school performance-based voucher recipients, including future kindergartners, will be able to apply.
Legislators previously failed to come to an agreement on the proper way to prevent the list of eligible schools from skyrocketing to more than 1,200 for the 2020-21 school year, instead approving a measure (SB 120) delaying the start of the application window from Feb. 1 to April 1. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, January 31, 2020)
The Senate had pushed a proposal (HB 9) cutting the list to about 425 while expanding eligibility for vouchers based on family income. The House had sought to move forward with a plan (SB 89) replacing EdChoice with Buckeye Opportunity Scholarships, which would have eligibility requirements based solely on family income. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, February 21, 2020)
"We decided jointly that by freezing things where they were, focusing on some of the emergencies we have at hand, this will make sure that children who were already receiving EdChoice scholarships will continue to do so," Senate President Larry Obhof said after the chamber's vote on HB197.
The Medina Republican said the freeze allows legislators to "save that broader discussion for another day."
"And, particularly in light of some of the fiscal challenges we're facing as a state, it's probably better dealt with at a later time," he added.
Speaker Householder called the EdChoice eligibility freeze "the best we could do at this time."
"I don't think we really had any choice but to make the decision that we made," he said. "Certainly, we would have liked to come up with a long-term plan, but that didn't happen."
HB197 also will allow high school seniors to graduate if schools determine they were on that track before the school closures took effect. Local school officials also will be able to make promotion decisions related to the state's Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
Several nods to the necessity of distance learning during the ongoing statewide school closure of at least three weeks also made their way into the legislation.
Provisions waive restrictions on how many days online learning can be used to replace in-class hours and allow special education professionals to use electronic methods of communication to provide services to students with disabilities.
Schools also are exempted from food-processing requirements that would threaten their ability to provide meals to students through the duration of the crisis.
Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) commended the work of local educators and school officials in response to the pandemic shortly before casting her vote in favor of the measure.
"I just couldn't be more proud of the extraordinary efforts that our public schools have done for our community – feeding our children and within less than a week having education online," she said.
Sen. Fedor said the crisis should remind lawmakers about the importance of extending broadband to rural areas as education largely moves online in the state.
The measure also allows school boards and university trustees, among other government bodies, to meet electronically as long as the public can monitor the sessions.
Absentee voting is extended through April 28 after the Department of Health closed voting locations shortly before the scheduled March 17 primary election day. Education groups and others had called for the election to wrap up well before June 2 – the date suggested by Secretary of State Frank LaRose – to give school districts time to make personnel decisions based on their levy request results. 

 2) SB 102 and SB 200 (Dyslexia related bills) update: A small group of stakeholders representing: BASA, OSBA, OAESA, OSPA and ODE met on 2-20-20 with Senator’s Lehner, Chair of the Senate Education Committee and sponsor of SB 102 and SB 200, and Brenner, Vice chair and co-sponsor of the bills. BASA brought to the meeting a national consultant, Amanda Burnett who has worked in several states on bills related to dyslexia screening, professional development for teachers and mandated interventions. Prior to our meeting with the Senators we met with Amanda to thoroughly review the latest versions of each bill and to identity issues of concern.

Amanda was extremely helpful, she is a former teacher, superintendent, and North Carolina State Education Department Chief of Staff. She has in-depth knowledge of what other states have implemented in terms of dyslexia related laws, as well as what additional funds states have invested to implement.

We had a very cordial and productive meeting as both Senators sincerely listened to our identified issues and were amenable to our suggested revisions. Between both bills, SB 102 and SB 200 we identified the following concerns:

  1. Screenings: We requested the language in the Sub. SB 102 be changed to allow for dyslexia screening to take place by midway through first grade, the current version requires it take place prior to first grade. The legislators agreed with this, after we explained our rationale. We also emphasized the need for the screening instruments to be developmentally appropriate to match the learning needs of a wide variety of students in terms of their kindergarten - first grade early literacy readiness skills.
  2. Dyslexia advisory committee: both bills call for ODE to form a Dyslexia Advisory Committee to assist with the development of guidance and procedures related to implementing the bills, currently SB 102 specifies only IDA-Ohio be on the committee, we asked that other stakeholders be included but not limited to: superintendents or other administrators, school psychologists, reading specialists and SLP’s. They also understood our concern regarding this and indicated they will consider amending the bill to expand the required stakeholders.
  3. Teacher training and PD requirements (SB 200): The bill requires, beginning in the 2020-21 school year, all new public school teachers complete a dyslexia screening and interventions professional development course, and further requires districts to require all teachers or specialists providing instruction in special education, English language arts or literacy to complete additional approved courses on a regular basis, as determined by the district’s board of education. ODE is tasked with approving the coursework, through adopted guidelines.

Additionally, the bill requires that: 

  • Beginning in the 2020 - 2021 school year each district must establish a structured literacy certification process for teachers providing instruction for students in grades K - 5. The process must align with ODE guidelines and include a practicum.
  • Not later than the end of the 2021- 2023 school year, each district will have one teacher certified under the structured literacy process per every 200 students in grades K-5, reducing the ratio to 150 in the 2023-2014 school year; reducing to 100 in the 2024-2025 year.

The stakeholders shared our serious concerns regarding district’s capacity to meet these requirements in terms of costs and deadlines. We requested that amendments be considered to replace the word certificated with training, and suggested the correct term to use would be multi-sensory instruction process, rather than structured literacy process. We also recommended that ODE provide the required PD coursework through the ESC’s or SST’s and first establish a framework for doing so and providing it free or at a minimal cost to districts, through a train the trainer model.

The Senators agreed with this approach and seemed to understand that the PD training requirements and ratio deadlines may need a longer phase-in period. They also talked about seeking state funds to implement both bills.

Our rationale for changing the language from certificated to training, (teachers would be trained not certificated) removes the concern about the costs associated with dyslexia related specific certification programs that cost about $5,000 per teacher and take over a year of training, plus an intensive several hundred (700) hour practicum. It also allows for a train the trainer model, as non-copyrighted training materials could be used (developed by ODE).

ODE staff updated the group on the many ODE early literacy initiatives that are ongoing or under development, some with an emphasis on multi-sensory reading best practices.

All in all, a good meeting, next steps continue to work with the fellow stakeholders and legislators on the amendments. The General Assembly recesses next week until March 23. Hearings on the bill may continue at that time.

OSPA Advocacy Related to the Shortages

OSPA is collaborating with OESCA and will also reach out to BASA to advocate with ODE/OEC and key members of the House and Senate to request additional funding in the next state budget for the school psychologist intern line item and for additional funding within the line item to develop a “grow your own” recruitment and retention model program for Ohio training programs to apply for in collaboration with ESC’s; targeted for the most acute shortage areas of the state. Process steps in this effort are as follows;

  1. Collect projected intern numbers from IUC, work with IUC in determining what the state budget increase should be to comply with the increase in the state minimum teacher salary.
  2. In collaboration with ODE collect current school psychology shortage data, include in this data the numbers and placement of interns through the Marshall University – Ross/Pike County ESC, arrangement (grow your own type program).
  3. In collaboration with IUC, OESCA and ODE determine the amount of funding necessary to establish the state supported grow your own models, and also to determine the grant or funding criteria to be eligible to apply.
  4. Meet with ODE staff to propose this collaboration and to seek support from ODE leadership and legislative staff to include in the State Board’s budget recommendations.
  5. Begin meeting with key legislators to seek support for the concepts and funding.
    * Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic this effort is on hold, as state agencies have been asked to prepare for at least a 20% reduction in their budgets. OSPA will continue to discuss the possible funding with the OEC/ODE staff.

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