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Archived News: What's New
February 2014

Professional Learning Communities Move Ahead in Newport News!

Contributed by Wendy Clayton, Autism Specialist

Early in the 2012 - 2013 school year, all Newport News Public School (NNPS) self-contained classes for students with autism were rated using the Autism Program Environment Rating Scale (APERS) to determine use of Evidence-Based Practices and gaps in programming. The results were shared with teachers individually, who then set professional growth goals, in the areas requiring improvement. Upon analysis of the data, the goals, and the needs of teachers, visual supports were a common thread at the elementary levels and social skills/competence at the secondary levels. Teachers were given many options with which to address their goals, one of which was the formation of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) in these two areas. The purpose of the PLCs is to provide the resources, support, research, and practice, to improve student outcomes and to support the attainment of the Professional Growth Goals for which all teachers will be held accountable at the conclusion of the 2013/14 school year.

Visual Support PLC: Elementary

The Visual Support PLC began with a definition of visual support/schedules and the importance for students with ASD. Teachers learned the different supports that might be used for various students and situations. Additional areas discussed were supports for teaching routines and sequencing skills, as well as, teaching choice and management.

Future PLC meetings resulted in teachers making a visual schedule for one student in their class with the specific icon type, goal and function in the class. Teachers were required to use the book with their student, make adjustments and report back successes and challenges. Further PLC meetings exposed teachers to more advanced visual supports and mini schedules. urrently, the visual support PLC is breaking into small groups according to age/grade level and need of student/teacher to allow more targeted investigation/research and construction of supports appropriate for students. Teachers will continue to meet with their small group partners as they investigate, construct, use, and take data on the effectiveness of the visual support chosen. Small groups will report back to the larger PLC quarterly.

Social Skills/Competence PLC: Secondary

The Social Skills PLC began with the middle and high school ASD teachers as well as interested secondary teachers from two middle schools. It began with discussion relative to three areas of life that secondary teachers would address with their students in the area of social skills. Teachers divided into three groups to research and talk about what social skills training would be necessary for: person-centered planning/self-determination; relationships; and community/employment. Many resources were shared to address the areas listed above.

Teachers were interested in beginning social skills groups at their schools to address the identified social skills needs of their students. In order to determine the goals for the social skills groups, the Bellini Social Skills Inventory was agreed upon as the consisted measure. The group thought it important to target the specific needs, develop specific goals, and take data on skill improvement in order to determine if the group was having a positive effect on the students or was merely a “nice” social gathering.

Each school has developed their own structure for groups. Most involve neurotypical student involvement in some way. The impact of the PLC is evident in each high school’s level of involvement. Different activities occurring in the division include: a gardening/marketing group which works in collaboration with another high school’s cooking competition club; an acting group practicing for a school performance; students have jobs at school functions; and social skills clubs. Teachers continue to use the Bellini Social Skills Inventory to drive social skills programming.


New Information Just Added to the VCU-ACE Resource Pages!!

Check out the updated Research and Articles sections on each of the Resource pages on the VCU-ACE website! VCU-ACE has identified and summarized relevant and recent research articles in each category. Click on the link in the title of the article to review a summary of the article and the research findings. The citations are also included so that you can locate and read the articles in their entirety if you want additional information. And don’t forget to regularly visit the home page of the VCU-ACE as we are constantly adding the newest information in the field to the Research and Interventioncolumn. Happy Reading!


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