Ending the MPRRC after thirty-four years

October 29, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of blue door.

It is said that when one door closes, another opens, and TAESE staff will keep looking for new opportunities.

The last several months have been tumultuous and bittersweet at the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE). In March, TAESE was awarded a five-year contract to provide professional development and technical assistance to special educators in the state of Utah. In April and May, however, it was learned that a long-running project, the Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center (MPRRC), might be ending.

Staff meetings during that period of time were difficult, said John Copenhaver, TAESE director.

The emotions in the office ranged from excitement for the new Center in Utah to disappointment that the MPRRC was closing.

The MPRRC was first established in 1980 and was funded for thirty-four years by the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The MPRRC was one of six Regional Resource Centers (RRCs) across the United States

“We thought the MPRRC would always be around,” Copenhaver said. “The MPRRC provided excellent services to State special education directors, SEA staff and Part C Coordinators for those many years.”

A statement was issued in April that the RRCs would no longer be funded and a RFP would soon be created to fund one larger center—the Center for Systemic Improvement. TAESE partnered with other agencies and wrote a proposal for the new center. Ultimately, WestEd was awarded the contract. MPRRC’s operations ended as of September 30, and several of the staff members lost their jobs.

“After thirty-four years, it’s a pretty big deal,” Copenhaver said. “I’ve never had to let people go before. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”

On the positive side, TAESE has numerous contracts across the United States, and many MPRRC staff members were absorbed into those contracts.

When one door closes, other doors are opened. TAESE staff members are always looking out for the next opportunity—even with this setback, the future continues to be bright.

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TAESE gets two new projects

October 20, 2014 by Sue Reeves

TAESE logoThe Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE) at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities is a partner in two new projects that will begin soon.

TAESE is one of several partners, including Westat and WestEd, that will be working on the IDEA Data Management Center (IDMC). The grant was awarded to Applied Engineering Management Corporation (AEM) for 5 years at $2.5 million annually.

Steven Smith of TAESE will be serving as the Deputy Director for the IDMC, and another TAESE employee will be fulfilling an as yet undefined role. IDMC’s central goals are to:

1. Improve the capacity of State Education Agencies (SEAs) to meet the IDEA Part B Sections 616 and 618 data collection and reporting requirements.

2. Assist SEAs in restructuring their existing data systems and in aligning their data collection for students with disabilities to the data collection for the general student population in their State-wide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS).

3. Improve the validity and reliability of the data reported to the Secretary of Education and the public as required under Sections 616 and 618 of IDEA.

The IDEA Fiscal Data Center (IFDC) project was awarded to WestEd for 5 years at $3.2 million annually. TAESE is one of several partners, including American Institutes of Research (AIR) and Westat.

Smith will be the Knowledge Development Functional Team lead, Wayne Ball will be the Technical Assistance and Dissemination Functional Team lead, and Shauna Crane will be the Technology and Communication Functional Team lead. IFDC’s goals are to:

1. Improve the capacity of State staff to collect and report accurate fiscal data to meet the data collection requirements related to the IDEA Part B local education agency maintenance of effort reduction and coordinated early intervening services and State maintenance of financial support.

2. Increase State staff’s knowledge of the underlying fiscal requirements and the calculations necessary to submit valid and reliable data on local education agency maintenance of effort/coordinated early intervening services and State maintenance of financial support.


TAESE to provide high-tech coaching for state’s special ed teachers

May 29, 2014 by Sue Reeves

image of David Forbush

David Forbush

A coaching model for special education teachers based on the medical concept of doctors’ rounds is the highlight of a five-year, $11 million contract awarded to the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE) by the Utah State Office of Education.

According to David Forbush, associate director of TAESE and the project director for the Utah Professional Development and Technical Assistance (PD/TA) Network, special education teachers often don’t have a colleague to team up with, so the concept of “digital educational rounds” was created. The idea was based on “Instructional Rounds in Education” by Richard Elmore and “Focus on Teaching” by Jim Knight book.

Only about 5 percent of teachers will implement what they learn in professional development activities without coaching, Forbush said, so coaching will make up a large part of the service provided by TAESE.

Each of the state’s five regions will have a coach/implementation specialist who will provide professional development and coaching for the teachers. In addition, the coaches will coordinate teachers within a region into teams, so the teachers can self-coach and strengthen each other.

Devices such as iPhones and iPads will be used to capture video of a teacher presenting a lesson. The video is sent to a web site (www.goreact.com) where colleagues can offer feedback in three different ways: by typing a comment in the chat box, by recording an audio comment, or by recording a how-to video. All comments are time-stamped, so the person being observed can match them to the exact moment in time about which the observers are commenting.

Every local education agency (LEA) in the state will be assessed for the level of support it requires to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), from universal support (less extensive) to intensive (more extensive, with specific interventions required).

All LEAs will get support, Forbush said, but what that support looks like will depend on what they need. The region that serves the Wasatch Front will focus mainly on charter schools, because most of the larger school districts already have coaches for their teachers.

Forbush said there are two main outcomes to be produced from the network: to reduce the level of support needed by the LEAs to meet IDEA requirements, and to produce better and measureable outcomes for students with disabilities.

Ten new professional staff members will be hired by TAESE for the project, including five coach/implementation specialists, two project specialists and an instructional designer who will produce live and recorded web-based trainings. The total amount of the contract is $11,151,178.

TAESE is a project of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.


MPRRC facilitates Arizona meeting

April 2, 2014 by Sue Reeves

map of MPRRC service areaOn March 31 and April 1, Part B and Part C teams from the ten states in the Mountain Plains Region and the Bureau of Indian Education (Part B only) met together in Phoenix, AZ to learn about and plan for the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) that each state is required to submit in February 2015.

The meeting was sponsored and facilitated by the Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center (MPRRC), a project of the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE) at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities. The meeting included participation by technical assistance providers from other TA Centers including the Region 5 Parent Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), Southeast Regional Resource Center (SERCC), Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA), Western Regional Resource Center (WRRC), North Central Regional Resource Center (NCRRC), SRI International, and TAESE. The US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) was represented by Deputy Director Ruth Ryder, RRCP Project Officer Perry Williams, and Research to Practice Specialist Jennifer Coffey.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide a forum for state teams to gather new ideas and insights specific to submission of a new State Performance Plan (SPP), with specific focus on Phase 1 of the SSIP. The desired outcome was for each state team to leave with an action plan for compiling information and developing Phase 1 of the SSIP for submission on February 1, 2015. The agenda focused on the specific components of SSIP development: Data Analysis, Infrastructure Analysis, Theory of Action, Coherent Improvement Strategies, and Meaningful Engagement of Families and Stakeholders throughout the process.

“This meeting was very important for state teams to be able to meet together and focus on the important work of improving results for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities,” said Steve Smith, associate director of TAESE.  “As a result of this meeting, states should be in a better position to select a state-identified measurable result based on data and infrastructure analysis and broad stakeholder input, connect it to the wider work of improving outcomes for all children in their states, develop a coherent set of improvement strategies to achieve the desired results, and tell their unique story in their states. It was evident throughout the meeting that states have been engaged in and serious about improving results, and the SSIP will be a vehicle for focusing the work and sharing the positive outcomes with the public.”

The sessions were designed to provide necessary information about each topic, present a variety of tools that states can use at each stage of the process, and time for state teams to work together to use the tools and plan next steps.

At the conclusion of the meeting, six Part B state teams spent an additional day and a half conducting a data drill-down meeting to further explore their state level data in order to select their state identified measurable result for students with disabilities.

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Forbush joins TAESE as co-associate director

August 22, 2013 by Sue Reeves

mug shot of Dave Forbush

David Forbush

Dr. David Forbush has joined the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE) as co-associate director. TAESE is a division of Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.

Forbush is new to TAESE, but is not stranger to USU. He completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master of science in school psychology, a school administrative/supervisory endorsement, a Ph.D. in special education and rehabilitation and a post-doctoral fellowship at USU.

Most recently, he spent six years as the director of special education for Cache County School District, where he provided instructional leadership for about 2,000 students with disabilities and supervised more than 350 staff members. With the exception of another seven years in the Preston (Idaho) School District, where he served as school psychologist, Title 1 coordinator and director of special education, much of his career has revolved around USU’s department of special education and rehabilitation, where he has been an assistant professor, the master’s program coordinator and a clinical instructor.

Forbush was also co-director of Project Need to Read, a collaborative project between USU and the University of Toledo, and was the director of USU’s Center for Academic Interventions.

Forbush said former TAESE associate director Marty Blair, who left the CPD in May to become director of Montana’s UCEDD, encouraged him to apply for the position.

“Marty talked to me to see if I had any interest,” Forbush said. “I had been in the school district for six years. This covers a larger geographic area and the opportunity to have more influence.”