Bryce Fifield named the new CPD Director

Dr. M. Bryce Fifield will be the Center for Persons with Disabilities' new director. He will assume his new job beginning in July.

Fifield is a graduate of Utah State University, where he received both his bachelor's degree in psychology and and his master's degree in counseling and school psychology. His doctorate in special education and rehabilitation is from the University of Oregon.

He has had an eventful and diverse career since earning his master's degree at Utah State. He was a school psychologist in Shelley, Idaho, a researcher in Arizona and Oregon and an associate director of the Idaho Center on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Idaho.

Most recently he was the executive director of the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities, located at Minot State University. He has served as chair of the North Dakota State Council on Developmental Disabilities and as a board member and treasurer of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.

He was selected for his new position by a committee that included administrators, CPD staff, individuals with disabilities and family members of people with disabilities. The USU Board of Trustees approved his appointment on April 11.

He is the son of former CPD Director Marvin Fifield and grew up "rubbing elbows" with many of the people who shaped the CPD into what it is today.

"There have been a lot of great people that have worked there over the years," Fifield said. "These are folks that I had as friends before I had them as colleagues."

Filling their shoes will be a challenge, he said, but, "We're looking forward to it. ... We are thrilled to come back to Utah State and be back on the campus."

Fifield and his wife, Laurie, are the parents of four children, all of whom have attended Utah State University.

CPD by the numbers

The CPD contributed more than one third of the outside funding received by the College of Education and Human Services last year. The center is one of twelve units and departments within CEHS, which US News and World Report ranks third in external funding among colleges of education nationwide.

A small group instructor works with students at Trailblazer Elementary in Colorado Springs.

Principal, Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center cooperate, improve education

Kathy Griego did not anticipate starting a relationship with Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center that would benefit her school, the regional center and other schools nationwide.

She did not know that the data she and her staff collected at Trailblazer Elementary in Colorado Springs, Colorado would later be used in forming national policy. She just wanted to involve general education in the process of deciding which students would be referred to special education.

As a former special education teacher, she was sure that some of the children she had seen in her classroom were capable of learning outside of a special education setting. Perhaps learning difficulties or behavior problems brought students to her, but she became convinced that with help, many of her students could learn in a general education setting.

A decade ago, when she became the principal of Trailblazer Elementary School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she was able to hand pick staff members who shared her vision. Together they resolved to find out why children were being referred to special education.

The same questions were being studied at the Mountain Plains Regional Research Center (MPRRC), part of the technical assistance division at the Center for Persons with Disabilities. The Mountain Plains center helps state departments of education implement policies that extend the right of an education to all children. The idea behind Griego's vision, which she would later hear called "Response to Intervention," was to ensure that children were referred to special education only when it was appropriate. It was a goal that was soon to become part of the 2004 Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Under the traditional system, a child could experience a lot of failure before being referred for special education or further evaluation, said Carol Massanari, MPRRC co-director. Response to Intervention instead determines which children may need some extra help early in their educational experience. It also determines at what intensity the help is needed. It ensures that lack of instruction is not the cause of a special education referral.

The concept was being proposed as a change for the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act re-authorization, but before the updated law went into effect, policymakers wanted some data from schools that had tried it out. They turned to the Regional Resource Center Network, of which the Mountain Plains center is a member, and asked for information. This request turned into a national study coordinated with the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities (NRCLD).

Through this study the MPRRC, in turn, looked for schools that were practicing the critical features of Response to Intervention. They found a few, including one in Colorado Springs. That's how the MPRRC met Trailblazer Elementary.

Griego and her staff members had amassed data on the effectiveness of their system, which used a three-tier approach to determine what level of intervention their students needed. They shared their data with the MPRRC. The center passed the information on to NRCLD as part of the study, which eventually resulted in informing national policy.

After the law was on the books, the Center has been helping states develop their own guidelines for putting the updated law into practice. The Center shared information with states, and also with Griego. The MPRRC has helped to connect principals who have been using response to intervention strategies with those who want to learn more. The sharing of ideas between her school, the MPRRC and other RTI experts nationwide helped Griego and her staff focus their efforts even more.

"I was able to bring a lot more back to the staff in terms of refining our process," she said.

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