Tuesday, December 9, 2014

$1 million grant to support military students with disabilities

DoD United States Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) recently awarded San Diego Unified School District a grant for $1 million, over four years, for Operation Special Education Achievement (Operation SEA).

"The Department of Defense is committed to ensuring that all children of military families have access to quality educational opportunities,” said Kathleen Facon, Chief of the DoDEA's Educational Partnership Program.  “DoDEA Educational Partnership grants have the power to transform learning experiences for military children and we are looking forward to working with the San Diego Unified School District to leverage success and learn from their expertise."

The goal of Operation SEA is to increase grade 3 to 5 students' achievement in English/Language Arts at six elementary schools within the district that have a high concentration of students with special needs from military families: Juarez, Kumeyaay, Miramar Ranch, Perry, Tierrasanta and Vista Grande.  In 2013-14 these six schools served 752 students from military families representing close to a quarter of their total enrollment, of these 112 (15%) were identified as having special educational needs.

Project strategies designed to achieve this goal are:
  1. Professional development through consultation, planning time, and summer workshops provided to grade level professional learning communities comprised of general education and special education teachers from all grades at all six schools (130 teachers).
  2. Access to research-based classroom curriculum and instructional materials that will help teachers across all grades align IEPs to Common Core State Standards in ELA and support students with special needs within all grade levels.
  3. Implementation of an innovative three-year professional development and classroom instruction program – Collaboration: Teachers and Artists (CoTA) in all 3rd and 5th grade classrooms as a way of engaging students who may be struggling academically or socially.
This grant builds upon the success of a current DoDEA funded project Operation Learn & Thrive which includes professional development to support implementation of a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, co-teaching model and the integration of technology to support students with special needs. 

“We are so appreciative of the Operation Special Education Achievement grant and our ongoing partnership with the DoDEA in support of our military families,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten. “This four-year grant will ensure that students with disabilities have the same access as general education students to the Common Core State Standards curriculum in English Language Arts. The funds will provide the resources and supports for our teachers that will ensure equity for all.”

 DoDEA awarded a total of nearly $32 million in grants this year. The grants were awarded to 25 military-connected public school districts to strengthen family-school-community relationships and enhance student achievement for military connected students.

To be eligible for participation in the grant, the district must have an active military-connected student population of 5% or more, with a population of 15% or more military-connected students at the school level. Although funding levels are related to military student enrollment, the proposed programs will serve all students at the target schools.