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In Attendance        

Name                           Representing

Barry Stafford            Universities - SFASU
Bill Daugherty            TSBVI
Carol Hoover              District  - VI certified
Chrissy Cowan           Mentor coordinator
Cyral Miller                TSBVI
Donna Sanders            District administrator
Emily Leeper              TAER - O&M Division
Frankie Swift              Universities - SFASU
Gwynne Reeves          ESC  - dually certified
Jayme Wratchford      ESC  - VI certified
Jill Brown                   District  - VI certified
Julie Prause                District  - VI certified
Karen Crone               ESC - dually certified
KC Dignan                  Coordinator
Marty Murrell            AVIT - Guest
Marjie Wood              District O&M specialist
Melinda Loyd             District  - VI certified
Michael Munro           Universities - SFASU
Nora Griffin-Shirley  Universities - TTU
Olga Uriegas               VI Network
Olivia Chavez             American Council of the Blind
Pat Boyd                     District administrator
Renae Shepler             District - VI certified
Rona Pogrund             Universities -  TTU
Suzy Scannell             ESC  - VI certified
Virginia Bishop          At-Large - Univeristy
Unable to Attend              
Name                           Representing
Debbie Louder            ESC  - VI certified
Dixie Mercer              Universities - SFASU
Donna Glover             District O&M specialist
Edwina Wilks             District  - dually certified
Judith Evans               District administrator
Kate Moss                   TSBVI
Kellee Costello           District  - dually certified
Kellie Latson              District  - VI certified
Linda Johnson            DARS/DBS
Linda Wendland         District administrator
Stacy Lyssy                Parent
Tricia Lee                   ESC  - VI certified

Agenda

  • Dates for next year
  • Information from various sources related to professional preparation
  • Action planning
  • Updates

Dates for 2008-2009

The dates for the next meeting were set for:

  • Tuesday, May 12, 2009
  • Tuesday, November 10, 2009
  • It is also anticipated that there will be a meeting on May 10, 2010.

The meetings will be from 9:00 - 4:00.

Information from various sources related to professional preparation

The focus of the meeting was to establish priorities and develop new activities.  In preparation for completing this task the PPAG was presented with information from an array of sources.  As people heard and contributed to the information they were advised to reflect on and synthesize the information based on the following perspectives:

  • Political-legislative, legal, or policy
  • Economic, funding
  • Socio-cultural
  • Technological

This analysis is referred to as a PEST analysis.

Education Advisory Committee in Visual Impairments

The Texas Education of Blind and Visually Impaired Students Advisory Committee (VI Ed Advisory Board) is a committee that was originally constituted by TEA and continues functioning with the strong support of TEA.  It is made up of a broad array of stakeholders, including parents, VI professionals in various positions, related agency personnel including TEA staff and special education administrators.  Cyral Miller coordinates work for this committee, which met in October.

 At the February 2008 VI Ed Advisory Committee meeting one of the highest priority areas they identified was the need for more VI professionals.  Because the PPAG is working on this issue, the VI Ed Advisory Committee decided to support any PPAG efforts and not to create new ones. 

State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC)

Information about two issues related to SBEC was presented.

Certification-by-exam

Rona Pogrund talked about efforts to get SBEC to change the rule that allows TVIs to test for certification without completing all the approved coursework.  The issue was finally heard before the SBEC board on October 10th 2008.  The testimony was amazing; however the SBEC also provided testimony.  SBEC staff recommended that no change be made to the existing rule.  Although it was emphasized that the change wouldn't affect the shortage, that people could get a temporary credential, such as a probationary certification, the SBEC staff said they didn't have enough data and didn't want to increase the teacher shortage.  The staff said they didn't want to jeopardize the field.  The chairperson asked for a motion to accept or reject the proposal.  No motion was offered.  As a result, no change was made, nor was it rejected. 

Rona reported that there is a need for a new strategy to make this change.   It may be that data can be collected to prove the need.  Collecting data on this issue is quite complicated. All teacher certifications allow a test out provision; so getting this exception is difficult.  SBEC has various categories of certifications.  Currently the VI certification is in the classroom category.  One option is moving TVI out of the classroom category, moving it to the professional category.  The issues and consequences of such a move are still unknown.    

Nora noted that at a recent CEC - TED meeting there was information about a meta-analysis on alternative certified teacher s versus university certified which shows that ACP professionals score differently.

Emergency permit rules

There are two ways to get temporary credentials in Texas - via emergency permit and or a probationary certificate.  An emergency permit is issued by SBEC, and held by the district.  A probationary certificate is issued by a training program, and held by the candidate.  SBEC has proposed changes to the rules affecting emergency permits.

An emergency permit is a permit that does not meet NCLB standards and is not a full certificate but is still used by districts. The district creates a deficiency plan.  This permit is valid for one year.  It is renewable for up to 3 years if the teacher completes at least 6 hours of the deficiency plan.  It is not a high quality standard, but since these permits are still in use, it makes sense that the PPAG requests that this language be as strong as possible.  This will not apply to ACP programs, which issue probationary certifications. 

In 2002, it was anticipated that SBEC would be considering changes to emergency permit rules.  At that time the PPAG developed recommendations for emergency permits.  The PPAG met with staff from SBEC to develop recommendations to the VI emergency permit.  However, the SBEC Board decided not to address issues related to emergency permits and the PPAG recommendations from 2002 were not considered, nor changed.

In the past year, SBEC has been systematically rewriting their rules.  Currently, SBEC is focusing on Chapter 230.  A lot of work was done on the permit section without any VI input.  Recently SBEC held a forum to take suggestions about changes.   Marty and Rona were able to attend the entire meeting.  At that time, they recommended the following changes:

  • Remove the allowance for 1 year of classroom teaching in lieu of any coursework as a way to get the permit,
  • Strengthen the braille competence requirement, and
  • Strengthen the language related to the requirement that there be a supervisor who is certified in visual impairments.   

The other people who were at the meeting, predominately HR staff, voiced opposition to such changes.  SBEC is taking comments on this, and other, issues.   Any feedback needed to be submitted to SBEC within the next week.

There was significant discussion on issues related to temporary credentials, modifying the language of the existing permit requirements and the proposed recommendations from 2002.

Ultimately a vote was taken.  It was unanimously decided to recommend to SBEC that the emergency permit option be removed from the rules.  It was felt that the probationary certificate provided the desired temporary credential, and ensured that students would continue to have access to a VI teacher who was in training towards the full credential.

PPAG recommendations submitted to SBEC MS Word Document (25k) .

Alliance of and for Visually Impaired Texans (AVIT)

AVIT is a coalition of 26 organizations of or for people with visual impairments.  All priorities are arrived at through 100% consensus.  In preparation for the upcoming legislative session AVIT has identified 4 areas for legislative action.  Two of the priorities have relevance for the PPAG and are discussed below.

Increasing funding for university programs

The current university programs are predominately funded with TEA IDEA-B Discretionary funds.   The funding began in 2001.  It has been $900,000, remaining steady even though tuition has increased by more than 100% since that time.  The AVIT has advocated for increasing this amount.

If passed, the increase would go into the TSBVI budget.  It would support additional funding for both new TVIs and COMS.  This proposal has caught the interest of some people at the Capitol.  Marty noted that people in the field will need to add their voices to support this.  Marty strongly encouraged people that have any contacts with Senators Zaffarini or Shapiro to contact their offices and express support.

The PPAG gave Marty big applause for her work testifying for this increase!

Requirement that all students with visual impairments receive an O&M evaluation.

AVIT is asking that every student who is to be considered as having a visual impairment have an O&M evaluation as part of eligibility, and that subsequent re-evaluation include a COMS as part of the multidisciplinary team.  At the time of the meeting, this legislation still needed a sponsor.  Since that time a sponsor for the bill has been found.

This would ideally be done by TEA as a change of the Commissioner's rules but, so far, TEA has not done this.  (Note: the PPAG recommended this change to TEA in 2005.  At that time, they stated that such a requirement was already in the regulations and suggested that the PPAG pass the issue onto the VI network.)  AVIT is pursuing a legislative solution.  The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is not a member of the AVIT but is interested in this particular issue.

Previous PPAG Actions

In May, 2008 the PPAG developed a broad listing of priorities.  These were reviewed  in preparation for further development at this meeting.  Below is a listing of the top three priorities in each identified domain.

Programming issues

  • Focus on quality of new VI professionals
  • Communicating the scope of job; explore job shadowing during training
  • Define extent to which VI professionals understand role in regards to ECC (tie)
  • Support new teachers more (tie)

Funding

  • Collaborative recruitment and funding stream (with payback if don't complete)
  • Strategies to increase dollars for university programs

Recruitment and retention

  • Collaborative recruitment and funding stream (payback)
  • Recruit early (awareness based strategies)
  • Strategies to retain VI professionals (tie)
  • Determine why new VI professionals stay/leave (tie)

Miscellaneous & items referred to the VI network

  • Certification issues for students who are deafblind
  • Coordinated system of professional prep?
  • Explore state level stipend for VI professionals

Summary of characteristics of, and need for VI professionals

Participants were provided with an executive summary of the annual needs survey.  In short, the following characteristics were noted:

  • Total number of full and part time VI professionals has decreased since 2007.
  • A review of the projected 3-year attrition since 2000 shows that the projected attrition is always greater than anticipated.  As a result, we may be looking at nearly 150 people leaving in 3 years.
  • Cultural diversity issues, similar in the education field overall, remain a challenge.
  • Universities are training at their capacity, given current funding.

VI network update

ESCs are noting that the teachers who take a couple of classes and the test are the ones that take the most assistance and are the ones who tend to leave. 

ESC 10 and ESC 11 share their TETN training facilities for the SFASU classes.  Lately these ESCs are telling protégés that they have to pay $500 per class to access the TETN if they go out of their region.  In Region 12, the districts have been paying the TETN fee to the ESC.  ESC 10 and ESC 11 are now including this fee in their regional plans. 

PEST analysis of information provided

As noted previously, upon completion and discussion of this large volume of information, members of the PPAG were asked to reflect and synthesize the information using the framework identified earlier. (Political, Economical, Socio-cultural, and Technological). Below is a summary of what was said.

Political, legislative, policy factors

  • There will be change in the Department of Education in Washington D.C.
  • NCLB will be revised
  • Families of deafblind children are making inroads into the political sphere in both the state and national arena

Economic, funding factors

  • Small stipends can make a big difference in our field
  • Attrition may be less due to the drop in retirement funds and overall economic situations
  • Districts are having to watch their funding so caseloads may be higher - small districts are having to face consolidation
  • Cost of fuel impacted travel planning
  • Our teachers are being curbed from attending trainings because of cost of travel and limits on out of class time - means an opportunity to deliver training differently
  • We are now much more creative in funding training and creating new models
  • There are more contractual employees

Socio-cultural factors

  • We know that people leave, so how can we make plans that accommodate that as a given?
  • Role of the mentor has become larger recently - this can be positive as a support in difficult situations
  • We are increasing mentors across Texas - they need continuing training.
  • Huge demographic changes in the population of Texas

Technological factors

  • People are looking at alternative ways of using technology
  • Technology-based training can be isolating, can be more like snippets than the overall concepts
  • Limited commitment to, and ability to provide training that meets accessibility standards
  • Can be harder to find the time and dedicating the time to accessing web- based courses

Miscellaneous topics

On occasion various topics arose and were discussed that were tangential to the subject on the table.  Below is a summary of those topics.

Pre-school Leadership Seminar

A national collective of specialists in early childhood meet regularly to explore issues of common interest.  Ginny noted that this group is developing a document supporting the expanded core curriculum issues for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Summer course related topics at TTU

  • Last summer TTU was not able to support courses offered in the summer.  ESC 12 and 13 covered the cost of the adjunct faculty.  It is not anticipated that this summer will be any different.  If there is interest and funding TTU will offer summer coursework beyond the braille course (6 week).  If there isn't only braille will be offered.  No new stipends are expected to be available.
  • Various comments expressed the opinion that the eye class, which teaches eye anatomy and how to do a FVE and LMA, is more important than the foundations course and maybe should be offered first.  At TTU it is hard to offer the eye class and braille in the summer.  At SFA they enroll people ½ in braille and ½ in anatomy so they can offer both over the longer time of the summer.  The administrative and financial structure is such at TTU that stretching both courses out over the summer is very difficult, if not impossible.

Comments about stipends and student funds

  • Most of the stipends are claimed for this year. It was noted that there are many people now who are paying their own way and those folks are motivated!  There are sources for scholarships from AER and some of the universities.
  • This year there have been many more applicants for O&M, while last year there were hardly any.
  • There is a loan forgiveness program for special education, bilingual, technology, math, science.  Recipients must serve 5 years in a Title 1 district or campus (or a multi-campus program would need the superintendent to sign off).  Upon completion 100% of the loan is forgiven.  KC will get more information and share it with the PPAG. 
  • There is also a similar program for O&M certification.  However the O&M loan program will work differently; incremental forgiveness over the 5 years.  At this time, the O&M program is authorized, but not funded yet. 
  • TCASE has scholarships as well.
  • Paraprofessionals can get tuition reimbursed or paid to become a teacher. 

Action Planning

Following the discussion of the above data, the members of the PPAG were divided into groups using the domains identified in May 2008.  Each group was charged to develop a plan of action in that area.  It was eminently important that the action plan (s) developed be do-able.  A detailed sheet was developed and left with KC. 

A summary was presented to the group and individuals voted for priority actions.  In addition to voting on importance (or priority actions), members were also asked to vote on the length of time (and/or difficulty level) needed to accomplish the action.  Below is a summary of the proposed actions.  (See Expanded version of table) When two different groups came up with similar actions, those actions have been combined.

Summary of Proposed Actions
Topic Priority Votes Ease of completion &/or speed
Easy  Quick Medium Hard Long
New Teacher Support
Support new VI professionals
  • By providing a new VI teacher package statewide, available to all 20 regions.
  • Replicate model from ESC 4 using a 2-year cycle
  • Encourage ESCs to include this program in network plans
30 4 6 2
Increase notification of new students in university programs to ESCs. - Make contacting the ESC a university assignment.  Ensure that the information cannot be found on a website, that personal contact is involved. 19 20 0 0
Look at updating the RECC to include web-based training 0 0 1 0
Find a sponsor to propose legislation requiring O&M evaluations 10 0 5 3
Explore/address issues related to deafblind certification 0 0 1 3
Recruitment and Retention
Develop FAQs for ESCs and district special administrators on How to home-grow your own TVIs/O&M's including ability/willingness to provide necessary resources (release time, additional training, etc.) 19 13 0 0
Increase caseload analysis in an effort to retain VI professionals by reducing caseloads. 15 6 4 5
On Mentor Program Update form, query protégés on reasons for withdrawing from program or leaving the job. 9 5 0 0
Programming
Communicating scope of job and support for new VI professionals:
  • Provide all ESCs with a recommended listing of training for VI and O&M
  • Develop and provide a resource list of speakers and materials to support above listing.
16 6 0 0
Support job shadowing by:
  • Infusing more observation job shadowing in coursework
  • ESCs provide university programs with names of VI professionals willing to be shadowed by students
10 9 0 0
Expanded-Improved Programming
Find a sponsor to propose legislation requiring O&M evaluations 10 0 5 3
Explore/address issues related to deafblind certification 0 0 1 3
Funding
Continue to seek a variety of funding streams for university programs (ESCs, school districts, federal and state funds.) 3 0 0 8
Explore Medicaid funding to pay for O&M and VI services 3 0 2 0
Develop cooperatives to deliver vision services 2 0 0 2
Encourage special education administrators to hand-pick personnel to become university students (In the long run it would be cheaper, since these people may be more likely to stay with the district.) 2 0 0 0
Encourage local school districts to pay the ESC for building-use fee for TETN, similar to SLP program, instead of passing on to students. 1 0 0 0
Encourage parents to advocate for vision services by qualified and certified personnel and for funding. 0 0 1 0

Program Updates

TTU

  • The 11th Annual Sowell Center Distinguished Lecturer Series November 7, 2009  will be on  Prosthetic vision - Implications for Practitioners.  The lecture series is conducted at the  Sowell Center at TTU.
  • Nora mentioned that she is on a grant to develop curriculum modules to help new teachers work with diverse learners in inclusive classrooms - Project Ideal website will be available soon.
  • Dr. Kelley retired this past year and TTU is using adjunct faculty - Dr. Sharon Trusty, Dr. Holly Cooper and others to meet the needs of students.
  • Have added an assistive tech weekend to the methods course in partnership with TSBVI Outreach. 
  • Dr. Davidson got an OSEP grant called: CSI - children with sensory impairments - personnel prep grant for Wyoming, Virgin Islands, New Mexico, Mississippi and Texas to prepare COMS, TVIs, deafblind, deaf & hard of hearing. 

SFA

  • Have lots of students! 
  • Dr. Mercer stepped down from the department chair position to teaching.  There is a temporary chair and they are doing a national search.  They gave a hard money position to her! 
  • Bob Bryant is still teaching at SFA.

TAER/SWOMA

  • The statewide conference will be March 26-28 in San Antonio - deadline for submitting presentations is December 6th.  Nominations for awards go to Olivia Chavez.
  • SWOMA conference just ended and it was wonderful! 

ESC related news

  • ESC 4 is publishing a low vision kit - how do you teach low vision devices.  This was designed with Dr. Jose and will be available in late spring. 
  • In 1996 ESC 4 put together a list of O&M skills and it will come out again. 
  • In ESC 11, a group of COMS are connecting O&M skills to the TEKS. 

O&M Product information

  • Due to significant restraints on resources, the O&M video for parents won't be completed by the PPAG.  Information that has been developed will be available for other organizations.
  • Learn to Move brochures in English and Spanish are now available.  These are being posted widely.
  • A disk with the PowerPoint for administrators was given out to each person.  It does not have all the accessibility features.  This will be on the tsbvi.edu website very soon with all accessibility features.  The disk has the PowerPoint and the supporting documents.   Need to state that if there are changes that might affect the accessibility.

The PPAG meeting was concluded.

The next meeting will be May 12, 2009.

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