Pennsylvania


State Highlights 02/01/10 to 09/30/10

The SpecialQuest State Leadership Team has merged with the National Professional Development Center on Inclusion (NPDCI) initiative in Pennsylvania and maintains the following vision:

 

To create and sustain opportunities for all Pennsylvania’s youngest children to benefit from high quality inclusive early care and education opportunities through approaches that unify and recognize the important contributions of all the necessary partners—parents, schools, child care, early intervention, Head Start, community organizations and higher education.

 

The combined effort has prioritized the following four goal areas:

 

  1. Assure that Pennsylvania’s policies and practices foster and support quality inclusion across communities.
  2. Increase access to and participation in leadership opportunities for families of young children with and without disabilities.
  3. Develop a regional cross-sector professional development system to support increased opportunities for high quality inclusion.
  4. Increase the emphasis in pre-service education (coursework and field experiences) on children with disabilities and inclusion.

 

The Pennsylvania State Leadership Team’s commitment to promote the SpecialQuest approach and materials was evident, not only in the prominence SpecialQuest has within the activities for each of the goal areas listed above, but in the members’ level of involvement as both developers and presenters of professional development. The target audiences have been far-reaching—from early childhood professional development providers and families, to the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), and Pennsylvania Keys leadership and staff. The team members—and particularly the State Leadership Team Liaison—worked diligently to ‘get the word out’ about SpecialQuest across The Commonwealth.

 

In the fall of 2008, the first round of eight regional cross-sector professional development cadres participated in the Professional Development Summit, during which they received information about the SpecialQuest approach and materials. Cadres were co-led by Early Intervention Technical Assistance (EITA) and Pennsylvania Key Staff. Co-leads were encouraged to recruit additional community partners, e.g. Head Start Disability Coordinators, parents, and regional Institution of Higher Education (IHE) representatives as they moved forward to plan professional development opportunities that promote quality inclusion. The second round of regional cadres also received information about the SpecialQuest approach and materials during their launch in 2009, with in-depth content provided to cadre members through three Training of Trainers events later that summer.

 

SpecialQuest Consultants conducted the Training of Trainer events in different regions of the state. A fourth Training of Trainer event was offered in the summer of 2010. These events were marketed to professional development providers across sectors within early childhood, including parent leaders and IHE faculty. Action plans (some individual, some group) were generated as a result of the Training of Trainer events. The target audiences specified within plans varied from program specific (e.g., new Early Head Start grantees) to community partners.

 

Also in the summer of 2009, the SpecialQuest Multimedia Training Library was approved as Pennsylvania’s Quality Assurance System (PQAS) training content. During that time period, State Leadership Team members jointly planned and delivered three separate SpecialQuest training events as part of PQAS certified training in conjunction with content from the Strengthening Families curriculum. PQAS certifies individuals that provide professional development and technical assistance to early childhood and school-age professionals in Pennsylvania. Training participants represented a widerange of audiences, from child care providers to community fire fighters. This diverse group of training participants later proved to be strong advocates for inclusion and wanted more information about how to best support families in their communities.

 

In addition to the Training of Trainer events, additional opportunities were made available to IHE faculty to experience the SpecialQuest approach and materials at the Higher Education Diversity Institutes in 2009 and 2010. Recent data indicate that undergraduate education majors continue to experience content from the SpecialQuest Multimedia Training Library.

 

In May 2010, the OCDEL Parents as Presenters in Professional Development (P3D) initiative was launched to make a difference in higher education pre-service practices. This was done by holding two events to mobilize parents who were previously trained via the Parents as Presenters program and are now interested in participating in a new initiative that would use their skills of telling their story to students and faculty within higher education. A communication plan is being developed to facilitate linking these parents with interested faculty in a way that is meaningful and holds value for both parties, as well as the students they plan to influence.

 

The State Leadership Team Liaison developed a website for the joint SpecialQuest Birth–Five/NPDCI initiative in Pennsylvania: http://training.eita-pa.org/course/view.php?id=23 The website includes news from SpecialQuest and NPDCI, professional development updates and resources, inclusion resources and details about the State Leadership Team. The website also maintains a simple four-question training questionnaire to be completed by all trainers using the SpecialQuest approach and materials. This data is being compiled and tabulated to track use of the SpecialQuest approach and materials in Pennsylvania with the intent of eventually capturing data on the impact that SpecialQuest Birth–Five has had across all OCDEL programs.

 

Community Level Work

 

Members of the SpecialQuest Community Teams, Central Fulton School District and Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center Early Head Start, have provided strong leadership in facilitating community-level collaboration and outreach. New partners have been invited to the table, including mental health and preschool special education, to jointly identify and plan professional development strategies to address identified needs.

 

A third community in Franklin County (neighbor to Fulton) was introduced to SpecialQuest during a Local Interagency Coordinating Council meeting and wanted to learn more. They requested mentor support from Central Fulton School District as well as guidance from the State Leadership Team Liaison to launch their own ‘Quest.’ Franklin County has held their first meeting and is moving forward in making use of the SpecialQuest approach and materials to promote quality inclusive early care and education opportunities for their children and families.

 

Future Plans

 

The SpecialQuest/NPDCI State Leadership Team will continue to operate for one more year with facilitation support from NPDCI. Activities involving the SpecialQuest approach and materials will continue by means of a newly designated SpecialQuest Workgroup, which will use the vision and accomplishments over the past three years as a basis to develop a plan for next steps to move the work forward, track impact, and sustain the work of SpecialQuest in Pennsylvania.

 

State Highlights 04/01/09 to 01/31/10

The Pennsylvania State Leadership Team currently has 22 members. Pennsylvania is working with the National Professional Development Center on Inclusion and SpecialQuest, and their State Leadership Team represents both initiatives.

 

The Pennsylvania team has focused on the following four areas:

  1. Policies and Practices;
  2. Family Leadership;
  3. Regional Cross-sector Professional Development; and
  4. Pre-service Education.

 

Recent highlights of the Pennsylvania State Leadership Team:

 

The SpecialQuest State Leadership Team Communities in Pennsylvania are Central Fulton County School District in McConnelsburg, and Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center Early Head Start in Pittsburgh. The communities receive quarterly site visits from the SpecialQuest Coaches.

 

Recent highlights of Central Fulton County School District:

 

Recent highlights of Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center Early Head Start:

 


 

State Summary 10/01/08 to 03/31/09

SpecialQuest Birth–Five in Pennsylvania has worked collaboratively with staff from the National Professional Development Center on Inclusion (NPDCI) and their efforts underway in the state. NPDCI began working with Pennsylvania in 2006, one year prior to SpecialQuest Birth–Five. The NPDCI plan included the designation of regional cross-sector cadres of professional development providers across the state. Those cadres were launched at a Leadership Summit held in October 2008, during which the SpecialQuest approach and materials were shared as potential training curricula for use in their work with local communities.

 

In January 2009, representatives from the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) decided that the two professional development initiatives would merge. The merger resulted in one advisory body/leadership team to guide the design and implementation of a comprehensive strategic plan for early childhood professional development on inclusion, facilitated by a single project Liaison within the state. Merging the two initiatives was seen as an efficient alignment of effort within the state—one that would ideally result in there being an on-going 'home' for professional development planning and implementation activities around early childhood inclusion within cross-sector state infrastructure that would have connections to regional teams/cadres statewide.

 

Members of the State Leadership Team were notified of the merger, and the rationale behind the decision, at the quarterly meeting in February 2009. The team began the work of merging the action plans of the two initiatives. While complimentary in terms of having similar priorities focused on developing a statewide professional development plan, targeting pre-service efforts within Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs), and measuring the impact of our work, thorough alignment of activities across plans is somewhat complicated.

 

The SpecialQuest Birth–Five action plans include additional content on ensuring that: 1) the essential players have been defined at all levels; 2) Pennsylvania’s regulations and system supports foster the state’s vision of inclusion; 3) the SpecialQuest approach and materials are embedded in the state's professional development plan; and 4) that families are engaged in leadership activities across the state. A Transition Team of State Leadership Team members (including those who participated in the initial NPDCI Steering Committee) have been identified to assist in the essential task of aligning the blueprint for combined work.

 

There has been some turnover in the make-up of the State Leadership Team. Over the past six months, four of the original team members have left due to either job resignation or shift in duties. However, new members have also been added to the team, including a representative from the state library system.

 

Planning is underway for the first pre-service/personnel preparation training session on the SpecialQuest approach and materials in the state. A parent from the State Leadership Team, along with a SpecialQuest Birth–Five Coach and a SpecialQuest Coach from Massachusetts who also teaches college-level courses are developing a full-day session to be presented at the Higher Education Institute on Diversity in early June.

 

The two SpecialQuest Graduate Team Communities, Council of Three Rivers and Fulton County, have continued to meet quarterly with their SpecialQuest Coaches. Activities include supporting parent involvement and planning local cross-sector professional development activities using the SpecialQuest approach and materials.

 


 

State Summary 04/01/08 to 9/30/08

The Pennsylvania State Leadership Team was initially small, but has grown to a total of 19 participants, six of whom are also members on the National Professional Development Center for Inclusion (NPDCI) team, including the Pennsylvania Liaison to NPDCI.

 

The Liaisons to the two professional development initiatives have collaborated well together and have effectively brought clarity on how the two initiatives complement one another. Since NPDCI was launched one year prior to SpecialQuest Birth–Five, there was a plan underway to develop regional cross-sector cadres of professional development providers across the state. Those cadres are being launched at a Leadership Summit in October 2008. The two State Leadership Team Liaisons, as well as the project coordinators for each initiative, participated on weekly conference calls to plan the agenda for the two-day summit, looking for opportunities to infuse the SpecialQuest approach and materials throughout the two days and sharing the SpecialQuest Multimedia Training Library with members from the regional cadres as potential training curricula to use in their work with local communities.

 

The Pennsylvania State Leadership Team is currently working on five action plans:

 

  1. Define players at all levels.

  2. Embed the SpecialQuest approach and materials in Pennsylvania's professional development plan.

  3. Ensure that Pennsylvania's regulations and system supports foster Pennsylvania’s vision of inclusion.

  4. Evaluation.

  5. Engage families in leadership activities across the state.

 

Of the five priority areas, the most activity to date has occurred within 1) defining players at all levels, and 2) embedding the SpecialQuest approach and materials in Pennsylvania’s professional development plan. The team has actively sought and recruited new membership from family leadership centers, child care, and higher education, all of whom attended the summer 2008 meeting. In addition to the work related to the Leadership Summit mentioned above, joint training between Early Intervention (birth–five) Technical Assistance providers and Keystone Stars (child care) Technical Assistance providers on the SpecialQuest Multimedia Training Library was provided on September 15, 2008. At the end of the event, it was agreed that the Technical Assistance staff would create an opportunity to meet a half-hour prior to each regularly scheduled staff meeting to share ideas and experiences for how the SpecialQuest Multimedia Training Library could be/had been used with providers in their region, thereby establishing a forum for a Community of Practice on their use of the SpecialQuest Multimedia Training Library.

 

The two SpecialQuest State Leadership Team Communities are Central Fulton School District in McConnellsburg, and Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center Early Head Start, located in Pittsburgh. These two communities are working to expand the SpecialQuest approach birth–five and complete the Community Perceptions of Inclusive Practices annually. The communities receive quarterly site visits from the SpecialQuest Coaches and are represented on the State Leadership Team.

 


 

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