Wednesday, 21 June 2017 05:50

Chinook Student Services restructuring will use systematic approach to provide student support

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The Chinook School Division is restructuring the Student Services program to ensure that ongoing support can be provided to students with reduced resources.


Details about the restructuring and the activities of Student Services were provided at a regular Chinook School Division meeting, June 12.
Superintendent of Learning Bob Vavra presented the monitoring report for Special Education and Student Services to board members.
“We would like to get clear processes to identify students that need supports and strategies for improvement,” he said. “So what that means is we really need to narrow our focus to the students that really need our help and get the people that can provide that help to them in the most effective way possible.”
The goal of Chinook Students Services is to provide specialized services to students who need more assistance than what is available in classrooms. This support currently takes place through four cluster areas, but for the 2017-18 school year it will change to three clusters. There will be a west cluster, a northeast/south cluster and a central cluster.
“Every cluster team will have that same area of expertise or level of expertise, and they will be able to support the 10 or 12 schools in their cluster,” he said.
Each cluster will have the support of a specialist, an educational psychologist, a speech and language pathologist, and at least two coordinators, while the school division’s occupational therapist will work within all the clusters.
“What we would like to do is give them the training to handle the anxiety, the autism and the behaviour so they can support their clusters at schools,” he said. “In the past we’ve had one team support the whole division, but what we found is it's going to be a little bit easier and manageable if they can do it within the cluster.”
The restructuring will result in a change to the number of staff in Student Services. There are currently four student service co-ordinators, but in accordance with the three-cluster model there will be three co-ordinators next year. The number of psychologists will also change from four to three. The number of occupational therapists will be reduced from two to one.
There will also be a change to other staffing numbers. For speech and language pathologists the reduction will be from 5.7 FTE (full-time equivalent) to 3.0 FTE, while the change for counsellors will be from 12.1 FTE to 8.8 FTE.
As a result of these staffing reductions the school division will use technology more effectively to provide support while reducing the amount of time spend by Student Services staff to travel to schools.
“We’ll be looking at maybe providing some of the counselling and things by distance, where we can really reduce the travel time and maybe even provide the same supports just by doing things differently,” he said.
Vavra noted the work done by Student Services will have to become more systematic and intentional and staff will have to change the way they do things. A new meeting structure will be implemented to ensure that meetings between teachers, administrators and specialists only take place on non-instructional days.
Student service co-ordinators and specialists will continue to provide support to teacher assistance teams, but there will be changes to the manner in which the support is provided.
“We’re going to change the model a little bit for next year to make schools a little bit more self reliant, but if they need help, we’re going to make sure that we are there, either in person or probably we’ll be leveraging video,” he said. “We don’t necessarily need to drive an hour or sometimes longer in the division for a 15-or 20-minute meeting, but we have video set up in our schools and if they need a specialist, definitely they will connect through video to provide the supports.”
There are currently about 155 intensive need students in the Chinook School Division. Most of these students have an inclusion and intervention plan to guide their learning. The plans are created by support teams that include school and division staff.
According to Vavra about 85 per cent of students will not need additional support, while five to 10 per cent might need tier two interventions.
“They’re kind of short bursts of additional support for 12 to 20 weeks and what we found is that most kids will actually reach grade level and they tend to stay there,” he said. “Our numbers over the past eight years have been about 80 per cent of the kids that go into an intervention of that type, actually stay with those kids at grade level.”
It is important for such interventions to happen as soon as possible. Students who receive these interventions by Grade 3 will most likely remain at grade level during future school years.
A small number of students might need a Tier 3 intervention, which will require more intensive support.
“We'll get them more a one on one to try to get them into the tier two, to get them into the classroom,” he said. “It doesn’t always work for them. So we’ll give them the supports they need. It might lead to different programming for those folks, and those are the intensive needs kids.”
During the 2016-17 school year the school division provided training in the key components of early literacy to student services teachers in all schools.
“They will do very unique, individualized assessments to find out where those kids are at and to create strategies and programs to help them out,” he said. “That was out tier three literacy intervention and it worked really well.”
For the 2017-18 school year the focus will shift to provide tier three math intervention training to these teachers.
“We have our literacy in place for the most part and our staff trained,” he said. “Now we’ll train our staff on looking at math and making those early interventions for students that struggle in math andas early as possible to get them where they can go.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

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