BCSC honored for two ‘promising practices’

The Indiana Department of Education is recognizing Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. for two of its practices that state education leaders say are having a positive impact on local students.

As part of the education department’s Promising Practices program, BCSC was recognized in May for its dedication to creating an inclusive learning environment and again in June for customizing its teacher evaluation systems.

The Promising Practices program asks school districts across the state to submit summaries of various educational practices, which are then reviewed by the state department of education. Practices that are found to be student-centered and focused on positively impacting students are recognized as statewide promising practices.

George Van Horn, BCSC’s director of special education, said he submitted data that showed the district’s main educational model, Universal Design for Learning, was having a positive impact on the general student population and on students in special needs classes.

Universal Design for Learning is designed to meet the needs of all types of learners through three principles of education:

Multiple means of engagement, which focuses on motivating students

Multiple means of representations, which focuses on student comprehension

Multiple means of action and expression, which focuses on student goals

The Universal Design for Learning philosophy is intended to meet each individual student where they are, regardless of any barriers to learning that might stand in their way. For students in the district’s Life Skills classes, the individualized attention that is offered through the philosophy of university design for learning has led to an overall increase in student achievement, Van Horn said.

About 85 percent of the district’s 1,600 special needs students spend about 80 percent of their day in general education classrooms, where the framework is utilized to help those students succeed, Van Horn said.

The positive effects of Universal Design for Learning are reflected in district data, Van Horn said, with graduation rates for local special needs students and the percentage of those students passing the ISTEP+ exam increasing consistently between 2009 and 2014.

“Our framework of creating really accessible, flexible classrooms for all students and choices for all students is having a positive impact on students,” Van Horn said.

Bill Jensen, the district’s director of secondary education, said the Universal Design for Learning concept also helped the district earn its second Promising Practices honor for its customized teacher evaluation process.

Rather than using the state’s standard evaluation model, BCSC took that model and customized it to determine how well local teachers utilize the model, Jensen said.

For example, the district evaluates teachers on how well they implement Positive Behavior Instructional Supports expectations, which are used to teach and promote positive behaviors, which lead to improved classroom environments. Local teachers use Universal Design for Learning principles to teach those positive behavior expectations.

Teachers from outside of BCSC who are not happy with how their districts evaluate them have complimented the Columbus public school district’s method of assessing teacher performance, Jensen said.

“We’re very pleased with the result, and it has driven a lot of student success,” he said.

The state department of education has taken note of the district’s Universal Design for Learning philosophy in the past by asking BCSC leaders to give presentations about it to other educators across the state, Van Horn said.

All promising practices recognized by the department of education are being shared across the state as examples of school district practices that have a positive impact on Indiana students.

About the Promising Practices program

In recognition of Indiana’s bicentennial celebration, the Indiana Department of Education will recognize 200 Promising Practices in Indiana schools in 2016. The program is meant to highlight school practices that are student-centered and focus on positively impacting students. Each Promising Practice will be shared with other schools across the state. So far, 116 Promising Practices have been recognized by the department.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.