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For Immediate Release
March 14, 2006

Grant Names SIUE, SIUC To Facilitate Training In Southern Counties

As part of a statewide grant from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Southern Illinois University has been awarded $1.9 million to establish a center to support student assessment in preK-12 schools throughout 41 counties in the southern part of the state.

The ISBE award was granted with funds received from the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education.

The center will provide professional training practices for teachers in providing (a) scientific, research-based instruction for all students; (b) screening of all students in academics and behavior; (c) continuous progress monitoring of students skills; and (d) specialized assessment and intervention support to pinpoint the needs of students who demonstrate difficulties.

The center—which also will provide on-site support to school administrators, teachers, parents, and special education professionals—is designed to support schools as they implement policies in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004.

State School Superintendent Randy Dunn said he believed the center will be a great asset to school districts as they strive to meet the guidelines laid out by the No Child Left Behind Act.

“We have an obligation at the state level to reach out to these districts and provide assistance to them and this partnership with SIU will allow us to accomplish that objective here in Southern Illinois.”

Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard, a former high school teacher and former director of a regional educational service program, praised the collaborative effort.

"The SIU campuses have assembled a team of outstanding partners including local education agencies, regional providers, and parent entities to create a research-based program of personnel development and technical assistance in the southern region of Illinois," Poshard commented. "We want to ensure that at-risk children and children with disabilities get the opportunities to improve their educational outcomes. As the leading institutions of higher education in the region, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville are well equipped to accomplish this goal," Poshard concluded.

Creators of the grant said the program will increase the overall achievement of all students, while also identifying and providing additional instruction and support for students who may be at-risk for experiencing educational difficulties. “The center will support schools in designing a system that provides a true continuum of services between general education and special education,” said Melissa Bergstrom, principal grant writer and assistant professor of Special Education and Communication Disorders at SIU Edwardsville.

“The center will focus on increasing the achievement of all students by focusing on strategic instruction for each student.”

In partnership with Bergrstom in creation of the grant proposal were: Michael McCollum, director of SASED; Phil Weishaar, director of the Perandoe (Perry, Randolph, Monroe counties) Special Education Cooperative; Mary Weishaar, SIUE Special Education Program Director; Victoria Scott, an associate professor of Special Education and Communication Disorders at SIUE; Elliott Lessen, dean of the SIUE School of Education; Nancy Mundschenk, associate professor of Educational Psychology and Special Education at SIU Carbondale; Regina Foley, also an associate professor at SIUC; Patricia Elmore, dean of the SIUC College of Education and Human Services; John Davis, director of the Saluki Kids Program at SIUC; Christy Magnuson, director of the Belleville Area Special Services Cooperative; Marc Kiehna, superintendent of the Monroe/Randolph Regional Office of Education; Rebecca Keim, superintendent of the Chester Community School District; Linda Nelson, director of JAMP Special Education Services, and Deb Einhorn, director of Family Matters.

Bergstrom said the initiative will begin with an “integration of knowledge and skills” into the education curriculum at SIUE and SIUC.

The center will be co-directed by Bergstrom and McCollum. Mundschenk and Foley will be serving as regional coordinators at SIUC, and Susan Claflin, assistant professor of Special Education and Communication Disorders at SIUE, will be serving as a regional coordinator. Einhorn and Scott will be working as parent coordinators, and Ann Schwarm will be the standards aligned curriculum coordinator. Ken Hill will be conducting the evaluation of the projects.

Under the program guidelines, Bergstrom said, schools may submit a competitive application to work in partnership with the center. “Schools will select representative teams to participate in the center’s training series,” Bergstrom said. “These teams will have the charge of implementing the new practices and procedures in their schools.

“The school teams will receive extensive follow-up support throughout the funding period because educational systems change often requires at least 3-5 years of support. During this time,” she said, “school teams and parents will receive on-going training and consultation. Also, extensive data will be collected to ascertain the effectiveness of the activities in increasing the school’s performance and students’ achievement.”

The center will also be working with institutions of higher education across Southern Illinois “to integrate the cutting-edge practices of the Center” into the curriculum for future educators, Bergstrom explained. “This will impact the education of future teachers, school administrators, school psychologists, school social workers, counselors, and speech and language therapists in order to better prepare them to become leaders in improving educational practices.”

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777