In the Spotlight: Introducing the Secondary Transition IEP Rubric

Submitted by Missy Wrigley, Technical Assistance Provider

Educators and families work collaboratively to develop IEP goals and objectives to assure students’ access to the general education curriculum in the least restrictive environment. Once the student gets closer to high school graduation, the primary focus of the IEP shifts to secondary transition. By law, this shift begins not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the student turns 16, or younger if deemed appropriate.

Schools participating in CT’s SPDG have the opportunity to strengthen their IEPs by participating in an Educational Benefit Review Process. As part of this process, IEPs are collected, reviewed, and scored using the IEP Rubric developed by the State Education Resource Center (SERC).

SERC’s IEP rubric, as currently designed, does not address specific categories related to secondary transition. So the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and SERC have developed a separate IEP rubric that measures the quality of secondary transition services and planning provided for students with disabilities. The new rubric outlines best practices based on a continuum of transition services.

The IEP Rubric for Secondary Transition defines seven indicators needed for quality Secondary Transition IEP development. The rubric is constructed on the same premise as all IEPs: that all students are entitled to the general education curriculum within the least restrictive environment, and therefore the design of an IEP is focused on student outcomes based in the general education curriculum and/or community-based supports and operates on a continuum specifically targeted to meet the unique needs of the student. The purpose of the rubric is to provide educators and families a means to assess the quality of an IEP and the services provided by shifting the IEP from an emphasis on legal or compliance tasks to an instructional tool that can be used to guide Planning and Placement Teams in how to best support a student in achieving the same general education and occupational standards as his or her peers without disabilities.

The transition rubric will be provided to schools working with transition-age students. A copy of the rubric can also be found on SERC’s website under the Secondary Transition Initiative: As the rubric is still in draft form. We are inviting feedback; please send questions and comments to Missy Wrigley at

Published: January 21, 2015

In the Spotlight: Torrington Middle School

Submitted by Michelle Weaver, Technical Assistance Provider

Torrington Middle School is in Phase 1 of Connecticut’s SPDG. In the few months since the school began participation, the middle school staff have been busy reviewing systems and reorganizing processes. The School Leadership Team has been engaged in discussions about their role in ensuring that the school climate respects and reflects the students and families served by TMS.

In the spirit of fully embracing the opportunity for change, the middle school invited the Republican-American newspaper to its initial Welcoming Walkthrough on November 7. A Welcoming Walkthrough involves a team of family, community, and staff members using observational data to reveal strengths and ways in which the school can create a more welcoming atmosphere. This may include the addition of more specific signage, improved public relations, or organization of traffic patterns to make the school grounds easier to navigate. At the conclusion of Torrington Middle School’s Walkthrough, the School Leadership Team was provided specific feedback regarding focus areas for improvement. By inviting the Republican-American, the school could inform many more people in the community that the process took place and that stakeholders were invited to give input on how-to improve the school climate.

For the full article, please contact the Republican-American at (203) 574-3636.

Nonnewaug - Honesty

From left, Veronica Marion, State Education Resource Center, Neil Sullivan, assistant principal, and Mary Ann Buchanan, assistant principal, meet with community leaders at the Middle School in Torrington Friday. A group of 12 parents and community members were at the school for a “welcoming walk through.” They were looking at specific domains of the schools, including physical environment and policies and procedures. Steven Valenti Republican-American

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Christy Ahlman of Torrington, a school parent, looks over school papers at the Middle School in Torrington Friday. A group of 12 parents and community members were at the school for a “welcoming walk through.” They were looking at specific domains of the schools, including physical environment and policies and procedures. Steven Valenti Republican-American

Nonnewaug - Honesty

Traci Belcher of Torrington looks over papers that go home to students at the Middle School in Torrington Friday. A group of 12 parents and community members were at the school for a “welcoming walk through.” They were looking at specific domains of the schools, including physical environment and policies and procedures. Steven Valenti Republican-American

Published: December 17, 2014

In the Spotlight: Educational Benefit – A Marriage of Compliance and Quality

Submitted by Nikki Hendry and Missy Wrigley, Technical Assistance Providers

The Educational Benefit Review Process, informally called “Ed Benefit”, is a structured process that provides school teams the opportunity to examine three years of IEPs for improved educational outcomes. Following local compliance requirements alone does not guarantee that students are receiving quality programming to meet goals and objectives, demonstrate growth year to year, show improved outcomes on state and district assessments, graduate high school, or achieve other goals such as postsecondary education, employment, or independent living. Ed Benefit increases educators’ ability to ensure students’ goals and objectives are age appropriate, based on general education content and expectations, include specially designed instruction, foster greater independence, and involve families.

Schools participating in CT’s SPDG have the opportunity to participate in an Educational Benefit Review Process at the beginning of their involvement with the grant and at the end. Patterns in post data show that schools are doing a better job of: using multiple sources of data to determine present level of performance; creating goals and objectives that are more observable, measurable, and specific; analyzing use of accommodations and assistive technologies to increase student independence; and increasing communication between school and home.

More information about the Educational Benefit Review Process can be found on SERC’s website.

Published: December 5, 2014

In the Spotlight: Old Saybrook High School

Submitted by Gerald Hairston & Lillie Stuart, Technical Assistance Providers

In her first year as principal of Old Saybrook High, Sheila Riffle sought to enhance the school culture. Her vision was for the community, staff, and students to share a common vision of what it meant to be an OSHS “Ram.” All stakeholders needed to have acommon belief system for the institution to achieve its goals.

Under SPDG, SERC provided training and on-site technical assistance to support the implementation of Sheila’s vision. Sheila has used various structures such as the school’s weekly “advisory block” as a vehicle to analyze the core values and beliefs of the school, and to determine the attributes that best exemplified the school as a whole. Through a series of activities, students and staff determined that to be a Ram meant to have PRIDE: Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Determination, and Excellence.

In the course of a year, the mindset around academics, personal responsibility, and discipline deeply encompass these attributes. Accordingly, the school saw a significant decline in disciplinary incidents during the 2013-14 academic year. Incidents of defiance decreased 20%, skipping class decreased 10%, and disruptive behavior decreased 5%.

Today, in the 2014-15 school year, P.R.I.D.E. is more obvious in the look and feel of Old Saybrook High. Around the school are reminders of the school’s new acronym. Under Sheila’s leadership, and the support of her committed staff, students are in class and more engaged in their learning. Collectively they are providing the foundation for effective instruction to take place across curricula and classrooms.

Published: November 13, 2014

In the Spotlight: We’ve been proud to work with Killingly Central School!

Submitted by Janet Zarchen, Technical Assistance Provider

The PBIS program at KCS makes connections to the greater school community. By involving a former student in the creation of its behavior expectations posters, KCS has infused enthusiasm and excitement into PBIS.

The school began participating in SPDG in 2012. This article demonstrates how the school’s determination, commitment and hard work have paid off!

Read More about Spencer LaBell’s posters at Killingly Center School at!


Published: October 21, 2014

In the Spotlight: Bureau of Special Education Back to School Session – September 17, 2014

Submitted by Michelle LeBrun-Griffin, Project Coordinator

Presentation by Regina Murzak, Principal, and Kellie Farr, 4th Grade Teacher and PBIS Coach, Laurel Ledge School, RSD #16

During the Bureau of Special Education’s Back to School session, Dr. Brandi Simonsen, Center for Education and Behavior Research/UCONN, spoke about the systems approach to PBIS. She highlighted current research studies and declared, “If we want equitable student outcomes, then we need culturally valid decision-making, culturally relevant interventions, and culturally knowledgeable staff behavior.” Dr. Simonsen shared that comprehensive professional development, including training, coaching, and performance feedback was needed focusing on how and to what degree teachers are using evidence-based practices to create a more conducive learning environment for students.

Representatives from Laurel Ledge School in Region #16 (Beacon Falls, Prospect) spoke about how their successful implementation of PBIS resulted in change in student outcomes. Regina and Kellie referenced their participation in CT’s SPDG as a catalyst for systems change. We want to publicly thank them for their accolades and share with you their lessons learned as one of our stellar Cohort 1 schools. Click here to watch a video from this event.

Published: October 6, 2014