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CDCI Connects Issue 2, September 2018: Back to School

Posted on the 04 September, 2018 at 10:03 am Written by in News

CDCI Connects: Welcome!

Thank you for joining us for our second issue of CDCI Connects! This month’s theme is Back to School. It’s an exciting time for many as the youngest learners join early intervention and early childhood programs; students progress through elementary, middle, and high schools; and young and older adults participate in technical, higher, and continuing education.

Within our own College of Education and Social Services (CESS) at UVM, we welcome students from 6 weeks to 5 years at the Campus Children’s School (shout out to my son’s new preschool class!), students working toward certificates in CDCI’s Think College Vermont and the Certificate of Graduate Studies in the Interdisciplinary Study of Disability, and those earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in the CESS academic programs, including the new minors in American Sign Language and Education for Cultural and Linguistic Diversity.

Each new school years start with excitement and high expectations, and all students require a range of supports to be successful. In this issue, we highlight several efforts to improve both broad school-wide systems and individual services for students with disabilities.

A new Vermont law passed this year that changes the special education funding model and makes recommendations to improve the effectiveness of services for students with disabilities. Different partners have shared with us both high hopes and serious concerns about this new law. CDCI is committed to supporting schools as the law becomes practice and we learn more about how it is affecting special education in Vermont.

We highlight CDCI’s Project EVOLVE Plus, and specifically the Numbers that Count! work to improve special education service delivery.

We have two new profiles featuring UVM and community partners. Tammy Kolbe, Assistant Professor in our college and one of the authors of the “Study of Vermont State Funding for Special Education” whose recommendations became part of the new law. And Jay Diaz, ACLU Attorney, Vermont LEND faculty, and author of the influential report, “Kicked Out! Unfair and Unequal Student Discipline in Vermont’s Public Schools.”

Finally, we’re excited to share news of a national partner testifying before the Senate, Victoria Lihiru’s work in Tanzania after returning from Vermont, and the new Vermont Secretary of Education. Thank you for connecting with us, and don’t hesitate to send ideas for future issues.

All my best,
– Jesse Suter, Director

Special News Report: Act 173 H.897

This back to school issue of CDCI Connects discusses Vermont’s new special education law. Many people have shared confusion and worry about the proposed changes, so we’d like to share a brief summary of it. The Agency of Education (AOE) provides a more substantial overview in their Memo on Act 173, and the conversation will continue for the next several years.

The stated purpose of the new law is to make changes in schools to give all students a better and more equitable education. Some of the ways it proposes doing this include:

  1. Helping schools and educators support all students at a universal level and then add more support for the students who need more help. This is called a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). Read the MTSS Field Guide.
  2. Helping schools support all students by promoting positive behavior and actions. This is called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Learn more about Vermont PBIS, a part of CDCI’s BEST Project.
  3. Making sure students with complex support needs are being supported by the best experts. Learn more about CDCI’s Vermont I-Team supports.

Along with these changes, the state is adjusting how special education is funded. Instead of reimbursing schools for a portion of special education services and supports, every district or supervisory union will receive funds based on how many students are in that district or union. This is called a census-based funding model.

Not all special education funding will change (e.g., no changes to grants for consultants for students with complex disabilities, consultants for students who are blind or visually impaired, and consultants for deaf and hard of hearing), and not all of these changes will happen at once. The funding channels will not entirely move over until the 2020-2021 school year. During the next few years, Vermont’s AOE will work with schools to make sure they have the training and supports in place so they can make this change. CDCI already contracts with the state to help schools in areas like PBIS through the BEST Project and to support students with complex learning needs through our Vermont I-Team.

CDCI works to educate the community and university on policies that affect the lives of Vermonters with disabilities. We will continue to create and share summaries, updates, and findings for Act 173.

Read Summary or Full Law for Act 173

CDCI Highlight: EVOLVE Plus & Numbers that Count!

If your school is interested in using special education resources more effectively to support students with disabilities, where do you start? Is there information about your school, teachers, and students that could help you reflect on what you’re doing now and then make decisions about what to strengthen and change? These are the questions that guide CDCI’s Numbers that Count! service within Project EVOLVE Plus.

Created by Dr. Michael Giangreco (and supported by Dr. Jesse Suter), Project EVOLVE Plus offers school-based research, training, and technical assistance to support students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms. This work has provided direct support to schools and resulted in several research publications.

Numbers that Count! is a way for schools to collect and review data affecting their inclusive special education service delivery. For example, a special educator may have a caseload of 10 students receiving special education. However, that special educator also provides primary supports to 2 more students on 504 plans, and 2 more students considered at-risk. In addition, they also regularly support 3-4 more students who are on other educators’ caseloads. So a seemingly favorable caseload of 10 is more accurately 17-18 students.

Working with over 70 schools we found it can be helpful to compare the number of special educators (in full-time-equivalents) to the total number of students in the school. This ratio will account for changes in school population growth or decline and changes in the percentage of students identified as having a disability. From our research, this ratio (special educator school density) has been correlated with the percentage of students identified as disabled, caseload size, special educator’s belief that they could meet the needs of their students, and special educator absences.

Data like these can only be numbers that count if schools collect and use them to start conversations about how they can improve supports for students with disabilities.

Read more about EVOLVE Plus & Numbers that Count!
Photo by David Seaver

UVM Partner Profile:
Meet Tammy Kolbe, Ed.D., Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

We were very fortunate to talk with Tammy Kolbe, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies within the College of Education and Social Services (CESS). Upon meeting her, it is impossible to overlook Tammy’s passion for making meaningful change. Her drive and dedication to ensuring students are supported in a way that connects their education, family, and community truly embodies the work CDCI, CESS, and UVM all strive to do. Tammy shared with us the story of how she made her way to teaching at UVM, her current work which includes the study of Vermont State Funding for Special Education, and what’s next for her, the university, and Vermont.

Read Tammy’s Profile

Community Partner Profiles: Meet Jay Diaz, Esq., ACLU Attorney

Jay Diaz is an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Vermont and is a faculty member with the Vermont Leadership in Education and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Program. Prior to working with the ACLU, Jay worked for Vermont Legal Aid where he wrote the highly regarded report entitled: Kicked Out! Unfair and Unequal Student Discipline in Vermont’s Public Schools. Jay shared with us the story of how he came to Vermont, what he’s doing at the ACLU, and what he sees on the horizon for Vermont.

Read Jay’s Profile

Latest News

AUCD’s Liz Weintraub To Testify at Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing

AUCD‘s Senior Advocacy Specialist, creator of the web series Tuesdays with Liz, and a Georgia LEND graduate, Liz will talk about the importance of self determination and express her concerns about a 2007 ruling in the Doe v. DC case where Judge Kavanaugh wrote an opinion telling the District that they did not need to consult with residents with intellectual disabilities while making decisions about elective surgery for them because the residents were “by definition incompetent.”  Liz will have an opportunity to explain how and why it is important for adults with intellectual disabilities to have a say in what happens to their bodies.

View the hearing live on September 4, 2018, starting at 9:30 am.

View the hearing on NPR.

Celebrating Success in Tanzania

After spending five weeks in the US in an intensive program for Inclusive Disability Employment that included 4 weeks of working and meeting with Vermonters, Victoria Melkisedeck Lihiru returned home to Tanzania ready to make changes. She recently shared her successes in an email with some of her new partners at CDCI.

Read more about Victoria’s work.

Photo by Mike Dougherty/VT Digger

Dan French: Vermont’s New Secretary of Education

After the early April resignation of Rebecca Holcombe, Gov. Phil Scott has appointed Dan French, former superintendent and more recently the coordinator of the School Leadership Graduate Program at Saint Michael’s College. French was appointed and started in his new role as education secretary earlier this month. In an interview with the VT Digger, French mentioned he views himself as a technologist and a believer in personalized learning and he answered questions on some of the biggest challenges facing Vermont’s education system today.

Read VT Digger’s interview with French.

Accessibility Achievements: UVM has a new map!

The University of Vermont has contracted with Concept3D to update its campus map. The interactive platform brings many improvements and enhancements to all who wish to get around campus, or who want to learn about it!

Users can search for distinct buildings, administrative offices, and departments. The map also allowers users to learn about and locate different services (like financial services and faith centers) and initiatives on campus (like health and safety and sustainability). Other features include way-finding and campus tours. What we are very excited to see is information about UVM’s access and inclusion. You can currently view the location of ADA accessible parking and entrances, as well as the location of gender-inclusive and accessible restrooms.

The campus map has teams of builders and editors from UVM behind it, so information can continuously be updated. If you see something that is missing or needs to be adjusted, please email Jeanne Nauheimer.

Have you seen more good workaround accessibility or inclusion? We want to know about it! Please email Jeanne Nauheimer if you’d like to share the efforts of you or someone you know to make an environment more inclusive. We’d love to give you a shout out in an upcoming newsletter!

Arts & Media

There are growing opportunities to learn about the lives of people with disabilities through arts and media. Here we highlight a few that people are talking about at CDCI this summer.


At CDCI, the Life Histories Project shares the stories of Vermonters with disabilities told through speech, in writing, through art, or video, and saved for posterity. This partnership with Green Mountain Self-Advocates was started in 2011.


This year, CDCI will host a film screening of “Intelligent Lives” described as “a catalyst to transform the label of intellectual disability from a life sentence of isolation into a life of possibility for the most systematically segregated people in America.” Currently we are working with partners to host a screening this Fall and then bring the filmmaker, Dan Habib for a screening and panel discussion in the Spring. Stay tuned!

A Quiet Place is now available for home viewing. The thriller directed by John Krasinski received many accolades and turned some heads by prominently featuring a deaf character, played by Millie Simmonds, a deaf actress. Some members of the deaf community, including Simmonds, thought this film is a great step towards representation and advocacy. Others still feel it plays into the tope that deafness is something that needs to be fixed.


UVM’s 2018 Summer Reading Program book for incoming first-year students is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nheisi Coates. On choosing this book, UVM President Sullivan wrote, “Written in the form of a letter to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me is a deeply personal account of what it means to be black in America, and the role race plays in society. It is a timely book for us all, particularly as we work together on campus for understanding and addressing race-related issues in society.”

UVM’s Library is in the process of acquiring diverse children’s books in order to improve its kids’ book collection. This will be an ongoing project to make the kids books in the PZ section of Bailey/Howe library more current, relevant, and better able to support your assignments. The goal is to increase the number of children’s books with characters from diverse backgrounds and/or written by authors from diverse backgrounds. If you have suggested kids book titles that don’t already appear in our catalog, please send them our way!


In June 2018, 15 year-old Emily Flores of Austin, TX, launched C*pple Magazine. Cr*pple Magazine is an online magazine that is curated and run by young disabled creatives. Whether that be by art, poetry, or truthful op-eds about the ableist world, Cripple was created in order to give a platform to young people with disabilities who have something to say. Cripple was founded by Emily Flores, a fifteen-year-old journalist with a disability that is tired by the lack of proper representation for young people with disabilities.

The ACLU just released a new interactive report “Race, Discipline, and Safety at U.S. Public Schools.” You can examine both national trends and data on individual public schools. We’ve just begun reviewing this report, and key points include: “For the first time in history, public schools in America serve mostly children of color [… and] Nationally, students with disabilities lost instruction due to suspensions at more than twice the rate of their non-disabled peers.”

Upcoming Events

A selection of events hosted by CDCI, our partners, or others of interest to our community.

We’d like to let our readers know about the events of our friends and partners! If you would like to get the word out about an upcoming event, please email Jeanne Nauheimer.

Pride Parade & Festival

Saturday, September 8, 2018, 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Battery Street Park, Burlington, VT
The Pride Festival is one big party in Battery Park. It’s a place for the entire community – LGBTQ+ and ally – of all ages, races, and backgrounds to come together. Colorful, showstopping performers (Drag! Dance! Comedy! Poetry! Burlesque!) will be sure to entertain on stage while the park is filled with fabulous vendors with info and activities (and food!) for all.

Vermont Education Equity Conference

Wednesday, September 12, 2018, 8:30am – 4:30pm
Capitol Plaza, Montpelier, VT

Public Education That Works for All Children, Building an equity agenda for our schools, communities, and state. The purpose of the conference is to create a learning and contributing opportunity for educators, youth, parents, community leaders, policy makers, and advocates toward development of an education equity agenda. Learn more and register for the Vermont Education Equity Conference.

Sensory Open House at the Flynn

Saturday, September 15, 2018 1:00pm
Flynn Center, Burlington, VT

Everybody Belongs at the Flynn, and we want to make sure you feel welcome and know what to expect when you join us. New experiences can feel intimidating, and we want to help. Drop in anytime during our Open House hours and explore the lobby and theater at your own pace. Check out the Flynn’s sensory toolkits (noise-reducing headphones, weighted blankets, fidgets, and more), meet our friendly Front of House team, sit in the seats, locate bathrooms, visit the balcony, experience simulated lighting and sound levels, ask questions and share strategies with us so we can continue breaking down barriers of access for all members of our community. Designed specifically to support individuals on the autism spectrum or with sensory sensitivities, but open to all. For more information, visit the Flynn’s website.

Rule 4500: The Use of Restraint and Seclusion in Vermont Schools Webinar

September 14, 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM – Free
Vermont Rule 4500 is in place to maintain positive and safe learning environments, promote positive behavioral interventions and supports, and ensure that students are not subjected to inappropriate use of restraint or seclusion. Learn more about what is permissible and what is prohibited under Rule 4500, including reporting requirements, debriefing, etc. Who should attend? All school personnel. Learn more and register for the Rule 4500 webinar.

Podcast Storytelling – Stories From Vermont

September 20, 2018, 4:00pm – 6:00pm
John Dewey Lounge, Old Mill, University of Vermont

Want to learn more about how to share your work through storytelling and technology? Join host of podcast ‘Rumble Strip Vermont’ Erica Heilman and VPR’s managing editor for podcasts Angela Evancie as they discuss the art of audio storytelling. 

Let Equity Bloom 2018: Power to the Polls Festival

September 23, 2018 12-8pm
Old North End, Burlington, VT

Let Equity Bloom is presented by Women’s March Vermont. It is a day-long empowerment and voter education festival. Featuring guest speakers, live music, performance art, interactive workshops, group art projects, food trucks, and, of course, voter registration. The festival will introduce new and future voters to the diverse and exciting social justice movements brewing here in Vermont and across the country. It will be held at venues across the Old North End of Burlington from noon to 8 p.m. Performances, speakers, headquarters, and finale celebration will be based at O.N.E. Community Center.

To keep up to speed with festival updates, please RSVP through the Let Equity Bloom Eventbrite page.

Assistive Technology Makers’ Fair

Saturday, September 29, 2018, 8:00am-4:30pm
Concord, NH

The AT Makers’ Fair will inspire participants to become creative problem solvers, bringing together makers of all abilities to share ideas, develop new skills, and enhance innovations for persons with disabilities.

Spectrum Dance Theater: A Rap on Race

Saturday, October 6, 2018 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Flynn Center, Burlington, VT

A dance theater piece based on a 1970 conversation between writer James Baldwin and anthropologist Margaret Mead. Spectrum is composed of artists from diverse backgrounds and makes world-class dance accessible to all audiences. Sounds amazing and only $10 with UVM ID (sponsored by UVM President’s Initiative for Diversity). Purchase A Rap on Race tickets from FlynnTix.

Ping Chong, “Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity”

Thursday, October 25, 2018, 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Flynn Center, Burlington, VT

Beyond Sacred is an interview-based theater production exploring the social challenges faced by young Muslims— at school, at work, and anywhere else. The five young performers hail from diverse backgrounds, reflecting a wide range of Muslim identities. The performance culminates in a post-show talk. $10 with UVM ID (sponsored by UVM President’s Initiative for Diversity). Purchase tickets for Beyond Scared from FlynnTix.

Oakledge for All Celebration and Fundraiser!

October 27, 2018
Oakledge Park, Burlington, VT

Join the group Oakledge for all in the opening of their first pieces of universally accessible playground equipment! Oakledge for All is a volunteer initiative to build Vermont’s first universally accessible playground. To learn more or to donate, please visit the Oakledge for All website.

Vermont Inclusive Practices Professional Learning Event

October 29, 2018 in Castleton, VT
October 30, 2018 in Burlington, VT

Save the Date! for a professional learning day in Castleton on Oct 29 or in Burlington on Oct 30.  Learn about including students with extensive needs in your grade level class, curriculum, and activities through MTSS. Hear from Vermont grade level and special educators who make inclusive education a reality in their schools. Dive deep into Alternate Assessment data and what it means for the students in your school. Consider attending as a school leadership team or interdisciplinary support team. Watch for registration information here in September!

College Inclusion Summit: Supporting Academic Success for Students with Autism and Related Learning Differences

November 5-7, 2018
Davis Center, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
In its second year, this is an intensive three-day gathering for professionals working with campus-based and independent programs that support degree-seeking college students with Autism and related learning differences. CDCI is co-hosting this event with Mansfield Hall and the College Autism Network. Learn more and register at the College Inclusion Summit website.