Session Descriptions

Tuesday – March 10, 2020


8:00 am – 9:30 am Concurrent Sessions


GRAD is a Four-Letter Word Meant for All Students
Tracy Ficca, Jacki Lyster, and Laura Moran, Ph.D.
Schools in Pennsylvania are working to increase graduation rates and decrease the dropout rates for students with disabilities. Two current projects sponsored by the Bureau of Special Education include the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP), which focuses on high school students with disabilities, and an OSEP grant titled Middle School Success: The Path to Graduation (P2G), which focuses on middle school students with emotional behavioral disorder. This session will include a brief overview of both projects, review the benefits of utilizing an Early Warning System (EWS), examine what evidence-based practices are being implemented in both projects to help students stay on track for graduation, and offer lessons learned in being a part of this process.
Implementing MTSS on a Foundation of New Thinking
Mark Shinn, Ph.D.
One of the biggest challenges in MTSS implementation is that implementation is not only DOING things differently, but also THINKING differently. In this session, the speaker will make explicit some of the necessary THINKING changes required for reducing resistance and increasing implementation success.

The Power of Progressions: Untangling the Knotty Areas of Teaching and Learning Mathematics
Graham Fletcher
As more teachers look to add high-yield tasks to their repertoire, the struggle to make it all work becomes real. Let's examine how problem-based lessons can be used throughout the scope of a unit and how we can harness their power to move student thinking forward. We'll identify strategies and explore some tasks that help us find a healthy balance between application, conceptual understanding, and procedural fluency.

Special Education Law:  A Year in Review
Erin D. Gilsbach, Esq.
In this session, the speaker will present an update on special education law, including relevant updates regarding new caselaw, statutory and regulatory changes, recent state and federal guidance, and other changes. The speaker will examine trends in litigation issues, both in Pennsylvania and across the nation, and will provide helpful tools and tips for parents and schools.

Trauma and Development: The Place for Reading and Language
Steve Dykstra, Ph.D.
As we understand the impact of trauma on child development, the importance of reading and language becomes even more clear. In this session, participants will learn to see the special place reading and language hold and how they can be leveraged to respond to trauma and stress.
Using Data-Driven Action Planning to Move From Compliance to Transition Innovation
Joan Kester, Ed.D.
Engaging in data-driven action planning empowers communities to innovate secondary transition practices, with the potential to impact the post-school outcomes of transition-age youth with disabilities in Pennsylvania. The Transition Discoveries Initiative resulted in an applied model of 9 key domains for “what works” in transition, The Transition Discoveries Quality Indicator Framework. The Quality Indicator Survey Metric was developed as tool for teams to take a holistic approach to collecting data about frequency, effectiveness, and quality of transition programs. In order to build bridges between these learning resources and tools for empowering communities to evaluate practices, the initiative has designed a systematic approach to community-based, data-driven action planning. At the core of this approach is the Transition Discoveries "Action Plan Organizer," which is a multi-part tool that guides teams step-by-step as they create actionable questions, engage communities in data collection and translate findings into plans for innovating practices, services, programs and supports. During this interactive session, participants will gain first-hand experience in how the framework, tools, and process are implemented.


9:50 am – 11:20 am Concurrent Sessions

The Basics of Research and Statistics for People Who Really Hate Math
Steve Dykstra, Ph.D.
Have some fun learning what it is statistics are trying to tell you, and how to find the important parts of a study without doing any math.  Once you know a little bit, take a walk through the LLI "Gold-Standard" study, and Reading Recovery i3 study to see if they really hold up when we look closely.
A Few Strategies: The Little Things Can Make All the Difference
Devin Kearns, Ph.D.
There are a lot of things we can do to improve student achievement. There are a few strategies that can make your instruction much more powerful with relatively little effort… in fact, some strategies might even reduce the amount of effort needed for students to be successful! In this session, a set of three or four high-value, easy-to-implement strategies is presented.
Maximizing Learning and Holding High Expectations for All Students
Jeannine Brinkley
Presuming competence, holding high expectations, and maximizing opportunities positively impacts the degree to which all students, including those with diverse needs, access the general education curriculum. This presentation will illustrate the power of collaboration between families and school teams.
Minimizing Litigation by Maximizing Relationships:  Examining the FAPE/Communication Connection
Erin D. Gilsbach, Esq.
Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of special education litigation in the nation.  While litigation can help ensure legal compliance, it can also have devastating impacts on schools and families; and, it is often avoidable through the development of relationships between parents and schools that are based upon clear communication and mutual trust. In this session, the speaker will reflect upon caselaw as well as her own 15+ years of experiences as a special education attorney to discuss how many FAPE-related conflicts result from a breakdown in communication between the school and the parents. The speaker will use case-specific examples to offer meaningful, practical tips and tools for both schools and parents to help prevent litigation by facilitating better relationships and breaking down common communication barriers.

Secondary MTSS That Makes Sense
Mark Shinn, Ph.D.
MTSS/RTI often doesn't make sense to secondary teachers. In this session, the speaker will describe how middle and high school MTSS is different—from its prevention focus for core content area instruction to its screening and progress-monitoring practices—with attention to differentiating and intervening with students who need intensive treatment versus content area instruction and/or behavioral support.
Teaching on the Edge of Understanding and at the Speed of Learning
Graham Fletcher

There are many things to consider when we engage students in mathematics. What makes our task extremely difficult is that we teach a specific age of students that function and think in multiple grade levels.  This makes differentiation seem impossible, but it doesn’t need to always feel this way. Let’s explore how the purposeful use and sequence of the right tasks can unlock what students know and inform our next move in the progression of learning.
Transition Discoveries:  Building Connections to Promote Community in Secondary Transition
Joan Kester, Ed.D. and Matthew Flanagan
Authentic engagement of youth, families, and stakeholders are secondary transition evidence-based predictors of positive postschool outcomes of youth with disabilities. These practices are an integral component of the Transition Discoveries Initiative, which is being scaled up statewide in Pennsylvania to improve the quality of secondary transition practices. Meaningful engagement and partnerships are crucial because no one person or organization will solve the complex issues alone. When youth and families are fully engaged and empowered through knowledge and collectively advocate for full inclusion, complex systems become manageable and young people become more likely to lead happy and healthy lives. During this session you will learn about evidence-based practices, community-building activities, and nontraditional youth/family/stakeholder engagement strategies.


12:45 pm – 2:15 pm Keynote Address

Equity in Action
Tyrone Howard, Ph.D.
This interactive keynote address will focus on core concepts and evidence-based practices for creating equitable schools for all students. Let’s accept the challenge to engage in hard conversations about serving our most vulnerable students – namely students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, language learners, and students with social-emotional challenges.


2:30 pm – 4:00 pm Concurrent Sessions

Accommodating Students with Medical Needs: Key Concepts for Legal Compliance
Erin D. Gilsbach, Esq.
In this session, special education attorney and author of the book "Student Health Services under IDEA and Section 504," offers tips and tools for handling some of the key legal compliance issues that arise in today's public schools. She will address issues regarding Section 504 eligibility, identifying when nursing services may be required, determining legal obligations for accommodating students during field trips and extracurricular activities, ensuring proper protocols for the administration of medication, addressing medical needs through the IEP process, and much more. The speaker will also provide helpful strategies to help schools self-audit the legal defensibility of their programs and take measures to address compliance issues. This program is packed full of essential information, legal compliance tips, and practical guidance for handling some of the toughest legal issues.
Getting Student Buy-In: A Youth Perspective
Ali Hrasok
Who better to be experts on students than other youth and young adults?  Representatives from the Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network (PYLN) will discuss ways for educators to think about their teaching that can allow students to own more of their educational experience. PYLN will provide tips and tricks for approaches that put youth back in the driver's seat and help educators get the buy-in from students for greater success!
If We  Are So Right, How Come So Many People Think We're Wrong?
Steve Dykstra, Ph.D.
We're all so sure we're right we haven't taken the time to consider why we're so darn sure. Learn how and when the reading wars started, why it isn't really about science all that much, and why what you believe has a lot less to do with you than you probably think. If you can understand how we got here, you have half a chance to understand where "here" is.
Relationships as a Bridge to Learning
Tyrone Howard, Ph.D.
This interactive session will focus on relational approaches to helping improve learning for historically marginalized groups. In this session, participants will be introduced to key ideas, principles, and strategies that can be used to enhance teacher-student relationships across grade levels and subject matter.
Special Education Synergy: How Special Ed Improvements Accelerate MTSS Implementation Quality
Mark Shinn, Ph.D.
Too often, special education is left out of the loop when it comes to changes in instructional and behavioral practices to encourage general education ownership of MTSS. However, special education, too, benefits from the practice changes in MTSS and importantly, special education adoption increases MTSS quality by increasing local capacity. The speaker will demonstrate how changes in special education practices such as eligibility, goal setting, and progress monitoring support MTSS implementation.
Teaching Functional Skills to Students with ASD
Barry Morgenstern, Ph.D.
This session is an introduction to teaching functional skills and Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) to students with autism and other developmental disabilities using the principles of applied behavior analysis. Functional skills are a critical outcome for students with autism. Some examples of the skills that will be addressed during the presentation include toilet training, washing hands, cooking, taking a shower, cleaning up, making a purchase at a store, crossing the street, using public transportation, and completing jobs during competitive employment. This presentation will focus on teaching the basic skills that are needed to successfully teach these skills to a wide variety of learners of different ages. In addition, participants will learn how to individualize the programs for the unique needs of individual learners and troubleshoot problems when learners fail to acquire the necessary skills.
What is Dyslexia?
Devin Kearns, Ph.D.
Serious difficulty with word recognition can have pernicious consequences for students. Many students with word recognition difficulty are identified with a specific learning disability in reading, often dyslexia. There are at least six ways to explain the nature of a child’s reading difficulty. Dyslexia is one important cause of word recognition difficulties, but there are others. In this session, the speaker will discuss these different causes of reading difficulties and explain some confusing points and controversies related to word recognition difficulty.