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|BCSC Student Demographics|
|3% Asian or Pacific Islander|
|1.8% African American|
|0.3% Native American|
|45% Receive free/reduced meals|
|13.9% Receive special education services|
|11% English Language Learners|
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC) is a rural school district of seventeen schools located in Columbus, Indiana, 45 miles south of Indianapolis. It is a cohesive community with very little administrative or teacher turnover.
In 2003, a special education coordinator, inspired by a presentation at a conference, brought the idea of Universal Design for Learning to BCSC. Even though the district had a high percentage of their special education population integrated into regular classrooms, they knew that these students were not experiencing the successes that were possible. A single pilot school dedicated to using the UDL framework was started as part of a statewide UDL initiative called the PATINS project. Today, UDL principles are applied to some degree in all of the district’s 19 schools. During the UDL Implementation project the district educators at all levels used a self evaluation tool to help identify areas of need, resources and to find holes in the system.
“UDL made sense for our district because the neuroscience behind UDL aligned with the district beliefs about how each student is different and learns differently,“ explains Bill Jensen, Director of Secondary Education. He continues, “For teachers, implementing UDL can be daunting, especially today when they have so many pieces they must be accountable for, like the Common Core Standards and high stakes testing where there is a narrow accountability system that is strangling creativity and innovation in the classroom. Teachers ask, How will this work? Bringing in a new initiative is a huge challenge when teachers are already struggling to incorporate all the different demands on them. They want to know how it is all going to fit. We kept our eye on the ball and established this as our overarching framework. We keep UDL out in front consistently.”
George Van Horne, Director of Special Education at BCSC, explains, “We looked at everything the district was doing and was required to implement and knew we needed to tie everything together. Agreeing that UDL was the framework to do this was a crucial step. From there we developed a district-wide plan. We established UDL as the overarching framework so as we add initiatives like PBIS or project-based learning the UDL principles guide their inclusion into the work.”
BCSC strives to enmesh UDL in every activity by modeling it at the every level, including at the administrative level. For example, when a principal gives a tour to a new school board member, they use explicit UDL language to describe activities and planning. From staff meetings to classroom planning, discussions include goals, identifying barriers to learning, and providing flexibility.
Another significant shift was to have all professional development become UDL-centered. They understood that teachers needed to be scaffolded as much as the students and that the variability of teachers is as great as that of the students.
Like the other districts in the UDL Implementation Project, BCSC believes that having a UDL facilitator within the district is an essential element for modeling deep understanding of UDL for the whole district.
BCSC textbook and resources adoption policy that is aligned with the UDL framework is yet another structure that helps the district to model UDL at every level.
Last year, BCSC started moving toward a new evaluation system. As part of the No Child Left Behind waiver the state of Indiana was mandated to create a new teacher evaluation process. BCSC views UDL as a systemic change agent and saw this as an opportunity to frame the instructional piece of the evaluation around UDL framework. They developed evaluation rubrics for teachers and other direct service providers such as, occupational therapists, physical therapists, counselors, coaches, athletic directors, building administrators, district administrators, the superintendent, and assistant superintendents. Underlying the BCSC evaluation process is a list of objectives decided upon at the very beginning of the planning and design process.
According to Loui Lord Nelson, a former UDL facilitator for the district, “Their success around the development of these rubrics comes from a well-established system of support that includes a UDL point person, the constant development and availability of resources specific to UDL, and administrative knowledge of UDL and support of non-confining teaching practices as long as they are aligned with the UDL framework.”
Fifty percent of the instructional score will be based on the UDL rubric. It has already made an impact. Teachers are motivated to better understand and implement UDL and are asking for more support from the UDL facilitator.
A large challenge going forward for BCSC will be to make sure UDL is practiced well by the entire 700-member faculty and staff. Their plan is to continue to model UDL, to scaffold teachers toward a deeper understanding and practice of UDL and to insure that proactive planning becomes a habit of the mind and not just compliance.
Bill Jensen describes a classroom in the district whose teacher assigned her class to teach the community about specific environmental issues. She believed that they would be more successful if they understood the UDL principles, so she arranged to have the district's UDL facilitator come to her classroom and spend two days teaching the students about UDL. “The students got it right away!” says Jensen. “Their summaries of UDL were unbelievable, they captured it so well.” Around the classroom comments like these were heard: “This makes me understand how I’m different as a learner” and “I understand how I can maximize my learning”. The understanding about how they learned better encouraged students to become better partners with their teachers in the learning process.
UDL Implementation: A Tale of Four Districts is the story of four school districts taking the journey into the UDL implementation process.
Last Updated: 03/16/2013