By Emily Bialkowski
There are a lot of acronyms in education: PLCs, IEPs, GEDs and countless others. But since the School District of Caledonia found out it was awarded ADSIS dollars from the state, it’s worth hearing how much and for what.
Caledonia will be the recipient of approximately $153,564 for ADSIS, Alternative Delivery of Specialized Instructional Services.
According to the Minnesota Department of Education, the purpose of ADSIS is to provide instruction to assist students who need additional academic or behavioral support to succeed in the general education environment. The goal is to reduce the number of referrals to special education by providing support early to struggling students.
La Crescent and Spring Grove both participated in the program during the 2012-13 school year, and Caledonia has been approved for funding in both 2013-14 and 2014-15.
Caledonia Superintendent Ben Barton explained: “We know every student has different, unique gifts and talents and different struggles, as well. We know we have some below-target grade levels in reading, writing or math who don’t have a disability. With ADSIS, we will put highly skilled teachers in a position to work with these students with the intent to get all students at grade level.
“The bottom line is historically there have been students going through the class who struggle but don’t have a disability; their needs aren’t met and they fall through the cracks. We want to stop that trend. We want to intervene and intervene early.”
In short, special education exists for students with a documented disability. This program will help students who are simply behind.
“To me, it’s a common-sense approach. If they are below targets, we are going to give them more time,” Barton said.
The application to get ADSIS funding was rigorous and required a team of district staff to work for days. Barton said it is very rewarding to have that effort pay off this way.
The district will need to invest some funds into the program – rarely does the state provide a free ride. The state will pay 68 percent of the ADSIS teacher’s salary while the district picks up the other 32 percent and the cost of benefits.
Because it behooves the district to place the highest skilled teacher(s) in the ADSIS position, there will be savings in hiring a less-experienced teacher to fill the spot vacated by the person selected for the job.
This is excellent news for the teachers laid off this spring, who may be called back.
“This ADSIS will allow us to bring back two to two-and-a-half staff that have been reduced,” Barton said, adding, “At the end of the day, we still have to come up with benefits at a cost between $30,000 and $50,000. But, in return, we’re going to get close to $250,000 of human resources. It’s a no-brainer; we can’t pass this up.”
Take away all the number crunching, and the real winner here are the students.
Kids performing below target grade levels will be evaluated by a teacher. Using a medical model, the evaluation will identify a specific problem area. For example, if it’s in reading, a determination will be made as to whether the problem lies in fluency or vocabulary. Then a treatment will be prescribed to help that deficit. Progress will be monitored to make sure the treatment is working and, if not, changes can be made to ensure development.
Caledonia will focus on reading and math over the next two years while also following the state’s rules on documenting the program’s effects on student achievement.
In a way, the real work is just beginning.