After fully engaging in an “epic marathon,” Project EPICS scholars are “quickly approaching the finish line!” Currently, midway into the planned final year of a five-year project, the “Educating Pacific Island Clinicians in Speech Pathology” project, also known as “Project EPICS,” is in “the last lap” of this amazing endurance event. Eighteen student “scholars” are entering their last few months of the project whose mission is to produce graduate-level speech language pathologists to serve and provide much-needed speech services to the children of Guam and the Pacific region. This project is funded through a U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs personnel preparation awarded to San José State University (SJSU), in partnership with Guam CEDDERS. The Spring 2020 semester is packed with activities including completing two online courses and finishing up the required number of practicum hours in school and hospital settings. In April, the scholars can opt to participate in an online “Praxis Preparation Workshop” with Dr. Kay Payne, CCC-SLP, a nationally recognized expert on Praxis prep and the author of numerous Praxis Preparation resources. Similar to the national Praxis examination for teacher certification, the Praxis test for Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) is a requirement for national certification for SLPs. Scholars have the option as to when to sit for this examination. The last SJSU program requirement for all the EPICS scholars is the Comprehensive Examination, fondly referred to as “Comps.” This is scheduled for May 2, 2020. If you may recall, the group of 18 scholars was divided into two cohorts for the purpose of completing an externship in the San José, California area at various sites in collaboration with SJSU. Nine scholars in Cohort 1 completed this externship in August 2019. The remaining nine who comprise Cohort 2 are scheduled to complete their externship this summer, ending in early August 2020. Upon this group’s return, the Project will hold a much-anticipated graduation ceremony to celebrate the incredible effort of these scholars in completing this “marathon” program. As of this writing, however, things are looking like Cohort 2’s externship plans will need to change, given the situation with the COVID 19 pandemic. And sadly, graduation may have to be postponed as well. Stay tuned for the next issue of I Tellai for the update.
In early March, a team of four embarked on flights from Guam to Kansas City, Missouri to attend the 2020 Annual Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Conference. The Guam Team consisted of Guam EHDI staff and a parent from Guam’s Positive Parents Together, Inc., the non-profit organization which provides Parent-to-Parent Support for families with children identified with a hearing loss. The Annual EHDI Conference gives participants the opportunity to learn new and relevant information related to EHDI, network with other professionals in the EHDI system, and participate in face to face meetings with each EHDI’s Project Manager and Quality Improvement Technical Assistance provider.
The four-day conference began with the Islands/Outlying Territories Meeting held on March 7. Representatives from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Palau, Hawaii, Virgin Islands, Marshall Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam presented on their respective program successes for the grant year. Tony Ronco, a parent with California Hands & Voices facilitated a discussion on website development in preparation for the new EHDI grant year. Also present at the meeting were Leticia Manning representing HRSA; Marcus Gaffney representing Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and Karl White, and Alyson Ward representing National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM).
Over the next three days, the Guam EHDI Team planned their schedules to attend plenary and topical sessions that would assist the Guam EHDI Project in meeting its goals and objectives. While at the Conference, the team met with Bethany Applebaum, HRSA Project Manager for Guam EHDI, and Alyson Ward, Quality Improvement Director at NCHAM, to discuss the progress of the Guam EHDI Project and to provide guidance on how to address data concerns for new grant objectives in light of the loss of CDC funding for territories not meeting the minimum birth rate requirements for continued grant funding.
Two years of preparation and hard work to bring the SKI-HI Institute’s Deaf Mentor Program to Guam came to fruition. On January 15, SKI-HI Institute Deaf Mentor trainers, Paula Pittman and Jodee Crace met with Cathy Tydingco, Guam Department of Education Part C Coordinator – Guam Early Intervention System (GEIS) to discuss the critical role GEIS holds in the development of a Deaf Mentor Program for the island’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) children birth to 5-years-old and their families. The success of the program relies on the partnership between the GEIS Service Providers and the Deaf Mentors working together to provide families with the best services possible.
SKI-HI lead trainer Paula Pittman is no stranger to Guam. Her last visit was about 10 years ago when she conducted SKI-HI training for teachers and service providers of DHH infants. This was Ms. Crace’s first trip to the island as a SKI-HI trainer for Deaf Mentors. Ms. Crace is a DHH adult and one of a team of three trainers for the Deaf Mentor component of the SKI-HI curriculum. SKI-HI programs can be found throughout the United States as well as countries such as South Africa, England, Poland and a few areas in China to name a few. The unique aspect of the Deaf Mentor Training compared to other trainings is that the entire training is done in American Sign Language (ASL). Participants are required to be fluent in ASL to attend the three-day training. From January 16-18, 13 deaf adults participated in the rigorous training to build the island’s local capacity of Deaf Mentors at the Guam System for Assistive Technology (GSAT) training room located at the University of Guam. Of the 13 trainees, 11 completed the program.
To better understand the SKI-HI Deaf Mentor Program, Guam CEDDERS’ Guam Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Deaf Mentor Program invited GEIS and Guam Positive Parents Together (GPPT) staff to participate on the first day to receive an overview of the program. Two ASL interpreters were present on day one to interpret for the hearing attendees of the training.
This was a first for both interpreters and hearing adults present during day one of training. GEIS, GPPT, and EHDI staff, as well as interpreters gained the unique experience of the communication challenges DHH adults face on a daily basis in the hearing world. Interpreters shared that they are used to and most comfortable when interpreting in ASL for DHH community; however, when voicing the signs from DHH individuals to hearing individuals, the task was more challenging in conveying the message that the DHH speaker intends to relay. The completion of this training forged stronger connections between the Deaf Mentors and GPPT. The GPPT Parent Support Group is currently planning activities to bring the deaf adults in contact with families of children identified with a hearing loss. Guam CEDDERS continues to work with Guam’s Special Education personnel to develop an approach to utilize and maximize the skills acquired by the identified Deaf Mentors.
The SKI-HI curriculum for early intervention and training began in 1972. The institute is currently part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Families are given choices, illuminated to possibilities, given information and skills and are strengthened in confidence, appreciation and love of their child, as well as envisioning a future full of hope for their child.
Two Guam Department of Education (GDOE) State Systemic Improvement Project (SSIP) schools provided family engagement workshops for parents centered on improving literacy. The schools were M.U. Lujan Elementary and J. M. Guerrero Elementary. M.U. Lujan Elementary held their session on December 19, 2019 and J.M. Guerrero Elementary held their session on January 14. Both sessions were conducted at the respective schools. A combined total of 144 parents participated in the workshops. The workshops were focused on the online family toolkit from the National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL). Using laptops provided by the schools, parents were given the opportunity to explore the NCIL website for parent resources and tools that can be used to support reading at home. The sessions were an extension of the Pacific SSIP Collaborative which was held on Guam in October 2019. As part of the Pacific SSIP Collaborative, Sarah Sayko, Deputy Director of NCIL, conducted a workshop for families and school personnel on October 12, 2019. The SSIP principals who attended the sessions took back the information to their school community and had their own workshops to share this valuable online resource.
As part of the Guam Department of Education’s (GDOE) State Systemic Improvement Project (SSIP), a professional development centered on the principles of explicit and systematic instruction and on improvement science was held on January 6 at The Westin Resort Guam. One-hundred thirty teachers, teacher assistants, and administrators from the four SSIP schools participated in the training. The SSIP schools are Price Elementary, Chief Brodie Memorial Elementary, Juan M. Guerrero Elementary, and M.U. Lujan Elementary. The facilitators of the training were Guam CEDDERS training associate, Josephine Cruz; and Guam CEDDERS consultant, Nieves Flores with support from SSIP teacher leaders Bianca Nguyen, Pearl Hamada, Valene Salas, Michelle DeGuzman, Gina Call, Annette Raguindin, and Ursula Umadhay and SSIP school principals Darlene Castro, Rose Castro, Natasha Dela Cruz, and Elias Taisipic.
The professional development is part of GDOE’s “Continuous Improvement Road Map for Improving Reading Achievement”. The goal of GDOE’s SSIP is to improve the reading proficiency of students by the time they reach 3rd grade. Central to achieving this goal is ensuring that effective instructional principles are being implemented. In addition, understanding the “root cause” for the current state of reading achievement within the GDOE SSIP schools is critical in promoting systemic change.
Subsequently, the professional development served as an extension of the Pacific SSIP Collaborative that was held in October 2019 and included the expertise of technical assistance providers from four National Centers and the Regional Educational Laboratory- Pacific (REL-Pacific). During the Pacific SSIP Collaborative, there were sessions on high-quality reading instruction and the use of explicit instructional elements in the delivery of reading instruction.
On November 25, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Public School System (PSS), Special Education Program convened its Special Education State Advisory Panel (SESAP), CNMI’s key stakeholder group, comprised of PSS administrators, agency/organization representatives, parent representatives, and individuals with disabilities. Guam CEDDERS June De Leon supported the CNMI Special Education Director during the review of CNMI’s FFY 2018 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B Annual Performance Report (APR) indicator performance data and information, including discussion of reasons for “slippage” from last reporting year’s performance, where applicable. In addition, trend data for each APR indicator were reviewed to gather input from SESAP members on proposed indicator targets for FFY 2019, a requirement of the FFY 2018 IDEA Part B APR. SESAP’s stakeholder input for proposed FFY 2019 APR indicator targets was a consensus amongst all members.
On the same day, Ms. De Leon supported the PSS Assessment Coordinator who facilitated an afternoon session with 21 special education teachers and student teachers on the “CNMI Spring 2019 Multi-State Alternate Assessment (MSAA) Results & Data Interpretation.” The components of the district, school, and individual student reports were reviewed to increase understanding of the student results from administering the Spring 2019 MSAA. In addition, implications for improving academic instruction for students with significant cognitive disabilities was discussed with resources provided to support lesson plan development. Positive feedback from the session indicated that the information shared, especially the student results from the Spring 2019 MSAA administration, was helpful to improve instruction and to be prepared for the Spring 2020 MSAA administration.