GOAL Digital Academy Making Strides in Special Education
Mansfield, OH (November 15, 2022) – GOAL Digital Academy accepts students with diverse learning styles, including those in special education. The Special Education department has grown to a total of 16 staff serving students in the past year. Students being served in the special education department represent 27% of the total GOAL student population. With that growth, GOAL has implemented several procedures and routines to improve intervention services.
Nan Stanish, Director of Special Education at GOAL Digital Academy, has been involved in education for 33 years. She said students have increased their participation in intervention services through the addition of Academic Assist Classes, developed by GOAL Intervention Specialist Hope Losh. “This class is assigned to each student who has an IEP and helps target their specific goals,” Losh explained. “We require students to meet with us weekly, giving us more face time with them and growing our relationships with our students. When I first started at GOAL 5 years ago, I saw maybe 25% of my caseload and interacted with them. Now, 90% of my caseload meets with me every single week. I think that students feel more supported and have heard from both students and parents alike that they enjoy our weekly meetings because they don't feel like they got that support in their previous schools.”
The multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) process has improved over the last year. Through this process, students have been provided additional assistance including tutoring, organization, and coping skills. GOAL students that are receiving the support have been reaping positive results. The number of students that are coming into the learning lab to get assistance has increased, and that allows the students to build meaningful relationships with their intervention specialists while working in the lab setting. Stanish said, “The data shows that students that come into the lab are doing better academically.”The GOAL team working as part of that process varies which allows many staff members outside of the Special Education department the opportunity to become familiar with the MTSS process.
The Intervention Team, composed of sixteen staff members covers many tasks. For example, Losh, creator of the Academic Assist Class, co-teaches English grades 9-12 and also Comprehensive English 1, 2, 3, and 4, as well as Comprehensive Financial Literacy in Delaware. Steph Bowers, an Intervention Specialist in Marion, teaches Math to students in 4th-8th grade. Chelsea Lee, the Transition Coordinator, has been recently added to the intervention team helping students plan for the future after high school. Another addition, Joe Sumner provides tutoring support after the learning labs are closed. The remaining team members provide interventions and related services throughout the district at their specific lab locations and online via Zoom. The GOAL Digital Academy Special Education team is comprised of; Nan Stanish, Hope Losh, Stephanie Bowers, Joe Sumner, Chelsea Lee, Nicholas Levine, Carla Pasheilich, Cindy Cunningham, Nancy Hale, Benjamin Schaad, Wes Stauffer, Patrick Wood, Lisa Kraemer, Meredith Snow, Kristina Magoon and Kynna Byrne (student Intern).
With the increase in students coming to the labs, all intervention specialists and related service providers have been busier than ever. “This is where the blended education model of GOAL shines,” said Stanish. “Our Intervention Specialists, Behavioral Health, Speech, Physical, and Occupational Therapists provide services online. Having these options means that the students can be met where they are with a schedule that is convenient for them.” The intervention team documents time spent working with individual students through the software application, Airtable.
Even with busy schedules, training and professional development are ongoing for the intervention team. Many Intervention Specialists are either currently taking college classes or have taken college classes in the past year. State Support Team 7 has been providing comprehensive training for IEP writing, as well as training in the areas of reading and math, specially designed instruction, and transition development. Stanish said all of this has expanded the knowledge of the team. “Working with each other and continuing our professional development has opened the door to new ideas and creativity within our learning environment. The support we have received has assisted in optimizing our knowledge of our online platform and how we can better serve our students.”