Closing the Literacy Gap with Cross-District Collaboration

“We wanted to make sure we were closing the literacy gap,” explained Mary Arrasmith, the Coordinator of Career and Technical Education and an Instructional Strategist from the West Baton Rouge Parish School District in Louisiana. “Our goal was to help students become independent in and out of the classroom.”

kurzweil_customer-successWest Baton Rouge had recently been awarded a Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy (SRCL) Grant to implement Universal Design for Learning (UDL) district-wide, and planned to use Kurzweil 3000-firefly to supplement this initiative. “There were plenty of options, but none that did as many things as Kurzweil 3000-firelfy,” said Mary. “Why buy a basic car when you can get a Cadillac for the same price?” This also meant they wouldn’t have to train teachers in their special education departments on a completely new tool because they had been using Kurzweil 3000 for the prior two years. Pushing content into the cloud with the Kurzweil 3000-firelfy web-based Universal Library was also very important since increased collaboration among the teachers was key to the success of their initiative.

Training for a Successful Implementation with a 2-Day Workshop

The new grant applied to all departments and all grades, in both special and general education classes from elementary to high school. While some of the special education teachers were well-versed on Kurzweil 3000-firefly, Mary’s team needed to train a larger group of teachers and school staff—all of whom would be using Kurzweil 3000-firefly differently. To assist with the training, Mary scheduled a 2-Day Workshop with Kurzweil Educational System’s Customer Success team.

There were two main goals for this workshop. First, West Baton Rouge Parish wanted to ensure teachers and staff had a thorough understanding of Kurzweil 3000-firefly. It was also important that the trainees leave with a comprehensive library of resources that could be utilized district-wide immediately. Second, Mary and her team had a goal: “To provide the next level of accessibility to students and teachers by facilitating collaboration across the district.” They wanted to establish a new process for sharing resources across schools and to make sure content was accessible to all students and staff—understanding how to leverage Kurzweil 3000-firefly’s cloud capabilities was especially important. “We are a small district,” stated Mary, “we have a limited number of teachers specifically within certain content areas. By using the cloud, our teachers are essentially splitting the work with someone and are able to work more efficiently.”

At first the teachers were reluctant. There was a perception that Kurzweil 3000-firefly was only for special education students. Teachers also didn’t want more to do. Toward this end, their training was designed to address varying needs and focused on how to ease teachers’ workload.

Hear it directly from them: Register now for a panel discussion with Mary of West Baton Rouge Parish and the Kurzweil 3000-firefly Customer Success team about what they learned during this 2-Day Workshop.

Pre-planning is Everything

Before the workshop was scheduled, West Baton Rouge Parish hand-picked a mix of special education and general education teachers. They were all given two days of release time to attend the training and knew what was expected—in addition to learning Kurzweil 3000-firefly for themselves, each teacher was tasked with spearheading internal support sessions at their schools for the teachers and staff who did not attend the initial workshop. A point person from each school was also assigned to help trouble-shoot after the workshop.

After the attendees were selected and a date was scheduled, it was time for Mary and her team to get to work. The technology team installed the software and setup additional scanners in the training room. Mary worked closely with the Kurzweil Customer Success Team to create user accounts for all teachers and students in the district. She also prepped for the training session by adding curriculum content into the Kurzweil 3000-firefly cloud-based Universal Library, and made sure the trainees had their login prior to the workshop.

Training Day 1: Learning the Foundations

The first day of the 2-Day Workshop focused on using Kurzweil 3000-firefly. Teachers were provided with real-world examples and scenarios to familiarize themselves in the use of the program for their classrooms. They were given uninterrupted time to practice using Kurzweil 3000-firefly; and were able to see how easy it is to use. Throughout the training, teachers and staff received guidance and support from the trainers to help them troubleshoot various issues or questions as they arose.

Training Day 2: Curriculum Integration

On the second day, each person brought in materials they would be using in the coming days and weeks in their classrooms. Missy explained, “Teachers feel much more comfortable when they’ve not only got the basics, but also have the time and flexibility to work on their own materials in Kurzweil 3000-firefly.” Towards the end of the final day, teachers were tasked with developing implementation plans. The plans included specific steps to get going the next day, in addition to setting goals and check-in points throughout the year. “Teachers don’t have a lot of time to collaborate,” Mary explained. “During the workshop they had time to customize how they would use Kurzweil 3000-firelfy, which instilled a sense of ownership.”

Was the 2-Day Workshop a Success?

“Yes, we are already seeing improvements in student achievement,” Mary confirmed. The first goal was met when the selected teachers were not only trained, but developed a plan for using Kurzweil 3000-firefly in their classrooms. Internal trainings are also in the midst of being scheduled for additional teachers. As for next steps, West Baton Rouge Parish plans to use Kurzweil 3000-firefly for test taking and preparing students for technology-based assessments. They also plan to put state-wide tests into Kurzweil 3000-firefly as a back-up.

What is Mary’s Advice for You?

1. Really collaborate with your technology department; some glitches that may have occurred during the training were worked out beforehand.
2. Pre-planning is everything. From the strategic (goal and objective setting) to the tactical (placement of scanners in the training room and dissemination of logins).
3. Assign a point person from each school to help trouble-shoot. In some instances this was a librarian instead of a teacher since they are sometimes more accessible.

Have You Drafted a Plan for Your School?
Take the first step, contact a consultant from Kurzweil 3000-firefly or call 1-800-894-5374. We also invite you to register for a panel discussion with Mary and the Kurzweil 3000-firefly Customer Success team.

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