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Grant enables school district to update teaching skills


Jan. 2, 2013
By Carley Dangona

carley@thereminder.com

WEST SPRINGFIELD — In December, the school district was selected for the Universal Design for Learning Grant (UDL) to assist with the education of students.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, "The goal of the grant is to establish a team of school and district leaders who will shape the learning environment so that it addresses the variability of all learners."

A school district can receive up to $27,588 for the development and implementation of tools and programs to improve the teaching impact of educators. One stipulation is that $14,000 of the award must be utilized to pay for attendance to the UDL academy. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Russell Johnston expects the amount of the award to be revealed some time in January.

"This is the first time our district has won the grant," Johnston said. "We have already started implementing the grant by attending the UDL Academy in Leominster. Teachers and administrators attended four sessions in December. There are four more to go during this school year."

Francine Bigda, interim director of Special Services, said, "Those in attendance at the UDL trainings were excited by what it can offer to our district. The sessions included an introduction to UDL and the principles upon which it is based. District administrators, building administrators, and staff all have roles to play in implementing a plan put together by the district team."

Bigda continued, "As the lead person on this grant, my responsibility is to allocate our resources from the — with input from the team, which includes a timeline for implementation of UDL in the district."

Bigda gave an overview of the plan. "The initial plan that is being fleshed out calls for using UDL within one of our Level 3 elementary schools, assessing the successes and things that do not go as well and then using this knowledge as a basis for district wide implementation," she said.

Overall, she described what the grant means to the district. "It will allow staff to be introduced to and use UDL principles to structure the learning environment of their classrooms and their lessons to address the needs of all students," Bigda stated.

"The team sent to the workshops will be able to collaborate together on this project, share their information with other staff through professional development, and also will have the opportunity to share their lessons and ideas with other participants from other districts," Bigda added.

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