The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) and The University of Southern Mississippi have received a $5.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to implement professional development and coaching on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in order to improve educational outcomes for all students, including students with disabilities, in Mississippi.
Under the direction of Southern Miss Associate Professor Dr. Hollie Gabler Filce, the MDE and USM have cooperatively implemented State Personnel Development (SPD) programs since 2005. Operating as REACH-MS (Realizing Excellence for All Children in Mississippi), the project has provided more than 1,000 training and coaching activities to schools and agencies in Mississippi focusing on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.
There are currently 54 school-wide (primary-level prevention) model PBIS implementation sites, 4 secondary-level prevention sites, and one facility-wide model implementation site at the Rankin County Juvenile Detention Facility. Model implementation site designation is awarded to sites upon passing a rigorous external evaluation using nationally-validated evaluation instruments.
The newly-awarded grant will be used to increase the academic performance in English/Language Arts of Pre-K – 3 students with disabilities through implementation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). It will also continue work to develop and expand positive learning environments in Mississippi through effective implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) within a multi-tier system of support. Implementation will occur over a five-year period beginning Oct. 1.
Dr. Kim Benton, chief academic officer at MDE, said the agency is extremely fortunate to receive the personnel development grant from the USDE Office of Special Education, which aligns with the goals of the State Board of Education. Benton said the grant is timely in light of recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), which emphasizes the requirement that schools provide positive behavioral supports to students with disabilities.
“These resources will allow the MDE to expand positive behavior intervention and support training and technical assistance to educators throughout the state,” Benton said. “The success of this partnership with the University of Southern Mississippi is evident in the positive feedback from educators and the number of model PBIS sites currently in place.”
The U.S. Department of Education’s State Personnel Development (SPD) program provides grants to help state educational agencies (SEAs) reform and improve their systems for personnel preparation and professional development of individuals providing early intervention educational, and transition services to improve results for children with disabilities.