Nevada County’s Sustainability Story
Highlighted ILC Principle: Cross-role collaboration. Learn more about the ILC Project Principles.
This blog entry focuses on sharing work from the team from Nevada County.
The Nevada County (NC) ILC team has worked to spread Universal Design for Learning (UDL) practices throughout Nevada County. The team began as part of the ILC Project’s outreach in 2017 to historically isolated areas of California. The initial team included the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools (NCSoS) Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability (now retired), a county instructional coach, two teachers from 2 districts (Nevada JUHSD and Pleasant Ridge USD) and a principal. According to team members, having people in a variety of roles at both the county and school levels helped open doors, attract participants from a number of NC districts, and kept people engaged. The team currently includes the new (since 2018) NCSoS Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability and 5 teachers who also work as instructional coaches from 4 districts within Nevada County (Pleasant Ridge USD, Nevada City SD, Nevada Joint Union HSD, and Union Hill SD).
Introducing UDL Across Multiple Districts
In their first year, the team facilitated two sessions on Using Academic Conversations to Improve Student Writing for teacher leaders in one district (Pleasant Ridge USD). This session became part of Nevada County’s menu of supports for all districts/schools countywide. The next year, the ILC team expanded their scope to work with teacher leaders in 7 Nevada County districts through the Nevada County Network Improvement Community (NCNIC) project focused on Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
Four of the ILC members each led a cohort of teacher leaders from various districts in NC to learn about the UDL Framework principles and then met regularly to discuss their instruction and ways to address specific student learning needs throughout the year. In November 2018, 13 teacher leaders attended a two-day face-to-face training. On day one, CAST presenter, Nicole Tucker Smith, provided an introduction to UDL and an opportunity for cohort team building and planning. Day 2 of the CAST training was led by the ILC team. The four cohorts each identified a problem of practice (PoP) related to student engagement.
ILC Team Leads UDL Inquiry Cycles
Later in the 2018-19 school year, the ILC members led each cohort through 3 Observation Days as part of the plan, do, study, act Inquiry Cycle. During the Observation Days the cohort observed in the classroom of a fellow NC teacher who agreed to open his/her classroom for UDL lesson observations. The ILC members led the teacher leaders in pre-planning meetings before the observation and facilitated a discussion to identify the UDL strategies that could be effectively used to reduce barriers to learning. Creating UDL-infused lesson plans together helped the cohort later refine action plans based on information gathered during their observation and analysis.
The Inquiry Cycle gave the teacher leaders an opportunity for rich discussions that led to realizations about instructional practice and solutions to some learning problems. The cohort model allowed the teachers to work together over time to develop change strategies and plan lessons based on close observation of teacher-student interactions. The teacher leaders embraced and spread the work by becoming teacher trainers and instructional leaders at their schools and beyond. These opportunities for leadership further increased teachers’ confidence in their knowledge of UDL and in their ability both to support student learning through their lesson design choices, and to build through ongoing collaboration, a network of educators to collectively problem solve and support student and teacher learning. To hear more about the overall design of the NIC Project, click here.
Value of Cross-Role Support
Having support from administration at both the site and county levels was invaluable. Andrea Marks, an ILC member and the NCSoS Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Accountability, gave a presentation about the first year of the NC NIC project and their plans for the second year to county-wide meetings for principals and superintendents. The county office provided fiscal support for the program by paying for substitute teachers, hiring CAST trainers, and providing textbooks & materials to support UDL implementation. Administrative support also opened the door to providing PD during planned PD days and providing release time so teachers could participate in the Inquiry Cycles and other cross-district UDL learning opportunities.
More teacher leaders joined to become Year 2 Cohort leaders, which grew the size of the NC NIC project and helped to increase its impact. All ten districts and two charter schools now have teachers involved in the project. Several districts in NC now have almost all teachers trained in UDL. The ILC team with the teacher leaders conducted a series of workshops on various UDL topics in Fall 2019 and had completed two rounds of Observation Inquiry, but had to cancel their last and cumulative meeting due to COVID-19 school closures. In addition, a presentation was given to the Union Hill School District staff upon administrative request. It can be found here.
Currently in Year 3, the UDL implementation team pivoted to an online UDL Community of Practice, applying the UDL Framework to both distance learning and in-person learning contexts. Teacher leaders continue to highlight effective practices and innovative UDL solutions to support student learning and increase equity and access in their classrooms. In addition, they are also focused on building capacity through collaboration and supporting professional development at their school sites. As the number of teacher leaders grows, and with the support of local administrators, it is the hope and expectation that UDL will make its way into every classroom in Nevada County.