Recent News


Sign up Now: Parent Webinar Series Focused on Supporting Partnerships for Student Success

STEP-TN announces a new Webinar Series - Families and Schools Together (FAST): Increasing Student Success Through Partnership. The series consists of three webinars, each of which will be recorded and archived for those who are unable to attend. All webinars are 12:30-1:30 p.m. eastern time. Additional details are listed below.

Reserve your webinar seat (space is limited)

  • October 22 - Identifying Each Student's Strengths and Needs
    Effectively communicating your child’s areas of strength and their unique needs sets the stage for children and youth with disabilities to be successful in school. STEP will provide tools families can use to provide important information about their child to teachers. These tools can be used by teachers to help families provide information to inform supports and service decisions.
  • November 19 - Hearing the Families' Voice - Parent Concerns as a Priority
    An important part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process is hearing the concerns of families related to their child's education. This webinar will focus on how families can effectively share their concerns and strategies for IEP teams to respond to parent concerns..
  • January 22 - Supporting Students in their Least Restrictive Environment
    Students with disabilities are to receive education in their least restrictive environment (LRE). This webinar will look at child, family, and curriculum considerations to consider as the IEP team discusses the individual needs of each child related to supports and services to ensure student success int their LRE.

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Parent Tips for Summer Learning

Recommended article from Homeroom, the official blog for the U.S. Department of Education -  Parent Like a Pro: Slowing the Summer Slide.

Author Cynthia O’Brien provides five parent tips to keep your child learning and having fun over the summer months - "Learning doesn’t have to fall by the wayside just because school is out."

Cynthia O’Brien is a 5th Grade Math/Science teacher from Maywood, Illinois and 2018-2019 School Ambassador Fellow with the US Department of Education.

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Baby Talks Webinar: ”Math is Everywhere"

Did you know that as a parent you can help your baby or toddler understand math concepts during your everyday routines? This one hour Baby Talks Webinar, ”Math is Everywhere,” will help you discover fun ways to support early math skills that will help your child get a head start on math! Sign up for the webinar here. If you can’t join live, it will be available for viewing on demand.

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New Tools to Support Preschool Learning: Supports for Bilingual Children and for Technology Integration

The Education Development Center has published two new tools for developing a supportive learning environment for children who are emergent bilingual (or dual language) learners, while also seeking to meaningfully integrate technology tools into their programs.

Supporting Emergent Bilingual Children in Early Learning  and Integrating Technology into Early Learning are short booklets (online in pdf format) that draw on current research into how children learn, giving educators promising practices for supporting the diverse needs of young learners. Easy-to-use classroom checklists are also provided to aid educators in effectively implementing these practices. These resources, available in Spanish, Chinese, and English, are applicable to all early childhood professionals, working in all types of learning environments, with young children from all backgrounds.

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Milestone Tracer App Available

Promoting healthy early childhood development is an important goal of Tennessee SPDG.  A free app is now available from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assist with that goal. CDC's Milestone Tracer app helps families learn more about milestones a child should reach in how he or she plays, learns, speaks, acts and moves from birth to age 5.  The app allows parents to track their child's developmental progress through the use of an interactive, illustrated checklist.  It can also suggest when it's time to "act early" by talking with your child's health care providers about any concerns you may have about your child's development. While the use of the app is not a substitute for validated, standardized developmental screenings, it can be a very helpful tool for parents and families. Download it free on iOS and Android devices in English and Spanish.

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Partners in Education Conference Held

The Partners in Education conference took place in downtown Nashville January 28 - 31.  It was a great success. Registration had to be cut off at 2,300 participants. Keynote speakers included Dr. Rosemarie Allen, Gerry Brooks, and Dr. Temple Grandin. There was also an early childhood track throughout the conference that included sessions conducted by several early childhood professionals, along with special guest speaker Dr. Erin Barton from Vanderbilt. All speakers were well received and did a tremendous job.

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SPDG Recognizes Six Exemplary ACCESS Districts

The Tennessee Department of Education, Division of Special Populations has selected six school systems to be named as Exemplary ACCESS Districts. The designation is for intensive work and exceptional dedication to the goals of the State Personnel Development Grant* over the past two years. Data on training participation, dedication to the grant design, improvements in teaching methods for both strand 1 and strand 2, improvements in IEP quality, improvements in reading screener scores, and efforts to expand the training system-wide were used to designate a school system as an Exemplary ACCESS district.

In alphabetical order, the six districts are:

  • Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
  • Clinton City Schools
  • Hawkins County Schools
  • McMinn County Schools
  • Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Murfreesboro City Schools

The Division of Special Populations will honor these districts during two sessions at the Partners in Education (PIE) Conference, January 2019. Honorees will be recognized once during the lunch session on Tuesday, January 29th and again during the SPDG 1.0 invite-only session on the afternoon of Wednesday, January 30th.

This work has given the Division of Special Populations the opportunity to partner with all SPDG districts to impact each student in every facet of their education in the least restrictive setting. These districts’ dedication to educators and students has, and will continue to, positively affect all students for many years to come. Our thanks goes out to each of these districts for stepping out as district leaders and for their dedication to continued success by creating positive, motivating, empowering learning environments throughout their district.

*The Tennessee State Department of Education, Division of Special Populations, was awarded the State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG) to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. This grant, aligned with the State Systemic Improvement Plan, allowed us to create a model that included training for general education teachers, special education teachers, and administrators on improving classroom climate, reaching all students through a differentiated design for learning, assessing students effectively in order to maximize the instructional impact, and promoting general and special education collaboration. Districts received, and redelivered, intensive training across two school years, with expansion beginning in year three.

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Pyramid Training Conducted Across State

Nearly 120 individuals participated in the three Pyramid Model train the trainer events that took place in the fall.  The four day trainings took place in each grand division of the state. The Pyramid Model is an evidenced-based approach to support social-emotional competencies for young children and is an effective model for improving outcomes in the classroom setting.  You can learn more about the Pyramid Model by visiting their website at Plans are underway for some of those trained on the Pyramid Model to provide regional trainings in July, 2019.


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For Families: How To Organize Your Child’s IEP Binder

New from STEP: All parents are interested in better ways to organize their child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) documents and reports. STEP has found a useful link for guidance on the best ways to sort all the paperwork. You can watch a video about how it works and grab the pages here:

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STEP Publishes Guide to Parents Rights and Responsibilities

To be involved, parents and family members need information. STEP, Inc. collaborated with the Tennessee Department of Education on a new information guide that families can use to become informed, empowered and engaged in their child’s education.

The Quick Guide to Parent Rights and Responsibilities in Special Education is an overview of some of the provisions of special education. It is designed to assist families in understanding their rights and responsibilities in the special education process. Parents of children who receive or may be eligible for special education services have rights under both the TN Rule 0520-01-09 and The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA 2014). An important part of these laws provides parents with the right to participate in their children’s education.


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