• Embedded Language Arts
• Reading Practice
• Listening Skills
• Expressive Communication
NEW! PCI Life Skills Series for Today’s World is an updated series of board games based on the best-selling PCI Life Skills Series games. The ten board games in this series focus on meaningful, contemporary life skills while promoting independence, socialization, and positive behavior skills. Proven to be effective for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, these games also help students learn how to act at school, at home, and in the community.
• Each game features a Teacher’s Guide with questions and possible answers. A notes section includes additional information reinforcing the life skill for the teacher or game facilitator to share with the students after the question has been answered.
• A Progress Chart is included with each game. The Progress Chart can be used for documenting student progress on all questions in the game as well as social and behavioral skills related to game play.
• Set 1 includes the following games: Behavior, Community, Basic Information, Money & Time, and Survival Signs.
(*Of course, the word “customer” takes on a whole new meaning when your customer is a child struggling to learn and it makes the difference in them having a better, more fulfilling life.)
Where to begin? The summer has been a whirlwind for the Sales and Marketing Team at PCI. The Fall Catalogs are out, the web has new offers and PCI began the year-long celebration of our 20th Anniversary in business.
With so many highlights to write about, I will focus on one for this post – our 2-day leadership seminar with Howard Hyden. Howard is a fascinating speaker that has worked with hundreds, nay thousands of companies in every imaginable industry from food service to major NASA contractors. He is also the founder of the Center For Customer Focus – NOT customer service, he says, customer FOCUS - there is a difference. Simply put, customer focus is getting input from the customer first about what they want or need. Sounds so simple that everyone should be doing it, right? Yeah, not so much. Howard warned everyone that once the seminar was over we would all be hyper-aware of lack of customer focus when we see it and, oh boy, I could write an entire blog about that! Alas, I digress.
Howard pointed out opportunities, shared experiences and gave all of us some great ideas that we can implement in our departments. It was a very enriching two days and during that time I realized that the spirit of PCI is incredibly customer-focused.
It was a great feeling to recognize that some of the key principles that Howard spoke about are things that PCI does quite naturally. For example, when a new product concept is developed, (Bwooop, bwooop, please remember the person writing this is merely a web manager, not an educator / thanks) the Product Development Team takes great pain to see how it will work for a student with any variety of special needs. Will the student be able to hold the card, will the color contrast be enough, are there too many words on the page? Years and years of classroom experience and research are all brought together to address the smallest detail.
In a similar way, when the sales team attends a curriculum fair or presentation, a great deal of work goes in to asking what the customer needs before we start packing. Based on the needs of the student, sometimes the team will customize a group of products into a kit solution specifically for the district or classroom.
No organization can be perfect is every aspect, but I believe PCI has a huge lead over so many companies today, simply because we measure our success by the success of our students.
By Carin Lamontagne, Senior Content Editor and Submissions Editor
You have the most amazing idea. It will revolutionize education. If only someone would publish it…
PCI Education welcomes submissions from teachers, students, parents, or anyone else with a true interest in improving the materials available for students with special needs. So how do you get your submission to us? And how can you improve your chances of having PCI (or any publisher) develop your submission for publication?
Before you send a submission to a publisher, do some research. First, find out whether the publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts. PCI Education does; some other publishers do not. Then, determine what market the publisher serves. In the case of PCI, we serve students with special needs; specifically, students with learning disabilities or with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Next, determine what types of products the publisher is putting out on the market. Check the publisher’s website or catalog for recent additions to the product line. For example, PCI has been focusing on core programs in the most recent years, although supplemental products continue to be a part of our line-up. Next, look for products that may compete with your submission. This is information PCI specifically requests from submitters, but it is a good idea to complete this research no matter which publisher you choose. If there are similar products on the market, focus on what makes yours different.
Once the research is done, find out what submission policies the publisher has established. These policies and the submission procedures will usually be posted on the publisher’s website; for PCI, look here: PCI Product Submissions Policy. Follow the instructions as closely as possible to increase your chances of success.
Finally, send your submission to the publisher for review. Depending on the submission, the publisher, the time of year, and a variety of other issues, review can take days, weeks, months, or even years. Many publishers have a “don’t call us; we’ll call you” policy, and you may not receive feedback unless they choose to accept your submission for publication. PCI informs authors when their submissions have been received, and we contact authors again when the decision to accept or reject has been made. Be aware that many publishers do not return submissions, retaining or discarding them after acceptance or rejection. PCI returns all rejected submissions that include adequate return postage.
We understand that people who work directly with students often have the best ideas for teaching those students, and we have seen submitted product ideas lead to successes in the classrooms. So if you have the next Cooking to Learn, or Academic Curriculum Framework, submit it for review. At PCI Education, we know that innovation comes from necessity. We take product submissions very seriously, and we strive to give each submission a full and fair review. We see our submitters as customers, partners, and resources; and we all share a common goal: providing solutions that help individuals with special needs and learning differences attain success in school, at home, and in the community.
Carin Lamontagne is a Senior Content Editor and Submissions Editor with PCI Education. For over four years, she has been key in developing process for product submissions and has spent a great deal of her career at PCI working on the software development teams for products such as PCI Reading Program Software, Word Munchers, and Math Munchers.
Prior to her career with PCI Education, Carin enjoyed 10 years in consumer products and specialty retail management. Carin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Anthropology from Texas State University San Marcos.
As the mother of two children, including one with autism who is nonverbal, I am intrigued by the possibilities that new technologies present for engaging all learners. I’ve watched my seven-year-old daughter learn to master her Wii and DSi game consoles far more quickly than I seem to be able to learn the ins and outs of Excel. My five-year-old son was interacting with electronics intended for three-year-olds before he turned one. He may be nonverbal, but I’ve learned to see the patterns of which electronic toys and which musical tunes he chooses to settle down for bed, calm down when frustrated, or start his “get-ready-in-the-morning” routine.
The first time I got a close look at the iPad, I started thinking about its usefulness as a communication device. iPad users can download applications that show survival signs, teach letter-sound correspondence, and make counting money fun. For my son, I can see the iPad becoming a digital communication book he can use to indicate what he needs or the destination he would like to go simply by touching an image on the screen.
Jill’s responsibilities include managing the development of proprietary reading curriculums, training customers on PCI’s reading curriculums and other proprietary products, conceptualizing new products, writing sales and marketing literature related to the reading curriculums, staying current on reading and other educational research, overseeing the research conducted on PCI’s products, and staying current on federal and state legislation related to education.
Prior to her career with PCI Education, she was a national reading consultant and a seventh grade reading teacher. In 1999, she was named Teacher of the Year for San Antonio ISD and won the Trinity Prize for Teaching. Haney earned a BA with honors and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Trinity University in San Antonio. She has additional graduate reading hours from University of Texas San Antonio.
You should check it out, it contains some great blogs that we already follow and some that we should. I always appreciate it when folks take the time to research and compile the best, most relevant blogs and put them in one place – makes it easy for me to add what I need to my Google Reader
These intervention programs target reading or math and they fit snugly into our line of products for academically challenged students. They are age appropriate for middle and high school students who are significantly behind grade-level expectations and need intensive, small-group instruction.
They also have some outstanding research results – in fact SpellRead was the small group intervention program rated the highest by the What Works Clearinghouse.
Really? In this economy?
It may not seem like the optimal time to be making a move like this with the economy and education budgets looking like they will stagnate or decline for the next several years.
But as we look ahead we see an ongoing emphasis on serving all students and in particular reaching those students that traditional approaches have failed. A quick review of the policy directives coming out of the Obama Department of Education makes clear that accountability is not going to be sacrificed to short term economic pressures. That in turn means schools will continue to invest in reaching students who are struggling.
Evidence also shows that companies that invest wisely during downturns emerge stronger than competitors who pull back. We have increased our catalog distribution, hired sales reps, and boosted our on-line presence in the last 18 months. These new products fit nicely into our channel mix and should help fuel our market beating growth record of the past couple of years.
The Strategic Context
The supplemental publishing world has been in transition for several years. The traditional market for small scale ad-ons to basal materials is still there, but alongside it a world of comprehensive targeted intervention curricula has sprung up. In fact, most of the growth has come from the comprehensive side – examples include Read 180 and Wilson in reading and Carnegie Learning and TouchMath in mathematics.
The reason for this is rooted in student outcomes. Educators have figured out that instructional materials designed specifically for the job at hand are much more effective in reaching these students where they are. It is possible use adaptations and modifications of the basal textbook materials – but it isn’t optimal.
The acquisition refreshes our line on the LD side with 5 top notch programs. Our Development Team’s first reaction on seeing the materials was “this is exactly what we would have written.” We were impressed by the simplicity of design and the thoughtful structure provided for instruction in the materials.
If you are interested in seeing where we go with them be sure to tune into our web site for further developments. We have some pretty cool ideas about how to take rock solid programs and wrap them with innovations that build on 19 years of expertise in serving these students.
As educators, our task is to push students to move past the boundaries of what they are currently able to do—to expand their abilities, stretch their knowledge, test their understandings, and apply skills in new and unfamiliar contexts. We do this in an effort to help students achieve their fullest potential—to be their best academic, social, emotional, and professional selves. For most students, taking risks in a learning environment is not an easy or comfortable process. For students who have experienced repeated failures in school, the prospect of taking risks can be paralyzing.
At the recent Games, Learning & Society (GLS) conference , Beth King, a PhD. candidate at the University of Washington at Madison, presented on the process of “creating possibility spaces” for students within the virtual world of Sims2. King described her research with adolescent boys who were disaffiliated with school and had low academic self-esteem. The boys also had a strong affiliation with video games and gaming culture. “The project goal was to encourage each participant to consider the future not in terms of current academic performance but instead based upon their unique hopes, dreams and passion using potential self (Markus & Nurius, 1986) strategies.”
King situated herself as an advocate for the boys by creating safe places for them to practice their “authentic” selves and explore “possible” selves. Within the virtual world of Sims2, she had the boys explore who they thought they could become, who they were afraid to become, and who they were likely to become. King then conducted a series of career development interventions that included a blend of self-explorations within the virtual world sandbox as well as visits to actual worksites and college campuses. After the project, the boys who participated reported an increased ability to visualize their “hoped-for” futures. They also spoke about their individual futures with language that indicated much more agency and ownership.
As educators of students with special needs, the “possibility space” opened up within the sandbox of the virtual world is something we should be fully exploring. If we can give students the opportunity to safely “try on” a number of different occupations and explore various futures and identities, they may surprise us in ways we could never imagine.
Erin Kinard joined PCI as the Vice President, Product Development/Publisher in December, 2009. Kinard oversees product development for the company. Prior to joining PCI, Kinard served as Editorial Director, Reading and ESL for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Supplemental Publishers in Austin. During her eight years at Harcourt, Kinard held a variety of positions including Editorial Director of Steck-Vaughn, and Editorial Director of Reading for Harcourt Achieve. In addition to her educational publishing experience at other companies including Brown Publishing Network and Scholastic, Inc.,
Several months ago, I introduced you to a magical place here in San Antonio called Morgan’s Wonderland —the world’s first ultra accessible family fun park designed specifically for children and adults with special needs. Having taken an afternoon to tour the facility with one of the park directors, I can honestly say that if you have not had an opportunity to visit their website or follow their Facebook page, you are missing out on some serious warm-fuzzies. If you live near San Antonio, I encourage you to go and see the place for yourself. Please remember to make reservations first. The park directors closely manage the number of people admitted daily in order to avoid overcrowding. This is just one example of the park’s sensitivity to the needs of the audience it serves.
As part of the community dedicated to serving individuals with special needs, pretty much everyone at PCI saw a partnership with Morgan’s Wonderland as a natural extension of what we do, much like our involvement with Special Olympics and The Achievers Center. After our initial visit in February, we brainstormed ways to get involved. Now we are excited to get EVERYONE involved! Here’s how:
PCI Education, WeAreTeachers.com and Morgan’s Wonderland are teaming up to send students and their families to Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas. Starting this fall, we are going to sponsor a contest on the WeAreTeachers website that will invite teachers to nominate a student with special needs and his or her family to visit Morgan’s Wonderland. The winning student, three family members, and the student’s teacher will receive a trip to San Antonio where they will spend two nights and two days at the park—including airfare, hotel accommodations, and park admission free of charge. In addition, the winning teacher will receive a suite of PCI reading and math products for his or her school or classroom.
Here is the part where we need your help! We are looking for corporate sponsors to partner with us on this project. The benefit for all involved will be tremendous—not just for the students and families who will get the opportunity to visit this amazing place, but you will get the warm-fuzzies just by being involved!
For more than four decades, the AEP Awards have honored outstanding resources for teaching and learning. One of the largest and longest-running awards programs for educational products, the AEP Awards aim to:
identify products that exemplify the highest standards of professional, quality educational content,
give credit and recognition to the organizations who are leading the way in this field, and
set benchmarks to which the rest of the industry can aspire.
Leslie Buteyn is tasked with developing products from the idea phase to the marketplace and is responsible for managing the development of many of PCI Education’s bestselling products. She has developed products for students from preschool age to adult in all subject areas.
Prior to her career at PCI, Buteyn was a middle school language arts and reading teacher in San Antonio. She holds a Bachelor’s in English and a Master’s in Teaching. Both degrees were earned at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.
The biggest message was his presence. It left no doubt about how seriously Obama and he feel about improving the lives of students with disabilities. This was welcome because much of the work they have done in this area so far has not been particularly visible.
He laid out a vision for the Administration’s education legislative priorities and the central role that serving people with disabilities will play in ESEA (aka NCLB). The linkages between ESEA and IDEA that were created during the era of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) will also be strengthened and improved.
What follows is a recap of the talk and some thoughts on what this means for the SPED community.
Special Education Is The Civil Rights Issue of Our Generation
He opened by observing that Obama and he believe every child deserves a world-class education. While almost everyone says this, a gap still exists between our aspirations and reality. Subtle prejudices and roadblocks still get in the way of people with special needs.
Most of the talk teed up the idea that we have a historic opportunity to full this promise for all students with the upcoming ESEA and IDEA reauthorizations.
The argument was initially framed around global competitiveness. America simply does not have expendable students if we are going to prosper in an increasingly globalized world.
But he closed this part of the speech by saying that serving students isn’t just about economics. It is a moral issue. In fact he called it “the civil rights issue of our generation.”
He hammered this point home by talking about how the civil rights battles of the 60’s for racial equality paved the way for IDEA in the mid-seventies for people with disabilities. He made a strong statement about how he and Obama are committed to making this promise a reality.
Personally I really appreciated his stand on the role of education in helping people live more fulfilling lives – regardless of the economics. I’m weary of every education policy discussion devolving into how schools are job readiness factories. Of course they are – but they are so much more than that.
Progress Not Perfection
Next he focused on what is working. We have made great strides in the 35 years since IDEA was enacted in making sure a disability shouldn’t stop any child from attending school and pursuing a career.
Students with special needs are no longer turned away at the door, housed in broom closets, or bused to a distant site. Today the 6 million students served by IDEA spend 80% of their time in inclusion classrooms and 95% are in a neighborhood schools.
He told a couple of heartwarming stories of students with special needs learning alongside their peers, eating lunch with them, making friends with them, and demonstrating real leadership in their schools. That society is willing to make this investment sends the message that disabilities alone do not define our work or our worth as human beings. Disabilities are not destiny.
He labeled all these successes are civil rights victories.
First Stop – Enforcement
Duncan at this point pointed out that will all the progress we still have not fulfilled the full promise of IDEA. The data shows us we are getting better – but we must get better faster.
By just about every measure students with disabilities are better educated than just a generation ago. The graduation rate, post secondary enrollment rate, and employment opportunities are increasing but they are all still too low. Students are leaving schools without the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.
The Obama Administration intends to work with schools, districts, and states to enforce existing laws. While this was a relatively passing remark it does mark a change in emphasis from prior administrations. Generally speaking enforcement of existing statutes has gotten short shrift over the past couple of decades (the IRS audit budget was cut dramatically while the economy grew).
For publishers who help districts meet their obligations under IDEA and ADA a renewed emphasis on enforcement means your customers will be open to solutions that help them meet both the spirit and the letter of the law.
ESEA Reauthorization Linked To IDEA
Making ESEA a building block for the subsequent IDEA reauthorization isn’t a new concept. Better integration began with NCLB. But it appears that Obama intends to create a much tighter link between the two, in fact Duncan specifically called it “one seamless approach.”
The administration also isn’t going to scrap NCLB. They want to build on what worked, but fix the things that didn’t. Much of this has been reported elsewhere.
What hasn’t gotten much press is that Special Education will be included in ALL aspects of ESEA. This is great news for the community of educators, professionals, parents, and publishers who serve this population. I believe part of why Duncan was willing to make the time to be in Nashville was simply to drive this point home.
There were three areas that he specifically called out with regard to Special Education – accountability, assessment, and teacher quality.
SPED will fully participate in ESEA’s accountability systems. NCLB did this right by requiring the participation of all students. This highlighted achievement gaps and forced districts to address populations that were underserved.
But NCLB’s assessment regime had a central flaw – it failed to measure and reward growth. From Duncan’s perspective we shouldn’t label solid progress towards goals as failure. “It is wrong, inaccurate, and demoralizing.” A school that progresses from 2 grade levels behind to 1 level behind has NOT failed – but under NCLB it has been labeled as such. He quipped that “NCLB has 50 ways to fail, very few to succeed.”
The new accountability system will be based mostly on student growth and will recognize schools that show meaningful gains. The law will continue to require teaching students with disabilities and schools will also have to improve the performance of the highest achieving students. The focus on subpopulations isn’t going away.
The vast majority of schools will also have more flexibility to implement locally designed ideas to reach the benchmarks. He believes the best ideas come from the local level.
This does not mean that schools with chronic gaps and poor performance get a pass. The school closure in Central Falls RI in February makes clear that Obama backs strong measures where needed.
In an interesting twist this accountability will also escalate to the district level. District level gaps in progress may not be apparent at the school level.
Assessment Grant Competition
In order for this to happen Duncan recognizes that states will have to significantly improve existing assessments – we must move beyond filling the bubble tests.
In the ESEA blueprint and Race to the Top (RTTT) they are putting investments in building the next generation of assessments. He specifically cited including technology to measure a range of skills that have been difficult to measure.
I think more importantly there will be an emphasis on formative assessments which provide real time feedback to improve teaching and learning.
Assessment reform is especially important for special education. The majority of SPED students take the regular state tests and a few can take alternate assessments. Building assessments that are both accessible and deliver meaningful information requires specialized expertise. The DOE will run a competition to improve special education testing tools.
Students with low incidence disabilities require the same quality of assessments but the development of those tools doesn’t make commercial sense given the size of the sub-groups. It makes enormous educational and civil rights sense – so we were pleased to see the government step in to make this possible. We were also excited to see that it will be run as a competition – allowing multiple approaches which will dramatically increase our odds of finding what works.
The last area he talked about is recognizing “the uniquely transformative power of good teachers.” The Obama Administration is investing $4 billion in recruiting, training, and retaining teachers. They are going to have a specific focus on high needs areas – which includes SPED.
This is great news because the turnover in Special Ed is so high. The maturity and classroom judgment that come from experience are at a real premium. Recruiting and rewarding teachers who choose this path is something everyone in the special needs community should celebrate.
Saving Education Jobs – Foundation for Reform
A final point. Secretary Duncan echoed his remarks to Congress last week about the pending catastrophe in teacher employment due to plunging state budgets. He made the point that education reform and saving education jobs go hand in hand. At this time we cannot afford to take a step backwards.
I commented on this last week and strongly encourage publishers to get involved in supporting this effort with whatever influence you have or can create in Washington.
It was really nice to see the Administration make a concerted effort to reach out to the professionals who serve students with special needs. It sent a strong message that the progress we have made in recently will not be lost, and in fact should be accelerated as education policy evolves in the next several years.