Pulling Together a Strong Crew
Having the right team in place from the start, or “crew” in the case of the AEM Pilot, is essential to the success of any state education or district initiative, including accessibility. As you think about who should be a part of your accessibility crew, remember that a wide range of roles and responsibilities impact - and are impacted by - the educational materials and technologies used in schools. Assemble a crew that represents a cross-section of relevant personnel, as well as family and student voices. This will ensure that broad perspectives are considered. Furthermore, during different phases of using the AEM Pilot you’ll need to collect information and data from a variety of professionals from across your state. Having a crew with diverse networks will make identifying and reaching those individuals more efficient.
Find the Right People
Every state education agency and school district is unique so having the right people on your crew should be decided by what they do rather than their titles. Here’s a list of categories with explanations of the roles and responsibilities that are relevant to an accessibility crew. Use this as a guide only, knowing that your crew can be flexible and should reflect the structure of your state education agency or district.
The role of administrators on your crew is essential, and they should be involved from the very beginning. Good leadership will mean that the process of improving accessibility is a priority, resulting in accountability for results and the allocation of resources. Because administrators typically have a breadth of understanding of the operations of your state education agency or district, they can often address questions and make efficient decisions about policies, procedures, and budgets. See Quality Indicator 1.1 for examples of administrator roles at both the state and local levels that are relevant to an accessibility crew for the AEM Pilot.
Teachers have the daily pulse of learners, including the extent to which the educational materials and technologies they’re using are effective for all students. Teachers are present when students are using materials from wide-ranging sources, such as published by a textbook company, selected on the web, or created by teachers themselves. Regardless of their area of instruction (e.g., content area, intervention, learning strategies), the observations and data collected by teachers is critical to understanding the impact of accessibility on student independence, participation, and progress. Teacher representation from both general and special education is essential.
Related Services Personnel
Physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, interpreters, and other related services personnel frequently work one-on-one with students with physical, sensory, and communication disabilities. Their experiences provide an important perspective about the unique and varied ways that students interact with materials and technologies.
Technology has multiple purposes in education agencies, whether at the state or local level. Implications for the accessibility of digital instructional materials and technologies cut across assistive technology, education technology, and information technology. With representation of personnel from all areas of technology use in schools, your crew will make better progress toward a robust infrastructure and an inclusive technology ecosystem. See Quality Indicator 1.1 for examples of technology roles at both the state and local levels that are relevant to an accessibility crew for the AEM Pilot.
Data collection and use are essential at both the state and district levels for monitoring student performance. For the purposes of the AEM Pilot, your accessibility crew will benefit from experts who understand data collection requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Data managers who keep track of and analyze myriad types of data, including student grades, behavior, and assessment, will also be an asset to your crew. While not listed under Quality Indicator 1.1, which lists strategic collaborators for a leadership team, data specialists and managers will be key during your crew’s activities related to data collection and use.
Libraries or media centers are often a school’s central hub for resource materials and use of technologies for searching data and information. From online databases to educational software and apps, your state and district librarian(s) likely knows a lot about the materials and technologies being used in schools. While not listed under Quality Indicator 1.1, your crew will benefit from consulting your state or local school librarians.
Parents and Guardians
Other than the students themselves, the individuals who have the most intimate knowledge about the learning experiences of students with disabilities are the people who care for them 24/7. Parents and guardians can provide personal insights about what works and what doesn’t for their children. Your crew will benefit from contacting your state or regional parent center and asking them to be a partner.
In addition to speaking to their experiences and needs, one or more students on your crew can demonstrate how they use assistive technology in authentic contexts. We can’t overemphasize this point: Make sure your crew includes student voices.
Know Who’s Doing What
Once you have your members identified, it will be helpful to assign roles for making sure your crew makes the most of the AEM Pilot. Here are some specific suggestions, noting that one person can serve more than one role:
AEM Pilot Facilitator
Collaboration is essential to the success of your crew. Assign a facilitator of collaboration who can help your crew create a vision and stay motivated. A facilitator should take the initiative to identify one or more protocols for guiding discussions and other activities. Someone with experience leading Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) would be ideal.
AEM Pilot Administrator
The AEM Pilot Administrator is a technical role specific to managing the tool. This person oversees your crew’s user accounts and provides technical support, such as:
- Setting up the state or district account
- Inviting crew members to join and create their own individual accounts
- Providing assistance to the crew on how to use the tool
AEM Pilot Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) Manager
The QA/QC Manager oversees information entered in the AEM Pilot and monitors for accuracy and quality. This role is important because all crew members have authoring privileges. In addition to the crew deciding on a protocol for those members entering information and completing reports, the QA/QC Manager should confirm that the final output is correct.
Roles for Effective Meetings
Nobody likes more meetings but they’re a necessary function of your crew. To make the most of them and thereby minimize their frequency, we recommend the following roles:
- Coordinator: A strong coordinator will contribute to well-organized and efficient meetings by developing agendas and following a protocol to keep the crew focused throughout meetings. A coordinator is responsible for the basic logistics of meetings, such as scheduling, finding a location, and sending invitations.
- Notetaker: An assigned team notetaker will ensure a record of discussions and result in consistency across meetings.
- Timekeeper: Having someone periodically announce the time will keep the crew focused.
Optimize Your Crew’s Productivity
Your crew will have the most success if you form a learning community that builds knowledge together, works cohesively, and supports and cares for one another in the process of reaching your shared goals. Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning is a good resource to optimize your crew’s productivity and collaboration. What’s more, better functioning crews have more efficient and productive meetings - something everyone will appreciate!
Change is the result of all true learning.