Throughout the Commonwealth, Intermediate Units are serving their communities and students. Check out our IU Spotlights to learn more about some of their efforts:

IU Spotlights

  • 6 Jun 2019 4:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Schools have access to many SEL programs, but integrating them into daily routines requires concerted effort. CPSEL offers consultation to plan SEL implementation and to use data to measure progress; professional development to infuse this implementation schoolwide; and coaching to help teachers improve techniques.

    It’s about “creating an environment where students feel connected to others and valued as individuals with unique perspectives,” said CPSEL Director Shileste Overton Morris. “When you’re going to change an entire school climate, everyone needs to be on board. We can weave SEL into just about anything we do, whether it’s a science lab or math class or physical education. But it is a process that takes time and requires opportunities for skill-building for both adults and students.”

    Of the 16 skills cited by the World Economic Forum as necessary for the 21st century, 12 are SEL skills. And yet, more than half of U.S. manufacturers and business CEOs report serious problems finding workers with the skills needed for workplace success.

    The benefits of SEL implementation extend beyond career readiness and success. Research shows that SEL:

    Improves academic achievement by 11 percent.

    Improves classroom behavior and students’ ability to manage stress and depression.

    Reduces the need for public assistance in later life.

    Reduces the likelihood of involvement in the criminal justice system.

    Saves an average of $11 for every $1 invested.

    SEL is included in Pennsylvania’s Act 44, the 2018 school security law, as a critical piece in overall school safety, dovetailing with mental health services and security practices. All combine to create school environments where every student feels connected.

    “You can’t bypass these foundational skills that kids need,” said Strategic Partnerships Managing Coordinator Amy Moritz. “Schools have always been about preparing students academically. But now, when we look at successful life outcomes, we realize that schools need to support the development of broader social and emotional competencies.” (www.cpsel.org)


  • 6 Jun 2019 4:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Assistive technology is opening new worlds for children with speech and communications barriers, but employing it in real life is not as easy as it looks on TV.

    Capital Area IU 15 bridged the gap with a bear hunt – not a real hunt, but a bear hunt-themed camp in a shopping mall that helped children, families, and speech therapists get comfortable with the practical uses of AAC, or augmentative & alternative communication, devices.

    “It’s really amazing,” said CAIU Preschool Speech Pathologist Jill Bradley. “It’s like learning to talk again for everyone.”

    Let’s Talk AAC Camp, funded through a CAIU internal grant competition seeking innovative initiatives, addressed multiple barriers to using assistive technology:

    * AAC is not one-size-fits-all. Different children need devices with different capabilities.

    * Children, families, and even speech pathologists need real-world practice to incorporate devices into everyday life.

    * Devices display many icons and letters. Building mastery through a planned approach encourages parents to go beyond the basics and utilize all the communications capabilities available.

    Over a Friday evening and Saturday in April 2018, preschool-aged children practiced finding core words on their boards, while parents learned how to use the devices in varied situations. The “bear hunt” theme provided the hook for fun learning – turning a pretend campfire on and off, requesting marshmallows for s’mores, placing Teddy Graham crackers in tents.

    At Capital City Mall, children and families interacted with store staff and mall security as they pursued a scavenger hunt and helped build two Build-A-Bear teddy bears. Build-A-Bear employees pooled their money to donate the cost for the bears the campers assembled, and both bears were raffled off to the campers.

    Mall staff and customers seemed delighted to engage with the new guests.

    “These vendors are now experienced in seeing that people can come up and will use these devices,” said CAIU Supervisor of Special Projects Mark Hennes.

    By camp’s end, children and families were considerably more comfortable with their devices. Children will benefit through acquisition of “the building blocks for language,” said Speech and Language Pathologist Yvonne Shreffler. “Being able to ask questions, answer questions, communicate, let people know why I’m mad or why I’m happy. Those building blocks are what education and literacy are based on.”


  • 6 Jun 2019 4:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the past, guidance counselors were the sole voices for career education in their schools. Those days are gone. Businesses are clamoring for skilled people to replace retiring Baby Boomers. The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Career Education & Workforce Standards demand robust career exploration and skill-building opportunities at every grade and in every subject.

    The challenge for school districts has been tying all the pieces together, and Berks County IU 14 filled the need by leading creation of the Berks County Career Pathways Framework. Since early 2016, the IU has convened the county’s 18 school districts, plus nonpublic and charter schools, with influential business groups to develop career-readiness education that meets the needs of all.

    The result is a flexible, action-oriented framework that builds district-wide capacity and exposes students from kindergarten to 12th grade to the world of careers waiting for them.

    “This needs to be all hands on deck, with all teachers understanding this,” said BCIU Office of Professional Development and Curriculum Director Dan Richards. “If I'm a chemistry teacher, I'm connecting students to real-world uses and experiences. If I'm a physical education teacher, I'm helping students understand how the skills they’re learning translate to success in the workforce.”

    Among the project’s priorities is access and equity to business and postsecondary experiences, meaning that any student anywhere in Berks County can explore careers of interest, whether an urban student is intrigued by agriculture or a rural student wants to pursue information technology.

    Under BCIU’s lead, the initiative:

    - Introduces students to career options and aligns courses with their interests.

    - Creates job shadowing, internships, and other real-world exposure, with a database listing available opportunities in local businesses.

    - Integrates financial literacy and such “employability skills” as time management and teamwork into K-12 curricula.

    - Offers externships and other professional development for teachers, helping them connect classroom activities to the needs of local businesses.

    - Allows students to access opportunities across districts that might not be offered in their local area.

    Participants “see this as a long-term project,” guiding students toward achieving their dreams while boosting the economic vitality of the entire region, Richards said. “We just had a meeting about the Class of 2030. It’s helping those elementary students throughout the whole process. We see this as a 10-plus year campaign, maintaining it for years to come.”


  • 6 Jun 2019 4:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Renata remembers her classrooms in Uganda, the ones without tables. She remembers how her family had to pay for water. Since coming to Lancaster fleeing the turmoil in her homeland, she has decided to become a doctor, so she can help people the way others have helped her.

    With Lancaster’s long history of welcoming refugees and immigrants, Lancaster-Lebanon IU13 is leading a unique, dual-function collaborative. The Refugee Center and Community School at Reynolds (RCCSR), a program of IU13 Community Education, helps refugees uprooted from their homes settle in and succeed, while also helping the entire community build skills for self-sufficiency.

    IU13 forged partnerships throughout the community to offer services, create the space, and generate funding. In rooms at the School District of Lancaster’s Reynolds Middle School, the RCCSR helps refugees – most of them past the 90-day limit on federal resettlement assistance – achieve stability. Here, they can find:

    English as a Second Language (ESL) and citizenship classes for adults.

    After-school and additional ESL programs for students.

    Health services.

    Cultural navigation.

    Welcoming Schools Orientation: An orientation program on the U.S. educational system for newly arrived families.

    “Imagine going to a foreign country because we had to flee as quickly as we could to save our lives and our families,” says Community Education Supervisor Joshua McManness. “Maybe there’s an agency to help us find housing and enroll in schools, but at three months, they can’t help anymore. Meanwhile, you still have a language to learn. You’re working on cultural norms. Even going to the doctor and communicating with your child’s teachers are different. These are very real needs faced by families coming into the RCCSR and our mission is to help them work throw these needs and resettle as members of the community.

    Also at the center, local residents and families of Reynolds Middle School students can access High School Equivalency (HSE) courses, ESL classes, health care and other supports designed to benefit whole families.

    Since opening its doors in October 2015, the RCCSR has served 300 students and family members. Preliminary data shows a bump in PSSA reading and math scores. Services continue evolving to meet needs, such as the intensive “Leap into Language” summer program planned to prepare English-learning middle school students for the upcoming school year.

    The “inner resilience and motivation” of Lancaster’s refugee population is already in place, says McManness. “We just try and make the connections, and help with language barriers. The amount of resilience in our families and kids is amazing. In fact, we learn something new from them, every day!”


  • 6 Jun 2019 4:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Giving students with disabilities a voice empowers them to speak up for their wants and wishes. But give them “a voice and a choice,” and they’re on the road to achieving their dreams.

    That’s the goal behind PennWorks, a unique, community-wide partnership initiated by Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12. The effort incorporates national certifications into traditional career training. Certificate holders are no longer trained for a specific workplace – perhaps a local hotel or manufacturer – but can transport their skills throughout an industry.

    “A lot of time, we help students work in the community, which is great,” said LIU 12 Director of Special Education Dr. Lynn Murphy. “Sometimes, that limits them to learning that specific skill at that specific organization or employer. When they have opportunities to get national certification, they can have some choice of where they want to go, where they want to live, and where they want to work.”

    PennWorks partners span the range of York County business, economic development, education, and disabilities services. LIU 12 is adapting curriculum to nationally recognized standards, with a “soft pilot” launching in April 2018. Lessons learned from the pilot, serving four students in two school districts, will make PennWorks a universal program, applicable to all settings.

    “It is our goal to make this a portable program, so if it works in one district, it can work in any district,” said Murphy.

    Through PennWorks, each student will receive personalized training and education, building the skills needed to achieve certification. Community agencies and schools partner to deliver customized learning, and parents learn how to help their children become advocates for their own independence and career goals.

    “Through PennWorks, students with disabilities might not have to settle on one place to work for the rest of their lives,” said Murphy. “They have a voice and a choice in where they want to be employed.”




  • 6 Jun 2019 4:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Brenden R.: Learning to communicate

    New parents Merleen and Alan Reppert knew little about child development, and they wondered why their 2-year-old son wasn’t speaking or pointing. Their pediatrician’s referral for Early Intervention assessment led to speech therapy, and the classic signs of autism began to emerge.

    In Infant/Toddler Early Intervention, Brenden learned to communicate through pictures and basic sign language. At age 3, he was ready for Central IU 10’s Early Intervention preschool, where he developed communications, socialization, and self-control skills that helped him thrive.

    “If it was not for Early Intervention and the CIU, and those teacher and those therapists, I don’t feel this kid would be where he is, because we didn’t know anything,” says Merleen Reppert. “What a world of difference it made.”

    Today, Brenden Reppert is an active first grader. He loves math. He struggles sometimes, but his EI teachers and therapists taught him to calm himself after any meltdowns. Plus, with the social skills he learned in CIU’s preschool classrooms, he seeks out playtime with other kids.

    “We would do anything for Early Intervention and the CIU,” says Reppert. “We feel like he’d be so far behind without it, and he’s not because of all the steps he took. We followed what the therapists and evaluators told us, and the reward has been 10-fold.”

    The Central IU 10 approach: Familiar settings

    At Central IU 10, Early Intervention services start with one question to parents: What would you want for your child if he or she did not have a disability? Whether parents envision the child in the home, with relatives, or in the same preschool or child care that siblings attended, CIU’s staff do their utmost to deliver developmental services in the family’s preferred setting.

    CIU saves money on its preschool EI services by contracting with three agencies that operate classrooms, including the local Head Start provider, says Karen Krise, CIU 10’s Director of Preschool Early Intervention Services. The collaborative effort in “reverse mainstream” classrooms, where students with and without special needs are equal in number, assures children any needed Early Intervention services within Head Start’s quality early learning environment.

    Many children progress through CIU 10’s preschool continuum, from special education classes, to reverse mainstream, and finally to kindergarten. Many “go right into regular kindergarten,” says Krise. “Some kids make amazing progress.”


  • 6 Jun 2019 4:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When school districts refer high school students with mental health disorders to Seneca Highlands IU 9, the prescription for wellness includes learning.

    Through IU 9’s Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program, or AIOP, students get academic help to fill educational gaps and reach grade level in subjects where they’re falling behind – all while receiving intensive treatment for their psychological well-being.

    The program has partnered with mental-health provider Dickinson Center, Inc., since the mid-2000s. Every year, 10 to 12 high school students from eight area districts are referred to AIOP, which operates from a Potter County government building in Coudersport.

    While Dickinson Center staffers oversee group and individual therapy, students pursue individualized studies – designed according to academic assessments – with an IU 9 teacher. Students keep pace with current classwork, while they can also take online courses to recover missing credits.

    As students achieve goals and adhere to strict behavioral expectations, they earn increasing privileges – for example, attending field trips, or listening to music during lunch – and ascend four levels representing academic and personal progress. At the top level, most gradually return to their home schools, while others go on to graduate directly from their home district’s high school.

    Some AIOP students build work experience in community businesses, with support from IU9 job coaches and the Potter County Career Link. One student was an excellent artist who worked with a graphic designer, says Shelly Carson, IU 9’s director of special education. Others get jobs in local hospitals and restaurants.

    From start to finish, students transform from kids who won’t engage with AOIP staff to confident young people who “start to believe that they can do things,” Carson says. IU 9 has added a Children's Intensive Outpatient Program for elementary students in Coudersport and is trying to replicate the success of both programs with a new Intensive Outpatient Program in Elk County.

    Overall, school districts benefit from higher graduation rates and the return of students better prepared to cope with the academic and social challenges of high school.

    “When they come back, they’re presenting as a student,” says Carson. “They’re ready to learn.”


  • 6 Jun 2019 4:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The number of English language learners in Pennsylvania is skyrocketing, and Appalachia IU 8 is a leader in equipping schools to meet the challenges faced by students whose primary language is not English. No matter what their background or where they came from, every student of English in Pennsylvania needs expert help, because acquiring English is an arduous process that takes seven to 10 years, says Leonard Shurin, administrator and ESL Program Specialist at IU 8.

    Additionally, ESL classes are required by state and federal law, and an ESL class, as a curricular subject, replaces English language arts in the curriculum. "English is the hardest language in the world to acquire," says Shurin. Students who get successful ESL, or English as a Second Language, instruction perform better on Pennsylvania's achievement tests in English and language arts, says Shurin, and an essential element of success is a well-trained and certified ESL teacher.

    Appalachia IU 8's ESL instruction program attracts participants from all over Pennsylvania and beyond. Every semester's daytime and evening courses are filled with students, many of them teachers building the credits needed for Pennsylvania ESL certification. IU 8's courses are built around research showing how the brain learns new languages, including the importance of steeping students in vocabulary, and teaching the idea of the alphabet to students from countries such as China with character-based languages.

    Teachers must learn strategies for reaching students who come from a broad spectrum of experiences - those who are well-educated and already know some English, or those who are barely literate in their native tongues. Finally, they must communicate with students who were born speaking Spanish, Chinese, French, German, or Gujarati, one of the many languages of India, or any of the world's countless other languages. "Any child in the United States -- citizen or noncitizen -- must go to school," says Shurin. "The best way for a non-English speaking child to achieve and acquire English language proficiency is with the direct daily instruction of a skilled ESL teacher. Otherwise, it's a difficult future for them."




  • 6 Jun 2019 3:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Westmoreland IU 7’s eAcademy has followed two abiding principles since its founding in 2008: Save money, and deliver quality, locally controlled cyber learning.

    By any measure, the effort succeeds. Participating districts, in total, save more than $1 million a year, while students pursue cyber studies in rigorous courses tailored to their home districts’ curriculum.

    School districts originally sought help creating cyber programs “that were more homegrown” than off-the-shelf options, says Curriculum Services Director Timothy Hammill.

    With teacher training and back-office support from “silent partner” IU 7, districts acquired the flexibility and capabilities to shape programs to their own needs. Students can take one course or entire loads, sometimes accessing classes their own districts don’t offer. Teachers learn to transform their courses into dynamic online offerings. Since the cost of an eAcademy course is nearly half the cost of most other cyber solutions, districts save on their cyber costs.

    “Over the past 10 years, we’ve saved millions of dollars for our districts,” says Hammill. “We are built to be whatever the school district wants us to be.”

    Plus, a bonus outcome: Cyber learning demands discipline and focus, and eAcademy allows districts to monitor each student’s progress and keep them on track academically.

    “If they had left for a cyber situation, they literally could go the whole year and fail,” says Hammill. “The next year, they’re coming back to their old school a whole year behind.”

    eAcademy serves about 22 school districts annually. For the 2017-18 school year, the program will reach about 3,000 course enrollments for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

    Today, eAcademy has grown through its attention to course content, teacher training, and collaboration, Hammill says. The result is a cost-effective approach that benefits schools “financially as well as instructionally.”

    “It’s that ownership we have as a community of schools working together to offer the solution,” he says. “Even as the IU, we don’t maintain ownership of content. It belongs to our schools. It’s our schools’ work. Our schools have a vested interest in what’s being done, and they are benefitting more as a result.


  • 6 Jun 2019 3:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When children with hearing loss and their families got together to support each other and learn how to advocate for their needs, the reviews were glowing.

    "I learned that I have some teacher skills,” said one student. “Maybe I can be a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing!"

    "It was so good to see I'm not the only parent trying to learn sign language,” said a parent. And, said another, "My little one absolutely did not want to leave. Riverview IU 6 knows how to support children with hearing loss."

    This particular seminar, hosted by the Council of Hearing Impaired Parents and Students (CHIPS), was just one aspect of Riverview IU 6’s academic and social supports for children with hearing loss and their families.

    In the classroom, hearing loss can present surprising barriers to learning. A teacher turns away to write on the board. A heater blows loudly. Group assignments generate background noise. All can prevent children from fully hearing and comprehending their lessons. If they can’t hear words or phrases, they’re less likely to recognize or repeat them in their schoolwork.

    “Hearing loss is like Swiss cheese learning,” says Michael Boston, IU 6 Teacher of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing. “Children miss so much, and there are gaps in their hearing. They have difficulty discriminating between sounds.”

    IU 6 personnel work with students to help them hear and perceive correctly, and with teachers and families on educational strategies. Some children might need alternative lessons, assistive listening technology, or help bridging the social gaps caused by communication breakdowns.

    One student needed gentle guidance to overcome her resistance to wearing hearing aids, Boston recalls. Before long, she was wearing them all the time, improving her study skills and making new friends.

    “It was it a perfect upward slope,” he says. “Her reading and note-taking skills definitely improved. She gained a whole new level of self-confidence. We even decreased services because she’s doing so well on her own.”



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