Total Quality Management and the Adaptive Life Skills Department
In the fall of 1994, our local community college conducted a staff training that consisted of a workshop in Total Quality Management (TQM). The training included all employees, and was designed to encourage the staff to view the college’s students as consumers of a product. The goal of the training was to create processes and procedures that would promote quality in the educational services offered at the college; quality that would be defined by the entire educational community.
In 2007, whenever I read the research on Special Education, I keep running into the phrase “community of practice”. It occurs to me that (my former place of employment) is a community of practice. It also occurs to me that as a department, the Adaptive Life Skills Department (ALS) has relatively few complaints about the quality of the services we deliver.
Therefore, I am proposing for the sake of maintaining quality services, that we formalize processes and procedures to the extent that they become a discipline for our community of practice. Furthermore, I am proposing that we encourage the entire (my former employer) to join in us in this effort.
When I was attending an OIS training last year, I was inspired by that training because of the comprehensive nature of its basic philosophy. The adverse student behaviors that we as behavioral scientists are trained to address, all have a basis in the human act of attempting to communicate our needs to others. Adverse behaviors arise from anxiety and frustration over not being able to communicate our needs to others.
As specialists in communication, we special educators need to formalize our own practices. Since we teach individuals with developmental disabilities, developmental issues should be the first consideration when we design our instructional interventions.
The political nature of the process that produces legislation such as IDEA 1997 or IDEiA in 2004, creates an outline of legal standards. Such laws do not create the discipline needed for an educational community to use the most promising practices of that discipline.
Since I began teaching in 1970, I have seen the Special Educator emerge from the little room behind the boiler room in the basement of the church across the street from the school, and into specialized settings such as the ALS classroom, the Resource Room and the Emotional Growth Center. Along with that move, came the responsibility of the Special Educator for becoming a learning expert, a behavioral expert and a paramedical expert.
One of the important legal issues associated with placing students in Special Education settings is the issue of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). In the case of the Adult Transition Program (ATP), we are often put in the position of having students referred to us who have been mainstreamed with supports and accommodations from various Special Education Resources, but whose abilities qualify them for settings less restrictive than the ALS setting.
Over the years, ATP staff has discovered standards that could become a partial basis for improving the quality of ALS services while addressing the issue of LRE.
Therefore, as a part of our commitment to Quality, I am proposing that the ALS Department, develop a standard of practice that is research-based and proven effective in classrooms. I am proposing that we devote some in-service time to working collaboratively as a department in this effort.
I have developed a 320-discriminator assessment of adaptive behavior characteristics. I would very much appreciate it if every staff member of the ALS department would review that assessment and add to it to take away from it, so that we have an instrument that can be used from the end of Early Intervention to the end of Free Appropriate Public Education at age 21, to systematically provide us with a standard of practice that promotes LRE for our students, while respecting individual developmental issues of each student.
James M. Kemp, Adult Transition Teacher