Note: Special thanks goes to Karen Berlin at T-TAC GMU for permission to reprint sections of this article.
This spring, some Virginia students will be among the first to receive the Applied Studies Diploma. Like the “Special Diploma”, the newly named Applied Studies diploma will be awarded to 2016 graduates with disabilities who complete the requirements of their Individualized Education Program (IEP) and do not meet the requirements for other diplomas.
In an effort to help students receiving the Applied Studies Diploma be prepared for work and other post-secondary opportunities, a curriculum map was created by work groups organized by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Training and Technical Assistance Centers (T-TACs). The work groups were comprised of teachers and other stakeholders who are familiar with instruction of essential life skills. Drawing upon national resources and combined expertise, a hierarchic structure of competencies and skills in various domains was drafted that include English, mathematics, science, social science, independent living and employment. An internal review was conducted by VDOE content specialists and pilot sites were then selected. The curriculum map is not an exhaustive list, but a comprehensive framework to guide life skills instruction. It is important to note the Applied Studies diploma option provides for curriculum enhancement and is NOT a replacement for statewide assessment.
Twenty classrooms across fifteen school divisions are currently using the curriculum map for unit and lesson planning, project-based learning activities and IEP development. These teachers are recording their comments, and sharing their ideas for authentic performance assessment, supplementary curricula and other resources. The draft framework and pilot feedback will be reviewed by a large statewide stakeholder group, including educators, employers, community members and parents.
To learn more about the Applied Studies Diploma go to:
To learn more about evidence-based practices for the framework, you may want to visit:
* National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) Evidence-Based Practices and Predictors
* The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence-Based Practices