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Case in Point: A Statewide Blended Learning Initiative for Students with Disabilities: What Makes It Work? A Director's Perspective

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Journal of Special Education Leadership Volume 29, Number 2, ISSN 1525-1810


When the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) began their experiment with a blended statewide Occupational Course of Study (OCS) (see program for high school students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, it was with great ambition and optimism. Born of necessity to address highly qualified requirements, efforts sought to engage virtual content area teachers with face-to-face special educators. The belief and overall mindset was that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities would benefit from higher expectations, a focus on academic skill development, and the demands of the Common Core. To have this happen, however, required efforts from an entire team of educators, particularly the general education content teacher and his or her special education partner. Beyond accommodations, the blended learning experience has forced teachers to appreciate the differences associated with virtual instruction and, in turn, has altered perspectives in order to provide instructional practices needed for the blended OCS student. For the OCS special educators, challenges in the blended approach have been more aligned with content than with technology differences. Many of the high school special educators had never been involved in the implementation of content aligned with the Common Core requirements. Instead, previous energies focused on adaptive and functional content. Raising the bar on academic outcomes required the virtual content teacher to assist the face-to-face special educator in determining what data to collect and how to implement the virtual lessons. The special educator needed to be the eyes and ears for the virtual teacher, gauging the balance between content and expectations. This balance has been incredibly difficult for special educators who were not content experts and the virtual teacher who had limited knowledge of this population of students. Add the virtual delivery and distant collaboration, and yes, this team has learned a great deal since the program's inception. Although these blended efforts are not perfect, students' access to the academic-based content and the promising outcomes indicate that the blending learning experience is a positive one.


Bell, S.D., Smith, S.J. & Basham, J.D. (2016). Case in Point: A Statewide Blended Learning Initiative for Students with Disabilities: What Makes It Work? A Director's Perspective. Journal of Special Education Leadership, 29(2), 113-116. Retrieved October 20, 2020 from .

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