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National AEM Center Seeks State Partners for 2020-2024 AEM Cohort

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Note: During these unprecedented times, the AEM Center at CAST is working to make sure you — our stakeholders — not only have the information and resources you need, but are also supported in taking care of what’s most important during a crisis: your families and yourselves. In that spirit, we have coordinated with OSEP to delay the application deadline to become an AEM State Partner to July 1, 2020. We hope this deadline extension allows you to take the time you need to regroup, reorganize, and move forward. As always, please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns, and know that we are mobilizing to provide timely resources so that all of our learners have access to the learning materials and technologies they need, no matter where learning is happening.

Does your state have work to do to ensure that all learners, including those with disabilities, can use the same materials and technologies in a way that supports their independence, participation, and progress? The National Center on Accessible Educational Materials for Learning at CAST (AEM Center) is teaming up with states across the country. Our goal is to build better systems for providing AEM and related technologies to individuals in education settings that range from early childhood through postsecondary. 

The application deadline for the AEM Cohort is Wednesday, July 1, 2020 (extended deadline). 

The AEM Center hosted two  virtual information sessions to explain how the AEM Cohort will work and address questions about the application process. Recordings from each information session are available:

Apply Today! 

Partner with Us 

We’re selecting five states to create a national AEM Cohort. If selected, your team will receive individualized support and coaching from the AEM Center’s team of Technical Assistance (TA) Specialists over a four-year partnership. Together, we’ll implement high leverage and evidence-based practices for building statewide and local systems for the timely provision and effective use of AEM and accessible technologies for all learners who need them.

Increasingly, students with disabilities are spending most or all of the school day in general education classes (NCES, 2019). AEM and accessible technologies are essential to the independence, participation, and progress of general education students who function in highly varied ways – physical, sensory, and learning.

Note: The following States were partners in the 2015-2019 AEM Cohort and, therefore, are not eligible for the 2020-2024 Cohort: Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, and Texas.

How It Works

With the AEM Center’s technical assistance, your state’s team will develop a coordinated system for providing AEM and accessible technologies across the continuum of education services in your state. Parts of that coordinated system include policies and guidelines, professional learning opportunities, data collection and use, and resource allocation. We'll help you establish an effective, cross-functional interagency team to reach this goal.  

The partnership among the five chosen states (our AEM Cohort) will be leveraged for exchanging resources, sharing findings, and solving common problems across state teams. Our AEM Cohort will be key to the dissemination of products and services developed during the project. Webinars, conference presentations, and case stories are among the opportunities your state team will have to share your work and success with national audiences. 

Benefits for AEM States

Why partner with the AEM Center? 

Receive:

  • High quality technical assistance, at no cost. If your state has been grappling with how to create a system in which students receive high-quality AEM and accessible technologies in a timely manner, we can help. The AEM Center’s staff is made up of highly experienced and accomplished experts in the fields of accessibility and inclusive educational practices.
  • A $2,000 annual stipend to assist with the costs of convening your team, purchasing self-selected project-related supplies, attending professional learning opportunities, and related expenses.  
  • An ATIA Learning Center subscription for up to 40 seats. The Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) offers over 70 technology-related courses with CEUs available to your team through your AEM Center partnership. A catalog of diverse courses addresses best practices for implementing assistive technology in the classroom, community, workplace, or home.  

Other benefits:

  • Collaborate with and learn from other states that are pursuing similar goals. Being part of the AEM Cohort will extend the technical assistance provided by the AEM Center. Your team will benefit from bi-monthly video conferences with the other four states in the cohort by exchanging resources, sharing findings, and solving common problems. 
  • Be recognized as a national change agent for developing a coordinated system for providing AEM and accessible technologies across your state’s educational programs. 

Responsibilities of AEM States

Being an AEM State requires establishing and sustaining an AEM Leadership Team (Leadership Team) that includes state- and local-level K-12 representation. State-level members can be from the SEA, the State AT Act Project, and related entities. Local-level members will be leaders from three school districts selected by the state-level leaders.  

As a Leadership Team, you will: 

  1. With assistance from the AEM Center, develop an AEM Interagency Collaborative (Interagency Collaborative) that includes representation from each of the following stakeholder groups:  
    1. Early childhood (IDEA Part C programs)
    2. Higher education (state university and community college)
    3. Workforce development (career and technical education [CTE], apprenticeship programs, job training programs)
    4. Parent centers (Parent Training and Information Center [PTIC] or Community Parent Resource Center [CPRC])
  2. Coordinate with the AEM Center to convene the members of your Leadership Team and Interagency Collaborative for a one-day in-person kick-off meeting between October 2020 and January 2021. This event will be supported and attended by AEM Center staff. The purpose of the convening will be to (1) develop a shared vision for providing AEM and accessible technologies to learners across state education programs and (2) craft a plan for coordinating efforts over the four years of the project.  
  3. Receive ongoing TA from the AEM Center.  
    1. TA for your Leadership Team: Your Leadership Team will partner with AEM Center TA Specialists to implement activities designed to improve the provision of AEM and accessible technologies to K-12 students in your state. Examples include self-assessments; review and revision of policies or guidelines; new trainings for state and local personnel; and data collection and analysis. The culminating activity of the Leadership Team will be the development of a sustainability plan that will guide continuous use and improvement of your state’s AEM system beyond the 2024 conclusion of the project. Your Leadership Team will meet monthly with an AEM Center TA Specialist over a one-hour video conference.
    2. TA for your Interagency Collaborative: Each stakeholder group in your Interagency Collaborative (see #1) will work with AEM Center TA Specialists with expertise in those respective areas to implement practices that are directly relevant to each setting. Technical assistance for each group in the Interagency Collaborative will be less intensive than that for the Leadership Team. Video conferences between each stakeholder group and their AEM Center TA Specialists will be held quarterly for up to two hours, depending on the needs of the group.
  4. Maintain communication and coordination with your AEM Interagency Collaborative. The kick-off convening described in #2 will mark the beginning of your state-wide and cross-agency AEM initiative. On a quarterly basis, your Leadership Team will meet for up to two hours (virtually or in person) with your Interagency Collaborative for progress updates and continuous coordination of efforts. An AEM Center TA Specialist will be available to participate in these meetings upon request. A final one-day, in-person convening of your Leadership Team, Interagency Collaborative, and AEM Center staff will be held in late 2023 or early 2024. 
  5. Participate in the AEM Cohort. Bi-monthly, your own Leadership Team will meet virtually with the Leadership Teams from the other four AEM States to exchange resources, share findings, and solve common problems. These video conferences will be facilitated by an AEM Center TA Specialist.  
  6. Support the development and dissemination of AEM Center products and services. Based on what we learn from the AEM Cohort, we’ll develop national resources on what works for ensuring the timely provision and use of AEM and accessible technologies for learners who need them. We'll ask your team for input on the design and content of our products and services; feedback on quality, relevance, and usefulness; and participation in webinars, conference presentations, case stories, and other dissemination activities.  
  7. Contribute to the evaluation of the AEM Center’s technical assistance. As a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the AEM Center’s performance will be measured by an evaluator. Your team will be asked to contribute feedback through occasional surveys and possibly interviews.

Being An AEM State: At-A-Glance View

Our Criteria for Selecting AEM States

Have we caught your interest? If so, please consider applying! In your application, we’ll be looking for: 

  • A commitment to a shared goal of creating and sustaining an innovative, robust, and coordinated system for providing AEM and accessible technologies to all learners who need them in your state. 
  • State-level leadership with cross-functional roles, including special education, general education, and technology. 
  • Participation of leadership from three school districts. Select at least one district with high needs schools, including those in rural areas of your state and/or with a high percentage of students from low-income families or traditionally underserved populations.  
  • Evidence of capacity to convene and sustain a state interagency collaborative with representation from early childhood, higher education, workforce development, and families.
  • Agreement to fulfill the responsibilities of an AEM State.

For the purpose of scaling technical assistance products and services nationally, our intent is to form a cohort of states that represents wide-ranging demographics, including population, geographic region, socioeconomic status, race, disability, ethnicity, and English proficiency. We will also consider differences in state-level instructional materials procurement (e.g., state adoption, non-adoption, and #GoOpen). Our goal of a diverse cohort will be a factor in the final selection of states.  

Ready to Apply?

The deadline for applying is Wednesday, July 1, 2020 (extended deadline).  A PDF version of the application is available for reference.

Apply Now!

About the AEM Center 

The AEM Center is a national technical assistance center funded by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. Based at CAST, our staff has led advances in the production and use of accessible materials and technologies for teaching and learning for more than twenty years. Since 2008, we’ve collaborated with thirty states to develop, implement, and continuously revise the Quality Indicators with Critical Components for the Provision of AEM and Accessible Technologies. Our technical assistance extends to all levels of state education, including early childhood, K-12, higher education, and workforce development.