Long-Term Commitments: Collaborating for Success

by Lee Anne Sulzberger, M.Ed.

Collaboration has been described as "a shared partnership among all parties on behalf of students" (Montague & Warger 2001, p. 22). Further, Murawski (2005) notes that "collaboration occurs when multiple individuals work together toward a common goal" (p. 259). Indeed, creating and sustaining a collaborative school climate have been found to be key behaviors of principals in schools with high student achievement (Cotton, 2003). More than ever before, it is clear that educators must collaborate with one another in order to meet the needs of the diverse learners in today's schools.

The Virginia Department of Education's Training and Technical Assistance Center at the College of William and Mary (T/TAC W&M) is committed to collaborating with schools as they seek to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Specifically, the goal of T/TAC W&M

is to improve the educational opportunities for school-age students with mild/moderate disabilities by providing a variety of services and assistance to educational professionals that enhance their professional practices. These services... are provided through a collaborative format with teams of educational professionals in order to build their capacity to serve school-age students with mild/moderate disabilities. (T/TAC W&M, 2005)

Among the many services T/TAC W&M provides to schools in support of this goal are on-site visits within the context of a Long-Term Commitment Agreement (LTC). Priority is given to schools in improvement who have participated in the Academic Review Process and for whom the achievement of students with disabilities is an area of need. Through the LTC collaboration, T/TAC W&M empowers school or division teams to make changes in systems, processes, staff development, forms, programs, or approaches.

T/TAC W&M helps teams to:
  • Identify and evaluate their current practices for responding to the individual needs of students with disabilities;

  • Collect and analyze baseline data to set goals, develop strategies, and implement an action plan for improving meaningful student access to the general curriculum;

  • Effectively use a collaborative teaming process; and

  • Improve overall student achievement and increase the likelihood of successful outcomes for students with disabilities.

Collaboration with T/TAC W&M provides participants:
  • Opportunities to build capacity to provide meaningful access to the general education curriculum for students with disabilities;

  • Technical assistance to help staff determine areas of need and a process for addressing those needs;

  • Assistance with the collection and analysis of data to be used to set goals and develop improvement strategies;

  • Ongoing professional development activities for general and special education faculty;

  • Increased collaboration opportunities between general education and special education faculty; and

  • Access to a variety of resources.

To demonstrate readiness for participation in an LTC, schools and divisions are asked to:
  • Commit to improving access to the general education curriculum for students with disabilities;

  • Identify a team of participants, to include a general educator, a special educator, an administrator, staff members, and other key stakeholders; and

  • Complete and sign a technical assistance agreement for LTC.

As part of the LTC agreement, school and division administrators agree to:
  • Provide administrative support to staff involved in this agreement;

  • Remain committed to ongoing technical assistance activities by supporting

    • regularly scheduled meetings

    • the completion of assigned meeting tasks

    • professional development activities and follow-up activities

    • implementation of strategies;

  • Provide access to school data;

  • Develop an action plan for improvement that includes:

    • goals, activities, and timelines

    • a prioritized list of activities to be completed during the year

    • identified team members who will be responsible for implementing changes;

  • Incorporate the goals of the agreement into the current School Improvement Plan (SIP);

  • Share ideas and strategies with other schools or divisions; and

  • Participate in the evaluation of the programs and strategies implemented.

After a commitment is made to participate in the LTC, the team begins its work. While each LTC collaboration with T/TAC W&M is unique due to the needs determined by the leadership team, team members will begin their work by:

  • Reflecting upon how students with disabilities are currently being served in the school;

  • Learning about and using a collaborative team meeting process during planning meetings (see related article on page 10 of this newsletter);

  • Reading literature focused on inclusive practices;

  • Determining a method for informing key stakeholders of progress; and

  • Using a goal-setting process to create a mission statement, goals, and an action plan.

Change is a complicated yet exciting prospect. According to Fullan (2001), "All innovations worth their salt call upon people to question their behavior and their beliefs--even in cases where innovations are pursued voluntarily" (p. 40). Schools that choose to embark upon a Long-Term Commitment are demonstrating a willingness to change behaviors and beliefs about how their schools can better meet the needs of students with disabilities.

For more information about strategies for creating inclusive schools, consult the T/TAC website at www.wm.edu/ttac. A complete listing of professional resources available through the T/TAC William & Mary lending library may be viewed by clicking on the "Library" link. This site provides a listing of holdings, an online search engine, and an online order form. Library materials will be sent along with a postage-paid return mailer. Considerations Packets may be ordered by clicking on the "Considerations Packets" link off the main web page. For further information on a process for creating inclusive schools, consult Strategies for Creating Inclusive Schools. Topics addressed in the packet include developing a vision of inclusion, creating a comprehensive plan, and providing ongoing professional development.


Cotton, K. (2003). Principals and student achievement: What the research says. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Montague, M., & Warger, C. (2001). Getting started with collaboration. In V.J. Risko & K. Bromley (Eds.), Collaboration for diverse learners (pp. 20-31). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Murawski, W. (2005). Introduction to special issue. Intervention in School and Clinic, 40(5), 59.

Virginia Department of Education's Training and Technical Assistance Center at The College of William and Mary. (n.d.). Assisting professionals serving school-age students with mild/moderate disabilities [Brochure]. Williamsburg, VA: Author.

Date: November/December 2005