Charting a New Course for T/TACs

by Denyse Doerries, Ph.D.

"Leadership is to this decade what standards were to the 1990's" (Fullan, 2002).

The Virginia Department of Education's (VDOE) Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC) system is in the midst of a year (2003-2004) of transition. This change is based upon and driven by the results from the Virginia Special Education Improvement Plan (VSEIP) report and the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, stipulating areas needing improvement in student achievement, personnel development, and parent involvement. Because this information needs to be communicated and addressed rapidly and broadly, the VDOE is leading the way in establishing state priorities for the T/TACs to include implementation of new instructional and accountability requirements. "It is not enough to raise standards, it is imperative that we close the achievement gap" (Hunter, 2003).

The T/TACs will continue as specialty centers dedicated to improving educational opportunities and contributing to the success of children and youth with disabilities (ages birth-22), but their work will become more focused and coordinated by the VDOE's priorities:

  • provide personnel development that fosters success for students with disabilities to the genreal curriculum and achievement in the least resrictive environment;
  • assist schools in meeting Virginia's accreditation standards; and,
  • assist local educational agencies in meeting the qualified personnel requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act(IDEA).

Priority projects were established by the VDOE to develop action plans to address the VDOE's priorities. The priority projects' recommendations will form the basis for statewide activity with centralized coordination and dissemination. Participation in and implementation of these statewide coordinated efforts will be the top priority for T/TAC staff.

The 13 priority projects designed to accomplish the state improvement goals are as follows:

1. Academic Review Participation and Follow-Up Technical Assistance

2. Enhanced SOL Scope and Sequence with Differentiated Strategies

3. Instructional Strategies Development

4. Assistive Technology Task Force

5. Reading Technical Assistance and Link with VA's Reading First Training

6. Early Transition and Preschool Effective Practices

7. Positive Behavior Supports

8. Link with Parent Involvement Activity and Local Parent Resource Centers

9. Instructional Support Team (IST) Sites

10. Autism and Links to Other Expert Resources

11. Alternate Assessment and Achievement Standards

12. State Task Force on Middle and Secondary Instruction

13. Secondary Transition Outcomes Project

The mechanisms that the priority project teams will use to disseminate products and information, and deliver training are shown in the following table.

Training and Technical Assistance Levels
Information Transmission
Skill Acquisition
Personal Change

Goal: Create awareness as an introductory point and necessary step for skills development

Goal: Promote comprehension and encourage application of new skills and competencies

Goal: Complete application and implementation and incorporate analysis and evaluation for organizational improvement


  • Information services

  • Guideline documents

  • Presentations

  • Telecommunications

  • Web-shops

  • Cross-visitations to model sites


  • Information services

  • Video Training

  • Training Workshops

  • Web-shops

  • Cross-visitations to model sites

  • Consultation

  • Long-Term Technical Assistance

  • Mentorships

  • Peer Coaching/Teaming


  • Consultation

  • Long-Term Technical Assistance

  • Mentorships

  • Peer Coaching/Teaming

  • Advanced Training

Instructional change is a lengthy, multistage process that is predicated upon shared expertise (Elmore & Burney, 1999). As you can see from the chart, training and technical assistance is directed at multiple levels to increase the knowledge of professionals, enhance the application of skills, and promote informed professional judgment. This model provides a more comprehensive and strategic way to deliver professional development and is consistent with best practices (Sparks & Hirsh, 1997).

As mentioned, the mission of T/TACs continues to be twofold:

1. To increase the capacity of school personnel, service providers, and families to meet the needs of children and youth with disabilities; and,
2. To foster the state improvement goals for personnel development, which address improving the performance of children and youth with disabilities by enhancing the knowledge, skills, abilities, and performance of all personnel who work with them.

However, the principles that will drive the T/TAC system will be more focused, coordinated, and efficient in
order to provide quality services across the state of Virginia. The following guidelines have been
established for the T/TACs:

  • Develop products based on research

  • Disseminate effective practices

  • Consult with target schools undergoing academic reviews

  • Facilitate technical assistance by building capacity at the local level

  • Conduct strategically planned training

"Change is a constant but the pace of change is not and will not be slowing down anytime soon" (Fullan, 2002).


Elmore, R. F.,& Burney, D. (1999). Investing in teacher learning. In L. Darling-Hammond & G. Sykes (Eds.), Teaching as the learning profession (pp.263-291). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fullan, M. (2002, December). Leading in a culture of change. Paper presented at the meeting for the National Staff Development Association, Boston, MA.

Hunter, B. (2003, May). Universal proficiency: A national perspective on No Child Left Behind. Paper presented at the meeting of the Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education.

Sparks, D., & Hirsh, S. (1997). A new vision for staff development. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

The Virginia Special Education Improvement Plan report can be accessed from the VDOE website at:

Date: September/October 2003