Today@Sam Article

Garrett Center Continues State Partnership

Nov. 1, 2022
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins

Vickie MitchellVickie Mitchell and the team at Sam Houston State University’s Eleanor and Charles Garrett Center on Transition and Disability Studies have been blazing a trail in the lives of many on and off campus since the center’s inception in 2017.

The team’s services have extended to assist a statewide audience with the Texas Transition Student-Centered Transitions Network, which has been funded by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) since 2019. This year, the program received funding from the TEA for the fourth time in the form of $1.4 million.

“As a university and a college of education center, we did not have the ability to make system changes in special education in Texas without a partnership with the Texas Education Agency,” said Mitchell, Executive Director of the Garrett Center.

All of that changed four years ago when the TEA put out requests for regional education service centers to lead the state’s special education networks.

“For the first time, they opened the door for universities to apply for state network leadership,” Mitchell said. “At the Garrett Center, we applied for the grant to lead one of the networks, specifically the one on special education transition services, along with other education service centers and universities in the state.”

SHSU was one of two universities in the state chosen by the TEA to lead a state special education network (University of Texas at Austin). In the four years since their funding, they have established a website that provides tools and information for general and special educators as well as students with disabilities and families, among many more feats.

CoE groupThe network assisted in creating multiple Regional Student Advisory Committees throughout the state, making Texas the first state to have multiple student advisory committees for the purpose of giving input to the state education agency. Many states have these committees, but are limited to one or two per state. Mitchell and network organizers believed that, in order to provide student input to TEA for such a large state, there needed to be student representation across the board.

In 2022, the network had 80 different student advisory committees throughout Texas with over 240 students with disabilities participating since the committees first began.

This newly developed system, which focuses more on the specific needs of all special education students in the thousands of districts statewide, has been highly praised by TEA Commissioner Mike Morath on multiple occasions.

Last year, the network was able to establish the Texas Collaboration Institute in a joint effort with TEA, the Texas Workforce Commission’s Vocational Rehabilitation Division and the Garrett Center. 462 participants registered for the program, which was designed to bring together career and technical education, secondary school counselors and the individuals in school districts and high schools responsible for the outcomes of College, Career and Military Readiness (CCMR) and counselors from the Texas Workforce Commissions Vocational Rehabilitation Division.

The transition network is also responsible for countless webinars, tools and resources that connect those in the community with appropriate transition materials. The renewed funding from the TEA will go towards the continued development of training tools and materials for all the school districts in Texas as well as students with disabilities and parents, which must meet a plethora of state and federal stipulations before being distributed, as well as maintaining the state website.

IMG_0631“We do a lot of work, but we are making a difference, and we are excited about that,” Mitchell said. “It’s exciting because we have accomplished a lot in such a short amount of time. I directly attribute that to SHSU and how open and flexible the university is as well as our dean at the college of education, Stacey Edmonson.”

Edmonson initially approved the proposal and supported the movement when Mitchell worked to establish the Garrett Center in 2016. Former SHSU President Dana Hoyt approved its creation in 2017.

The center is the first of its kind in Texas to have a dedicated focus on the practitioner aspects of transition services. It serves as a gateway of information for transition team members including educators, students with disabilities, their families and community partners.

The purpose of the Garrett Center is to provide information, professional development, training, and resources to university preservice teachers, practicing educators from Early Childhood Special Education through 18+ programs, students with disabilities, their families, state agencies and the community.

The Garrett Center facilitates multi-level and wraparound systems change activities through program evaluations and technical assistance to improve post-school results for students with disabilities. Multiple information pathways were created to support the information and training needs of educators, such as the use of technology, Zoom training and social media, as well as face-to-face professional development. For more information on the Garrett Center, visit their informational section on the SHSU website.

For more information on Texas Transition Student-Centered Transitions Network, click here.

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