Located just minutes away from Washington, D.C., Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS) is one of the nation's 25 largest school districts, serving more than 136,500 students and 20,000 employees in 206 schools and centers. PGCPS is nationally recognized for college and career-readiness programs that provide students with unique learning opportunities, including dual enrollment and language immersion.
The district began using Vector Solutions' SafeSchools Online Training System in the 2017-2018 school year for all of its employees to provide staff safety and compliance training through their Office of Compliance. Before adopting SafeSchools Training, PGCPS did not have a uniform way to assign and track safety training for several thousand employees across hundreds of locations. District administrators knew they needed to find a training solution that would be efficient, convenient, and cost-effective.
In their first year of using SafeSchools Training, staff members completed almost 335,000 courses. To date, PGCPS has over 1 million course completions. Some of their top taken safety and compliance courses include Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Prevention, Sexual Harassment: Student Issues & Response, Sexual Harassment: Staff-to-Staff, Password Security Basics, Email & Messaging Safety, Browser Security Basics, Online Safety: Threats of Violence, Cyberbullying, Youth Suicide: Awareness, Prevention & Postvention, and Discrimination Awareness in the Workplace, as well as district policies.
PGCPS staff can easily log into their custom system and complete assigned training on their own time, at their own pace. The system automatically notifies employees of their training assignments and due dates, and administrators have access to a variety of reports that allow the district to analyze their usage statistics. Reports are customizable by individual staff members, building, or district-level, so it's easy to monitor their overall training progress at any given time. PGCPS even created a separate SafeSchools Training site for volunteers, who can easily access the system and complete their mandated training.
After a successful first year of providing online staff training through SafeSchools Training, the district's Department of Special Education added the Exceptional Child course library to their SafeSchools Training subscription in 2018 to provide online special education-related training to 1,400 paraprofessionals during the 2018-2019 school year. The Exceptional Child course library provides online, evidence-based special education-related training to all staff who support students with exceptionalities, and can be used as a stand-alone solution or added to SafeSchools Training.
PGCPS paraprofessionals completed almost 8,000 Exceptional Child courses during the 2018-2019 school year! As principals saw the Exceptional Child content that their paraprofessionals were utilizing, they identified the value these courses could provide if all of their instructional staff were also able to access the courses as part of their professional learning plan. As a result, the district expanded their Exceptional Child subscription for the 2019-2020 school year to provide access to the courses for nearly 11,000 instructional staff.
Paraprofessionals Praise Exceptional Child
Following the completion of the Exceptional Child courses, paraprofessionals in PGCPS were asked to complete a survey to provide feedback to administrators on their experience with the courses.
94% of survey respondents indicated that they liked the format of the online modules for professional development.
As the district heads into their fourth year partnering with Vector Solutions, they are again expanding the use of the Exceptional Child content by extending their subscription to include the new Parent Course Collection. A parent is an important part of the special education team, which includes school staff. Sometimes the processes can be confusing for parents and guardians. These courses are designed to help parents and guardians understand the special education process.
The district plans to use the new online modules for parents as part of the district's Family Support Center, which provides resources and supports for families of students with disabilities. According to Karen Andrews, they plan to use the parent modules with parents who are new to the special education process to help them understand the big picture topics such as understanding Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Collaborative IEP Meetings, and Transition Services. They will be able to use the modules in group meetings, but also one-on-one with parents and guardians to further discuss the special education process in Prince George's County Public Schools. One aspect PGCPS liked about the new parent course modules is that the courses feature interviews with families who have students with disabilities, because it's really important for families to hear from other families who have had similar experiences.
Through their detailed planning and thorough and thoughtful implementation, PGCPS has been able to seamlessly provide essential safety, compliance, and special-education related training to thousands of educators and staff members across their large district in an efficient and effective manner that gets the right training to the right people, when they need it.
Coordinating Supervisor for the Department of Special Education
Prince George's County Public Schools, MD