The area we selected to focus on for Closing the Gap was students who are certified as Travel Trained. Due to the nature of our student population the majority of our students come to us with bus services provided per their IEP. The mission of our school and counseling department, which is driven by student IEP goals, is to ensure students are contributing members of the communities in which they live upon graduation. In order to be active in their communities they need to be able to travel throughout their communities. Historically only one or two students a year receive a driver’s license. This means the remaining 99% will rely on someone else or some other means of transportation. We understand in order to be as independent as possible our students need to know how to take public transportation.
When reviewing Southside’s mission, counseling department mission, the CIWP and the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors we asked ourselves how we can increase students independence upon graduation? We looked at historical data; referrals, internal tracking and CPS system reports. After reviewing the data we decided to focus on Travel Training students in the C3 program, rather than the entire student population. Students in C3, by nature of the program, would most likely have the skills to travel independently. The C3 program focuses heavily on employment, therefore Travel Training becomes a critical component of student success.
Our program includes working with teachers, parents and the CPS Travel Trainers to ensure students are receiving travel training experiences while enrolled at Southside. Travel Trainers are CPS staff that have been trained and certified to work with students in learning the appropriate ways to navigate public transportation. While we realize this is not a traditional academic goal, it is an academic goal for our students. Southside has developed 13 competencies associated with our Travel curriculum to ensure our students are developing the skills to safely take public transportation.
Travel training involves referrals, assessments and one on one training in the community. If the student meets the criteria at the end of the 10 days, he or she is considered Travel Trained and no longer qualifies for CPS bus services. This caveat, having the bus service ended, presents us with issues surrounding student and parent buy-in. Many students are nervous or apprehensive about taking public transportation independently because they never considered it to be an option. Parents have different sets of concerns; safety, they don’t want their child out in bad weather, or they like the comfort and convenience of the busing service. Chicago Public Schools requires the student and or parent to provide consent to Travel Train. This means that even if the student has the skills to travel independently on public transportation, the student or parent can stop the process at any point.
In order to close the gap we knew we needed to target both students and parents. We developed the Travel competencies and had them ready to go for the 2016-17 school year. We reviewed the competencies with the teachers and outlined a policy on when to utilize them. We worked with our assigned Travel Trainer to review the competencies and develop curriculum for the classroom. Our curriculum was targeted at increasing student skill level and our community based instruction helped them build confidence by allowing opportunity to apply the skills they learned in the real world. We coordinated times for our Travel Trainer to come in and help us facilitate the classroom curriculum with our C3 students.
As the case manager Ms. Coleman has the opportunity to have yearly, formal meetings with parents. She used IEP meetings as a chance to educate parents and increase buy-in. During our Transition Fair we had our Travel Trainer on site to provide parents with information and answer any questions. We also invited him to one of our parent workshops in order to allow parents a chance to ask any questions. Through these efforts we were able to double the amount of students who were travel trained. In 2015-16 seven students were travel trained, in 2016-17 the number rose to 15 students being travel trained. We will continue to utilize the curriculum and program for the 2017- 18 SY. Through our efforts we expect this number to continue to increase.