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DU Launches Effort to Impact Statewide Education

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Lorne Fultonberg


Lorne Fultonberg


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Madeline Phipps

Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

Theresa Ahrens

Pilot Project to Address Special Needs and Challenging Behaviors

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The Morgridge College of Education (MCE) is working toward addressing educational disparities in rural and underserved communities by implementing ECHO DU, a revolutionary distance education program originally developed by the University of New Mexico as Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) to address health disparities in rural and underserved areas. Already in use as a healthcare model in over 130 locations and in more than 35 countries, MCE is one of the first Project ECHO partners outside the field of medicine and plans to use it to address complex issues in education in Colorado.

“Students across our great state — from our cities and suburbs to our mountain towns and most rural regions — deserve access to high-quality education,” says Chancellor Rebecca Chopp. “Through ECHO DU, the Morgridge College of Education is exploring how 21st century technology can improve lives and set all of Colorado’s students on a path for success.”

MCE is eager to demonstrate the impact that can emerge from combining world class distance training and the expertise of DU’s faculty and staff. The heart of the ECHO® model is the hub-and-spoke knowledge-sharing networks, led by expert teams using multi-point videoconferencing to conduct virtual sessions with local educators and agencies. The educators and education agencies, the spokes in the model, become part of a learning community, where they receive mentoring and feedback from specialists and one another. The result: children and schools get the right services and interventions, in the right place, at the right time. This improves outcomes and reduces costs.

“We know from our extensive partnerships with school districts, locally and nationally that they have a desire for training in best practices to address complex issues in education and wellness. However, access to this type of ongoing training and support, via traditional methods, is limited and cost prohibitive particularly for rural and remote communities,” said Karen Riley, dean of the Morgridge College of Education.

Through a partnership with Constellation Philanthropy, MCE will pilot the ECHO® model to address a key finding of the Colorado Early Workforce Survey 2017 by helping teachers build the skills to meet the care and learning needs of children with special needs and challenging behaviors in order to increase the opportunities for inclusion for all children across the state.

Key members of the ECHO DU leadership team for this pilot project include Karen Riley; Hema Visweswaraiah, director of the Fisher Early Learning Center; Elaine Belansky, director of the Center for Rural School Health & Education (CRSHE); and Phil Strain, director of the Positive Early Learning Experiences Center (PELE).

MCE has been an active member of the Colorado Educator Preparation Innovation Coalition (COEduPIC) which was convened and led by the Keystone Policy Center. This interdisciplinary team of education experts and key stakeholders in Colorado will serve as the advisory group to guide the implementation and expansion of ECHO DU in education. The pilot project is set to launch fall 2018.

“The applications of ECHO® in education, mental health, and social service are essentially endless, assuming a cadre of experts in an area, a protocol-driven approach to solving a complex problem and a commitment to case-based support of local providers. We believe that ECHO® can be leveraged to extend the reach, efficiency, and effectiveness of many training programs with a desire to build capacity in rural communities,” said Riley.

ECHO DU will serve as a hub for the University of Denver’s various colleges, as well as community organizations that could effectively utilize the ECHO® platform to increase their reach through ongoing distance training. MCE will work with partners to identify areas of need for ongoing training to guide the expansion of ECHO DU, and will engage with the entire DU faculty to provide specialized training and networked communities to support small businesses, encourage social entrepreneurship and increase capacity within legal clinics.