Item Coversheet

Action Items - Intermediate Unit - 7.

Title: Contract with The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania for Philly AIMS Comprehensive Professional Development for Teachers of Students with Autism in Kindergarten Through Fifth Grade ($470,000)

Board of Education Meeting Date:

Action under consideration


The Administration recommends that the Board of Education, acting in its capacity as Board of Directors of Philadelphia Intermediate Unit No. 26 (IU 26), authorize IU 26, through the Executive Director or his designee, to execute and perform contracts, subject to funding, as follows:


With: The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania

Purpose: Comprehensive professional development, consultation, and support

Start date:  7/1/2023

End date: 6/30/2024

Compensation not to exceed: $470,000

Location: District Elementary Schools with Kindergarten through Grade 5 Autistic Support Programming


Why is the contract needed?  

Approximately 2,100 students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Kindergarten through grade 5 are enrolled in the School District of Philadelphia (District). These students receive autistic support (AS) programming throughout approximately 195 AS classrooms situated within 92 schools or in inclusive classroom settings. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that school districts base instruction for students with disabilities on evidence-based practices (EBP) delivered in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Experience and research has demonstrated that students with ASD make significant gains and greatly benefit academically and socially from EBP delivered in the LRE.

Autism Instructional Methods Support (Philly AIMS) is a program sponsored by the Center for Mental Health (CMH) of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Philly AIMS is a research-based program designed to deliver effective instruction to Kindergarten through grade 5 students with ASD. Since 2008, the Contractor  has successfully partnered with the District to build the capacity of Kindergarten through grade 5 teachers to deliver effective autistic support programming to students with ASD through implementation of the Philly AIMS program. Philly AIMS professional development supports the District's ability to comply with IDEA EBP instructional mandates, and to deliver to students with ADS in Kindergarten through grade 5 effective research-based instructional practices.

Autism consultants from the Philly AIMS program will provide participating District teachers and support staff with comprehensive professional development and consultation on evidence-based practices that are proven to benefit students with ASD in Kindergarten through grade 5. Philly AIMS consultants will provide all newly appointed Kindergarten through grade 5 AS teachers with comprehensive needs assessments twice per year. Using this information consultants will provide teachers with individualized consultation plans for each classroom, monitor and measure the implementation of foundational skills and practices, and evaluate growth.

In addition, the contractor will provide 1) District’s new AS K-5 teachers with intensive training and classroom-based consultation and support during their first two years of teaching; 2) short-term intensive targeted consultation to experienced autism support teachers and classroom staff through the Technical Assistance and Targeted Training (TATT) program; 3) a professional development training series for K-5 autism support teachers; 4) a series of competency-based trainings in evidence-based practices for paraprofessionals working with students with autism to be offered three times a year during report card conferences, allowing paraprofessionals to earn specialization certificates for skill checks; 5) consultative support and professional development to promote inclusive practices to three targeted schools; and, 6) access to the Philly AIMS website, which features comprehensive resources including webinars, asynchronous trainings, microlearning modules, interactive strategy briefs and video models of evidence-based strategies, designed specifically to meet the needs of the District.

How is this work connected to the District’s plan to achieve Goals & Guardrails?

To optimize the educational and behavioral performance of students with autism, the Philly AIMS program emphasizes teacher implementation of EBP in the LRE. EBP in the LRE enables students to reach academic, communication, and social interaction goals.  The program directly impacts the Board of Education’s Goals 1 through 3 by empowering students with autism in grades Kindergarten through grade 5  to reach IEP goals, appropriate grade levels in reading and math, levels of proficiency in annual state assessments, and by providing them with the foundational skills to prepare them for middle, high school and post-secondary education or employment. Philly AIMS includes a focus on school-wide inclusive educational practices (Guardrail 1), incorporates topics that expand student opportunities for increased participation in school, including extra- curricular activities (Guardrail 2), provides resources to support partnering with families (Guardrail 3), and supports the implementation of inclusive educational practices working towards equal access and opportunities for students (Guardrail 4).

How will the success of this contract be measured?

Each year, the contractor provides annual (pre and post consultation) assessments to collect data both on teacher program implementation and student outcomes. This data is chronicled in mid-year and end-of-year reports  Collected data has consistently demonstrated substantial gains in teacher implementation of evidence-based and inclusive practices to support students with ASD.  In addition, collected data demonstrates significant improvement in the academic and behavioral outcomes of students with autism including increased student time on task, and scores on assessments.

When applicable, is this an evidence-based strategy?  If so, what evidence exists to support this approach? 

Demonstrated teacher delivery and implementation of EBP in the LRE resulting in improved outcomes for students with autism evidences the high value, effectiveness and utility of the Philly AIMS program.

When applicable, was a larger community of District community members and/or stakeholders involved in this selection process? If so, what groups and how?  

The Philly AIMS program was established in 2008 with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health and the U.S. Department of Education.  The University of Pennsylvania partnered with the District to develop the Philly AIMS program, and the program was first implemented in District schools. This was the largest study of an educational intervention for children with autism, and the first to be conducted as a partnership between a university and a school district. In addition, consistent with the District’s competitive procurement process, the selection of this contractor included a committee of District staff with relevant special education, autism, instructional, programmatic, and fiscal expertise who reviewed and evaluated contractor’s RFP response. 

Funding Source(s):

FY23-24 IDEA Grant

Office Originating Request: Academic Support

 Office Originating Request: Academic Support