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Improved Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

This Bright Spot comes from the teachers at Boyce Thompson elementary school in Yonkers who worked with SESIS Martha Trujillo-Torp last year.

What were students able to achieve?  From 1st to 6th grade, and from general education to self-contained, teachers reported these results from one simple strategy:

* “Students now accept constructive criticism when their answer is incorrect and feel comfortable enough to try again.” (4th grade ICT)

* “Students are eager to share their work and aren’t fearful of making any mistakes. They are eager to learn and collaborate.” (6th grade ICT)

* “Students have improved their handwriting and generally built up their confidence.  They work out their thoughts before responding to the group.” (12:1:1 self-contained)

* “A child who always handed in a blank page for writing assignments wrote a strand of letters and put a period at the end.  He ‘read’ it back to me.  Although the letters were random, he is understanding the concept of a sentence and using punctuation at the end.” (1st grade ICT)

What simple instructional practice had such a positive impact on students?  Individual student white boards, that allow all students to respond all the time, in a flexible easily corrected modality.  Teachers see multiple advantages; for example: “Students get extremely excited when I announce that we are using them and it provides me with a quick check formative assessment throughout the lesson”; “Students can simply erase their mistakes, with no trace whatsoever.  The boards are confidence builders, enabling my students to try no matter what”;  “It has been really helpful for my students who get OT”; and, “A white board is a great hands-on tool and keeps the students engaged!”


What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

  • The white boards are confidence builders.
  • White boards are great hands-on tools that help keep the students engaged.
  • The simplest strategies can sometimes be the most effective.
Joe Gilson, Global History teacher at Port Chester High School, who worked with RSE-TASC Special Education School Improvement Specialist David Luhman in the 2015-2016 school year taught students multiple learning strategies in his 9th grade Global History I Co-Taught classes to support student engagement in writing.  One strategy in particular stood out. The 5 W’s and H is a strategy used to help students think about and identify details about a topic before writing. The students identify Who, Where, What, When, Why & How  and then use these details to first develop sentences and then develop a paragraph. This strategy is designed to get students to write more and be more specific which is important in global history, especially for Thematic and DBQ essays.

What did students with disabilities achieve using this strategy?  Students began to use this strategy with excitement when planning to write and started generalizing this strategy to activities outside essay writing. Students would raise their hands saying, “We should use the 5Ws”, “If you are stuck, try using the 5Ws,” and “If you think about the 5W’s you will know the Byzantine Empire.” Not only was it effective in getting students to write essays, but students were motivated to participate and use the strategy in class and during review sessions.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

  • Strategy Instruction is an evidence-based strategy for increasing student ownership of their learning for all learners, including struggling learners and those with disabilities.




Class/Grade Level*


What did your student(s) achieve?

What instructional practice or systemic change supported this student success?

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