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Improved Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

The students in Meryl Taylor’s 5th grade self-contained classroom are busy constructing higher order thinking questions and engaging each other with these questions during classroom discussion. They are proud of their ability to challenge each other to think more deeply about topics and are showing more confidence during student-led discussions.

How did these students become so adept at critical questioning and discussion techniques?

Here’s what Meryl has to say:
“I began infusing higher-order thinking (HOT) questions by level into my guided reading groups. My students were able to answer these HOT questions about their reading either by turning and talking to the person next to them or by stopping and jotting the answers in their notebooks. I then taught them specific stems for HOT questions and they began using HOT questions in classroom discussions. I have found that asking and answering HOT questions has promoted increased engagement in discussions. It has also enabled students to think more deeply about the current topic.”

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

  • Students with disabilities in many classrooms are successfully engaging in student-to-student discourse that requires analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
  • Teachers can teach students explicit strategies for independently generating and responding to HOT questions.
This month’s Bright Spots again come from our year-end survey.  This time we looked at the responses of the teachers and administrators from multiple districts, including Carmel, Port Chester, White Plains, New Rochelle, Southern Westchester BOCES, Byram Hills, Eastchester, Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES, Dobbs Ferry, Putnam Valley and the PARC Preschool, who attended the RSE-TASC Student-Directed IEP series last year.

What were students able to achieve?

Educators described some powerful impacts on students, including:

* Students developed a better understanding of their strengths, needs and goals and took ownership of their IEP development.

* Students changed their view of teachers and the school; they now feel they have control of their education instead of it “just happening” to them.

* Students and their IEP teams created much more reflective IEPs with a more accurate focus on student needs.

 What practices or systems made this possible? 

Educators implemented more student-directed practices, including:

* Students were more directly involved in the creation of IEPs and in CSE meetings; at one high school, every student presented on his/her strengths, needs, interests and future plans at the annual meeting.

* Staff used templates to develop accurate goals and measurement processes that were shared with students.

* Transition and graduation information was shared at meetings and systematic procedures for developing coordinated transition activities were put in place for all students, starting at age 14.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

Principle 1 of the NYS Blueprint for Improved Results for Students with Disabilities, i.e., Students engage in self-advocacy and are involved in determining their own educational goals and plans, begins by fully engaging all students in the creation of their own educational plans.  It can be done!




Class/Grade Level*


What did your student(s) achieve?

What instructional practice or systemic change supported this student success?

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