Improved Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

At Peekskill High School, Special Education Teacher Nicholas Agnello has seen a significant increase in students’ on-time arrival to class, preparation for learning, engagement throughout the class period, and work completion.  Recently, his students have increased their writing skills both in English class and across other subjects. Last year, Nick’s students’ grades and Regents scores increased from previous years.

What does he attribute these positive student outcomes to?

Nick starts the year by explicitly instructing students in both behavioral expectations and academic content and strategies.  After teaching behavioral expectations, Nick posts them in the classroom and frequently acknowledges students for meeting them. Nick’s students earn points that directly correlate to the classroom expectations.  These points serve as data and both students and staff monitor progress towards meeting behavioral goals.

Just as Nick teaches behavior, he explicitly instructs students in academic content and student learning strategies.  After a review and introduction to a lesson, where he provides the purpose for the lesson, the objective, and activates students’ prior knowledge, Nick: 1) explicitly teaches vocabulary that students will encounter during the lesson; 2) verbally and visually explains content and strategies, and; 3) models concepts and skills using language and concepts that are accessible and interesting to his students.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

  • Students benefit from being directly taught how to participate effectively in classroom activities.
  • Lessons planned with the elements of explicit instruction in mind result in greater student learning.
Sometimes a student’s negative experience on the bus can set the tone for the whole day.  At Lincoln Avenue Elementary School in Pearl River, PBIS Coach Kathleenann Cool reports that they were able to improve overall behavior on school buses, resulting in significant decreases in bus discipline referrals.

What practices led to this improvement?

Lincoln Avenue Elementary School created a Bus Incentive Program through which students on a bus could earn a Green Light for meeting the posted expectations for being Safe, Responsible and Respectful on the bus. For each Green Light a bus earns, it moves a cinderblock distance around the school, allowing student to visually track their positive progress. If the whole bus doesn’t earn a Green Light, individual students on the bus can still earn Lion’s Paws from the school-wide PBIS acknowledgement system for their individual behavior.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

  • Students can successfully learn socially appropriate behaviors when desired behaviors are taught and posted.
  • Students will continue to demonstrate these behaviors when they receive frequent and visual acknowledgements for demonstrating those behaviors.


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