Improved Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

Elena Ratsprecher, a Resource Room teacher at Kakiat Elementary School in the East Ramapo Central School District shares this Bright Spot:

“Over the last two years parents of my students have been consistently positive about annual CSE meetings, saying that because of the visuals I provide, they leave with a clear understanding of the growth and continuing needs of their child. “

Here are the practices that she says have led to that result:
  • I begin IEP development by collecting data using Curriculum-Based Measures, or CBMs, to get a clear picture of the student’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • I develop IEP goals that represent the outcomes I want a student to achieve, not the specific skills that need to be taught to get a student to the goal. When developing goals I ask myself, “Is this something that will improve the student’s ability to access the Common Core Learning Standards?” and whether the goal represents a push for growth. Data from CBMs allow me to make these meaningful goals measurable.
  • I continue to use the CBMs throughout the year to collect clear, concise data on progress towards the goals.
  • I create graphs using the CBM data so that progress can be seen at a glance and shared with administrators, parents and colleagues.

Because of the positive feedback, I am now providing turn-key trainings on progress monitoring with CBMs to staff.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

  • Developing an IEP needs to begin with careful assessment and baseline data.
  • CBMs allow the teacher, student and family to see and celebrate student progress.
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.


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