Improved Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

This month’s Bright Spot comes from teachers from Katonah-Lewisboro, North Rockland and Irvington who attended a two-day training on Explicit Direct Instruction with RSE-TASC specialist, Ann Narcisse. One of the many strategies they learned was the use of “non-volunteers”.

What were students able to achieve?

When teachers used this practice during instruction, they noted that:

* “My students paid more attention. There was more participation and focus.“

* “Students anticipated being called on and made sure they were ready to respond and participate before being called on.”

* “Typical non-contributors were more engaged and answered questions.”

* “Students demonstrated greater understanding of new concepts and were providing correct/effective responses.”

What practices or systems made this possible?

All of these teachers created a method to choose and call on non-volunteers.  They told students that instead of having them raise their hands to respond, they would be randomly calling on students.  One teacher put student names on index cards on a ring; another put names on paint sticks and picked them from a jar. If a student didn’t know an answer, he or she was told that the teacher would come back to them for a second chance to respond after calling on other students. Students loved this and reminded teachers to use the strategy.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

Students are more engaged when expectations that all students will participate are built into lessons.  With this simple strategy, students anticipate being called upon and are preparing and rehearsing answers and are engaged at all times.  As this becomes common practice, students also learn that everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and that learning occurs from focusing, thinking, engaging and self-correcting.

This month’s Bright Spot comes from Karen Gatto, Director of Pupil Personnel in Croton-Harmon.  In the past few years the district has helped students successfully exit from the 12:1:2 high school Special Class.

What were students able to achieve?

* They passed Regents level classes with support.

* They joined clubs with typical peers.

* They attended general education health, PE, and elective courses and found new interests. One student became a photographer for athletic teams. The other held a class officer position. The students have made new friends outside of the special class setting.

* Their self-esteem and confidence has increased.

* Their communicative ability and self advocacy have increased.

What practices or systems made this possible?

⇒ Students attend their CSE meetings and practice self advocacy; professionals “listen” better than ever before.

⇒ Students are taking general education classes and working towards a CDOS Credential; staff have higher expectations for students.

⇒ The CSE thinks creatively and “outside the box”. The team took risks, trying new things.

⇒ The CSE listened to parents and worked as a partner with them. Parents provided effective follow up support outside of school.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

Principles 1, 2, 3, and 6 from the NYS Blueprint for Improved Results for Students with Disabilities are specifically evident in our experience:

1. Students engage in self-advocacy and are involved in determining their own educational goals and plans.

2. Parents, and other family members, are engaged as meaningful partners in the special education process and the education of their child.

3. Teachers design, provide, and assess the effectiveness of specially designed instruction to provide students with disabilities access to participate and progress in the general education curriculum.

4. Schools provide high-quality inclusive programs and activities.

Never say never!


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