Spring / Summer 2008

Start Late-Finish Strong!

That will never work!” What a crazy idea!” What was she thinking?”

These are the unvoiced reactions in the minds of some educational colleagues in December 2007, when Dr. Joy McMichael, Assistant Principal at Escambia County’s Pensacola High School, told a group attending Collaborative Planning and Teaching training of her plans to institute co-teaching second semester.

When students returned to school on January seventh, approximately fifty of them found a change to their schedules. They found themselves in a class with another teacher!
One tenth grade Language Arts section was taught by Brenda Sutton and Melanie Adair. Cynthia Redeker and Gregory Garrett combined their expertise in an eleventh grade Government class.

All four teachers report increases in student engagement and grades in the newly co-taught classes. Since schedule changes are fairly common in high school environments, there was barely a ripple when the new semester commenced. The middle of the year turned out to be an excellent time to begin this new initiative!

Upon visiting these classrooms, M.J. Ziemba, from the Florida Inclusion Network,
noticed how comfortably the teaching teams worked together. “Both teams worked smoothly, time was well-managed, and students were engaged in learning activities. It looked like these teachers had been together much longer than they had!”

At semester’s end, both teaching teams reported success. The students with disabilities who were co-taught in Government attained an average grade of 77% proficient, compared to those in a self-contained class who averaged 69% proficient. The average number of absences for the co-taught general education class was five compared to twelve for students in the self-contained classroom, and the amount of discipline referrals was less than one for students in the co-taught classroom! In addition, two students pursuing a special diploma took the Government class for regular class credit and passed!

The Florida Inclusion Network salutes Dr. McMichael and these four teachers: Melanie Adair, Brenda Sutton, Gregory Garrett and Cynthia Redeker for their “can do” spirit and dedication to the students in their charge.

Submitted by: M.J. Ziemba, FIN Facilitator, Escambia County Public Schools
June 2008

Saturn Elementary: Creating a Culture of Inclusion

An inclusive school is one that educates and demonstrates success for all students with and without disabilities in age-appropriate general education classrooms. Creating and maintaining an inclusive school requires collaboration and whole-school planning using analysis and synthesis of school-wide data. Saturn Elementary School has demonstrated that these efforts can have an impressive impact on student achievement.

Saturn Elementary School, located in Brevard County, is a Title I school with a total student population of 750 students. Of those students, 63% receive free and reduced lunch. Additionally, Saturn has a 45% mobility rate, 35% minority population and a 35% exceptional education student population. Knowing that there were some challenging issues facing Saturn Elementary, the principal, Mr. Mike Miller, moved toward an approach of using school-wide data to improve student achievement and create a culture of inclusion.

During their journey, Saturn Elementary:

• Encouraged collaboration among administrators, staff, students, and family members;

• Found creative and efficient use of their existing resources, staff, time, and funding;

• Instilled a value system where all students are members of general education classrooms whose teachers hold high expectations for success;

• Promoted the use a variety of approaches, instructional strategies, and curricular adaptations that were tailored to each student’s learning abilities, needs, styles, and preferences;

• Provided professional development that focused on skills and capacities, as well as reflective actions of their staff;

• Ensured that students with disabilities were included and carefully considered in the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, and whole school planning related to student achievement data.

• Enlisted the support of “critical friends” such as the Florida Inclusion Network to provide professional development and ongoing technical assistance.

With these efforts in place, Saturn was able to make and maintain an “A” school status, made AYP for the last two consecutive years, raised attendance to over 95%, raised their FCAT reading scores for students with disabilities from 27% in 2003 (achieving Level 3 or higher) to 67%, and raised FCAT math scores from 34% in 2003 (achieving Level 3 or higher) to 62%.

While the leaps in Saturn’s overall scores are amazing, the success stories of their individual students with disabilities are even more impressive. One of their students, who in the past would have been in a self-contained classroom because of behavioral concerns, was included in general education and went from an FCAT Level 2 in both reading and math to a Level 5 in both reading and math! Another student with a learning disability moved from an FCAT Level 1 in both reading and math to a Level 5! This student had a perfect score in reading and has maintained these high proficiency levels for two consecutive years!

Click here to view graphics showing the percentage of students with disabilities scoring level 3 or higher on FCAT math or reading.

Submitted by: Dr. Laura Verry-Sidoran, FIN Facilitator, UCF Brevard
May 2008

Successful Inclusion Demonstrated in a Kindergarten Classroom

Hunters Green Elementary, located in Tampa, FL, has a Kindergarten classroom doing an excellent job supporting all their students in academic and social learning. Two teachers, Roxanne Coriell and Joni Cagel, co-teach all day to provide necessary supports and direct services for students with mild to severe disabilities and ALL other students in their classroom. This classroom truly demonstrates the value of diversity, a sense of belonging for all, and a model of providing grade-level instruction with accommodations and modifications.

Read what the teachers say about their student outcomes:

“All of our students made excellent progress in their Emergent Reader Assessments (phonemic awareness, letter ID, letter sounds, concepts about print, and sight word recognition.) All of our students have made great progress in writing because they all have the determination to overcome their disabilities (including our student with a severe hearing impairment, our student who has limited verbal skills, and our student with Cerebral Palsy that cannot hold a pencil…but types and loves it). We’re very proud of them!”.

Roxanne Coriell & Joni Cagle

Submitted by: Rose Calco, FIN Facilitator, and
Denise Frenz, FIN Facilitator, Hillsborough County Public Schools
May 2008

Author’s Purpose Comes Alive for Students

Marisa Adler, Inclusion Support Teacher for Stanton-Weirsdale Elementary School in Ocala, implemented two new strategies that she learned from a FIN/UNF professional development series on Differentiated Instruction. Her goal was to improve achievement for her students, especially those struggling with identifying the author’s purpose in sets of readings. Marisa used the strategies of “Stand Up, Sit Down!” and “Response Cards” to fully engage the minds and bodies of her 5th graders!

Given examples of writing, students were asked to stand up if the writing was expository or stay seated if narrative. Once identified, the choices of author’s purpose were narrowed and, using their own set of response cards, students successfully identified the author’s purpose 90% of the time. Students would hold up the card labeled “narrative” or “expository” and receive immediate feedback about their response. Students really enjoyed this interactive method of learning!

In Marion County, district-wide assessments are frequently conducted to monitor student progress toward meeting Sunshine State Standards. All (100%) of Ms. Adler’s students received a mastery level score on identifying the author’s purpose. Marisa plans to use the combination of “Stand Up, Sit Down!” and “Response Cards” as a review and an evaluation tool. Great job, Ms. Adler!!

For more information on how to implement these and other effective instructional strategies, contact your local FIN Facilitator!

Submitted by: Libby Willis & Kimberlee Oakes, FIN Facilitators, UNF
May 2008

Differentiating Instruction in Broward County

To advance their skills in meeting the needs of diverse learners, 90 teachers in Broward County completed a two-day training on Differentiating Instruction. These educators had the opportunity to meet and work with colleagues from around the district to explore research-based approaches that address assessment and instructional strategies. Strategies focused upon engaging students and fostering a deeper awareness of what is essential for students to KNOW, UNDERSTAND and DO in content area classes.

We know that application in the classroom is critical to student success. These two-day trainings have resulted in awesome collaboration between general and special educators at all levels. Participants have been utilizing effective strategies such as Gallery Walks, 3-2-1 Summarizers, and Cubing, and have employed a variety of ways to create flexible groups in their classrooms. With a keen awareness of learning styles and multiple intelligences, teachers are beginning to tier their instruction to meet their students “where they are” and move them forward. Best of all, teachers are reporting “more fun and more learning”!

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, one participant created a Mind Map for Differentiating Instruction – click link below to check it out!

Click here to view Broward’s Mind Map for Differentiating Instruction.

Submitted by: Barbara Krakower, FIN Facilitator, Broward County Public Schools
April 2008

Making a Difference by Differentiating Instruction!

Teachers from Westglades Middle School and Coconut Palm Elementary School have been polishing their skills to reach diverse learners. Twenty one teachers have completed Communities of Practice, a study group for differentiating instruction developed by the Florida Inclusion Network. By delving into this teaching philosophy to reach ALL students, including those with disabilities, the teachers have explored new ways to assess students based on their learning styles, areas of interest, and readiness levels.

Utilizing student assessment information, teachers identified appropriate strategies to increase student engagement and assist students in learning essential concepts. Teachers learned practical approaches to create flexible groups and tier their instruction within these groups. This hands-on application gave way to the development of action plans at each school that will expand the process school-wide! Much thanks to the leadership of Principal Christine Flynn at Westglades Middle and Assistant Principal Donald Gardner at Coconut Palm Elementary.

Submitted by: Barbara Krakower, FIN Facilitator, Broward County Public Schools
April 2008

Home Learning Groups Replace Old Homework Habits

Longwood Elementary students in Okaloosa County are benefiting from their collaborative teachers’, Casey Brennan and Jacque Whittle, participation in a two-day Differentiated Instruction Workshop. This collaborative team implemented “Home Learning”or “Homework Checkers” groups with their fifth graders.

The Home Learning structure has replaced the habit of students “just turning in“ their homework with no discussion or clarification of the lesson. Students now work in groups to monitor each other’s work, discuss the concept, and come to consensus on the answers. Flexible grouping strategies were used to assign students to their Home Learning groups.

As the teams were formed, you could observe all the students engaged as they went over their assignments. Forming the Home Learning groups has empowered the students to be responsible for their learning and encouraged them to complete their homework. Most of all, the students are now truly participating.

Teacher Jacque Whittle says, “It has been fabulous seeing our kids so engaged. What an awesome, simple strategy to implement. Just look at the outcome!” The principal, Mr. Marcus Chambers, observed the strategy and has requested that these teachers assist the other grade levels in implementing “Home Learning”. “I don’t remember seeing students with such diversity working so well together!” stated Mr. Chambers.

As professional developers, we are always hoping that teachers are taking back the information and implementing new strategies in their schools. It is wonderful to see that the whole school has benefited from the implementation of differentiated instruction!

Fifth grade teachers, Casey Brennan and Jacque Whittle, are planning which DI Strategy to implement.

Home Learning Groups are working together checking their math homework.

These fifth graders feel differentiated instruction is the way to go!

Submitted by: Karen D’Avignon, FIN Facilitator, UWF
April 15, 2008

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