Get Every Student to Level Up: Supporting Students Who Struggle
Updated: Mar 6
Guest Author: Adrianna Riccio
Every school runs into a speed bump when considering their struggling students. School leaders are not sure which path to take and often spend thousands of dollars on resources that were either not at the correct level, are being misused, or were never good from the start. Here are some top priorities to consider when applying for grants to support your special populations, as well as some resources and suggestions to get you started.
Make Instruction Accessible for ALL
Differentiation is the act of accommodating or modifying an assessment or class assignment to help scaffold the material for students who are struggling. Differentiating an assignment does not mean teachers should make the assignment easier, it simply means they are providing the stepping stones for students to understand the assignment. By providing differentiated and scaffolded materials to students who are struggling academically or to those who have an IEP or are learning English, you are allowing the student to master the content at the same rate as their peers.
Additionally, your service hours can be met much faster and easier through the act of differentiation. The time your Special Education teacher takes to create the differentiated assignment, the time they spend meeting with the General Education teacher, and the time the student is working with the differentiated materials all count as service hours. This all sounds so great, right?
Well it would, but teachers – even Special Education teachers – are not taught HOW to differentiate in their teacher preparation programs. Middle and high school teachers are not taught how to work with struggling readers, and unless they took classes, teachers do not know how to support English Language Learners. All together, these three populations can make up to 30% if not more of a school’s population. That’s a lot of students! Imagine focusing on both your special populations and your “bubble kids”. Now that is going to promote some big number changes in those end of the year assessments.
How do you get this to happen in your school? Invest in professional development! Make differentiation and inclusion a focus for the school year and hold professional learning cycles at least 4-6 times per year. When writing your grant, be sure to include money to hire professional development trainers. Work with them to determine exactly what professional development your school will need to thrive.
Intervene Effectively, Without Breaking the Bank
A comprehensive intervention system includes varying levels of intervention and allows for flexible regroupings when students make progress. A robust system includes data analysis and instructional pivots, and uses a mix of blended learning, small group, whole group and individual instruction. This comprehensive system works from Kindergarten through high school, each having their unique set of needs to make the system successful.
Intervention programs can be very expensive and schools are often tricked into purchasing all the bells and whistles of each program they decide to use, only to find that 3 months later most of the things they purchased are of no use to them. Peruse carefully. There is no such thing as one system that will help every student – if there was you would already know about it! These programs can be extremely overwhelming, and your curriculum reps are trained sales people. Ask several people for their input, and please include a professional with experience in large scale interventions.When writing your grant for intervention programs, be sure to include money to hire a consultant who can help you build out your intervention program.
Use this interactive intervention guide to help you get started! It includes recommendations on programs and class structure. It's free. Download now.
Get the Best Materials
Choosing a curriculum that helps to support all students is extremely difficult, maybe even impossible. There is no one size fits all fix! To be successful, a school must have curriculum that will help all students reach mastery. How can you accomplish this when no such curriculum exists?
Creativity. Leaders need to use multiple sources of school data to determine which core curriculum will be the most beneficial. Often, individual schools do not have the authority to change the core curriculum and others just don’t know where to start. That’s ok! Here are some quick tips.
When choosing a core curriculum, be sure the curriculum is culturally diverse and includes authors and characters that represent multiple cultures. Try to choose a curriculum that has differentiation tips already built in, this will help your teachers gather ideas for how to better support your students (This is where that really important differentiation PD comes in). Choose something easy for your teachers to unpack but challenging and rigorous for your students. After choosing your core curriculum, get ready to research your supplemental programs.
Supplemental programs are resource banks that help students get frequent access to high quality text or materials. The best supplemental programs will include a built in way to differentiate based on ability level. For example, if the resource bank is article based, there will be a Lexile adjuster built in to accommodate multiple reading levels. Research the materials to ensure they are age appropriate.
Write the Grant
When applying for grants, remember to include money for professional development and consultants, intervention programs and if needed, new or supplemental curriculum. Reach out to those who will help you formulate the plan to help you write your application. Hey, it takes a village, right?
Follow this quick checklist to help guide your grant application. It's free!
Adrianna Bertoia is the founder of summitED, an educational consulting firm focusing on helping schools support their specialized populations through professional development, instructional coaching and differentiated curriculum. Reach out for support.
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