Skip to content

“Learning Without Limits”: Utilizing UDL and Inclusive Practices to Reduce the Achievement Gap for our Students with Disabilities

Teacher: Alexandra Weir
School: Charlestown High School

The Challenge:
At Charlestown High School, over the past three years we have developed a working Inclusion model in which students with IEPs are included in general education classes with support of Inclusion Specialists. Our challenge was how to advance our Inclusion model so that it best serves our diverse student body (26% of students have IEPs, 44% are ELs). However, data from SY18-19 of 9th grade Inclusion classes show that students with IEPs performed below the overall class average by 5% in ELA and by 7% in Math during Semester 1. Our project sought to rectify these disparate outcomes through summer planning, UDL, reflective practices, coaching, and an assessment protocol.

What did your team do about it?:

Our project goal was to utilize UDL and Inclusive Practices to Reduce the Achievement Gap for our Students with Disabilities. To accomplish our goal we utilized the following processes and/or structures to create and/or leverage to establish an implementation plan:attended the CAST Symposium, created staff survey, created inclusion planning consultancy protocol and Template for planning, and created staff professional development drop-In sessions (Understanding IEPs, UDL, Differentiation, Co-Teaching, SEL Supports). We also wanted to create/implement student surveys, distribute SEL Kits, SEL professional development, and create an Inclusion Vision Statement for CHS. Our goal is to accomplish the aforementioned tasks during the upcoming school year.

Impact on Students:
Through analyzing data of passing rates for Semester 1, we can see some improvements in student outcomes for ELA/History. Math continues to be an area of growth in regards to our Inclusion classes, and we anticipate more work in that area next school year.
For ELA/History, students in 8 inclusions classes performed at the following passing rates:
50% performed higher than their general education peers
25% performed the same
25% performed lower
For Math, students in 6 inclusions classes performed at the following passing rates:
17% performed higher than their general education peers
33% performed the same
50% performed lower
Specific Anecdote: “Krista” from our Initial TLF application (Inclusion student previous in substantially separate classes) passed ELA MCAS, got Advanced for Math MCAS, and is on track for a diploma!

Teacher Leadership and School Community:
This project allowed us to recognize and utilize areas of expertise within our own community. Through our Consultancy work and Drop-In Sessions, the CHS TLF Team was able to support and educate staff on Inclusive Practices, allowing for more access to learning for all students. This project paved the way for more meaningful PD opportunities that focused on the needs of staff, while aligning UDL methods and our school’s Inclusion Vision. Staff voiced the need for these PDs, and we anticipate continued offerings next school year. The more considerable challenges may have been managing time and organization. By February, we had started to divide responsibilities more effectively, allowing for more work to be done, but the challenge of making time remains a common theme for educators.

What’s Next?
Our goal of improving outcomes for students with disabilities at CHS required feedback from staff, and those survey results provided specific requests for PD that we provided. A challenge that emerged was providing that in a continuous method for staff to access as new challenges arose in their classrooms. Our next phase for this support will be continued Drop-In Sessions virtually or in person next school year. Additionally, we presented a dilemma at a TLF Meeting in October regarding developing a protocol for Inclusion Consultancy Meetings. Based on this meeting, we developed a protocol for supporting Inclusion teachers through meaningful conversations around strategies and implementing UDL. In order to continue to improve student outcomes, this work must continue through developing a more cohesive Inclusion Vision for CHS with our ILT.

Helping Others:
For teams struggling to find inclusion success, here is an example of one case study at Charlestown High. In a 10th grade math inclusion class with 30 students, including 7 with IEP’s, taught by a lead math instructor with a (math-licensed) inclusion specialist, both teachers utilized the Inclusion Consultancy Protocol to develop an individualized plan for one struggling student. Utilizing tools and supports from the CAST Symposium regarding UDL, the new plan was to provide guided notes specific to this individual’s learning style and provide after school 1:1 support. Our focus student showed a drastic improvement after implementing the plan. While there are many challenges to improving outcomes in an inclusion classroom, narrowing the focus can help assemble a toolkit that may be used across classrooms. Additionally, the CHS Inclusion Specialist team met bi-weekly to expand the TLF work on a greater level throughout the larger school community.
Link to our CHS TLF-Inclusion Team Rolling Agenda: