Purposeful Professional Learning Communities Cultivate a Culture of Success for DC School

Meridian Public Charter School at Goalbook User Symposium, NYC 2018

Diandra Best, Director of Student Support (left), & Lonette Little, Special Education Coordinator (right)

Diandra Best, Director of Student Support, and Lonette Little, Special Education Coordinator, from Meridian Public Charter School in Washington, DC, came to Goalbook’s 2018 NYC User Symposium with the aim of solving a breakdown in communication between general education and special education teachers.

They were concerned that students with special needs at Meridian were disengaged in the inclusion setting, resulting in limited access to classroom curriculum and assessment. The main issue was that the scaffolds that students with disabilities needed in their general education classes were being implemented inconsistently.

Making the Connection Between Access and Engagement

Lonette Little, Special Education Coordinator, working with Goalbook facilitators to design a solution for the teachers at her school.

Each team in attendance at the Goalbook User Symposium worked directly with Goalbook team members to get a deeper understanding of Goalbook’s philosophy behind the connection between rigor and access.

A big factor in ensuring that students can access rigorous standards-based instruction is engagement. Engagement is more than getting kids excited about learning experiences. At Goalbook, we believe that fostering true engagement for students with special needs means taking a purposeful approach to designing learning experiences in three critical areas:

  • Designing activities that are personally meaningful to students and offer them authentic choice.
  • Incorporating strategic scaffolds throughout the entire learning experience.
  • Applying appropriate pedagogy and teaching strategies that cater to student needs.

These principles of engagement apply to all students, and they require strategic collaboration when designing instruction for students in an inclusion setting who have significant barriers.

Diandra Best, Director of Student Support, collaborating with other district leaders in attendance to design their Professional Learning Communities solution.

What was evident to Best and Little was the fact that although general education teachers and special education teachers were, in fact, engaging in designing lesson plans, they were not working together to norm on engagement strategies that made sense for students with special needs.

“If we see progress towards IEP goals but students still can’t access the content in inclusion settings, then we need to do more… Goalbook Toolkit can help with that.”
- Diandra Best, Director of Student Support

Leveraging PLCs to Design Engaging Learning Experiences

Their goal is to have grade-level team members meet weekly in Professional Learning Communities to use the Strategy Wizard in Goalbook Toolkit to learn and apply new strategies to lesson plans. The strategies that they’ll use will be directly connected to engaging students with special needs in an inclusion setting.

By carving out time for general education teachers and special educators to engage in sharing resources and learning, Best and Little have found a way to simultaneously improve teacher practice and improve student outcomes.

Demonstration of using the Strategy Wizard to search for engagement strategies.

Every team in attendance was given an in-depth product overview that introduced them to all of the product features. Goalbook facilitators were available to answer any questions as well as give examples of how users have already applied product features in various contexts. The Toolkit feature that the Meridian team felt would best support the solution they were designing was the Strategy Wizard.

  • The Strategy Wizard is a feature designed to help teachers find specific strategies and printable resources in various subject areas. All of the strategies and printable resources are UDL-aligned and shareable.
Some of the engagement strategies with printable resources available in Goalbook Toolkit.

The UDL-aligned strategies in Goalbook Toolkit provide teachers with teaching materials and instructional supports that allow them to immediately take action towards implementing research-based instruction.

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