Teachers Build Access into Lesson Plans at Cincinnati Public Schools

Classwork from CPS students using the UDL Poster Summary strategy in Goalbook Toolkit

For teachers of all age groups and subject areas, daily lesson planning is time-consuming and requires tremendous attention to detail. Pacing guides and curricula remind educators which content must be covered and when it must be covered throughout a school year. Where teachers often receive less support is in planning for the accessibility of that content for varied learners.

Like most public school districts nationwide, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) aims to keep expectations high for student success and increase access for ALL students.

In partnership with Goalbook, CPS participated in a 6-week coaching study starting in January 2018. The study focused on the implementation of research-based instructional strategies aligned to the Universal Design for Learning Framework (UDL). The goal of this study was understanding how Goalbook and CPS coaches support secondary teachers with implementing strategies to scaffold high school math and English content aligned to student needs.

Lauren and Mike are county-level instructional improvement consultants whose day-to-day roles involve instructional coaching of classroom teachers. They support the Teacher-based-Teams (TbT) process at CPS. TbT is built on the premise that implementation is the most complex part of new processes, primarily because it requires changes in adult behaviors and practices that are part of the unique culture of every organization.

Mike recognizes that while a focus on content is a critical piece of planning for educators, accounting for accessibility in lesson delivery is sometimes an afterthought rather than an integral piece of the process.

“Teachers are often so fixated on teaching content that they don’t realize the value of using strategies to scaffold learning of content for differentiation to meet needs of students — Goalbook’s implementation tips and examples help teachers connect dots.”

CPS had previously relied on shared links and handouts to remind teachers of resources for implementing research-based instructional strategies effectively. This process doesn’t give teachers the tools to improve their practice the way Goalbook does via strategy pages.

The UDL Sentence Starters strategy page in Goalbook Pathways.
“For the TbT process, which is driven by implementing strategies, Goalbook was amazing. I can’t think of a better program for this process.”

Prior to the 6-week observation period, CPS teachers had self-reported gaps in the area of understanding UDL and how to apply its principles to instructional design, as well as readiness in knowing how to differentiate instruction and design interventions for struggling students.*

“Teachers are often so fixated on teaching content that they don’t realize the value of using strategies to scaffold learning of content for differentiation to meet needs of students — Goalbook’s implementation tips and examples help teachers connect dots,” Mike explains.

UDL strategies in Goalbook were a focus of conversation in TbTs for the 6 weeks of coaching and observation. Teachers implemented new strategies and shared reflections on how they worked in practice.

Demonstration of the Strategy Wizard feature in Goalbook Toolkit

For Mike, one of the most critical pieces of implementation is supporting teachers as they plan and execute new ideas in their classrooms which are already known to be research-based.

“Typically, the most important part of the process is getting teachers to try new things in their classroom and determining if they work,” he shares.

While the impact on student achievement may become apparent later, the shift in practice represents a mindset of inclusion and accessibility for all students, including those with disabilities.

Teacher reception was encouraging. “Teachers really, really loved it,” Mike shares. “For the TbT process, which is driven by implementing strategies, Goalbook was amazing. I can’t think of a better program for this process.”

*Based on teacher survey and four teacher observations (1 observation from each participating teacher) during the 2017–18 school year.


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