District Addressing Needs of Students with Disabilities

On November 10th, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released the annual list of schools in need of improvement. Although the East Greenbush Central School District remains in good standing with the NYSED, Howard L. Goff Middle School was identified as a school in need of improvement based on the performance of one subgroup on the state English Language Arts (ELA) assessments.

Reading TeacherNew York State uses assessment data to monitor the performance of the more than 6,000 schools in the state. As a result of federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, all students must achieve state benchmarks in ELA and Math. The state looks at school results as a whole, but also breaks down the student population into subgroups.

The testing results are analyzed for each subgroup and all subgroups are expected to achieve the target designated by the state. If a subgroup fails to meet the benchmark set by the state, the school must implement changes dedicated to improving the performance of that subgroup. If that subgroup falls below the state benchmark two years in a row, the school is classified by the state as a “School in Need of Improvement (SINI).” This year 1325 schools in New York were identified as SINI schools.

District test results show East Greenbush continues to outperform all Rensselaer county school districts. In fact, East Greenbush ranks number 6 out of 84 school districts in the Capital Region. The rankings are based on four years of student testing data, 2007 to 2010, with the greatest weight given to the most recent year.

Despite these successes, one subgroup - students with disabilities – did not achieve the state benchmark in ELA. In response, Goff Principal Matthew Sloane has reviewed all academic programs. The school is implementing new programming and is providing professional development to teachers to ensure all students achieve the state benchmarks.

For students who were unable to achieve the state benchmarks in ELA, Goff has implemented tiered Academic Intervention Services (AIS). Based on the needs of individual students, they receive in-class intervention, intervention in a separate setting, or monitoring services.

Read 180, a computer and direct instruction program that targets special education students, was implemented at Goff this year. The program mixes direct teacher instruction, modeled and independent reading, and interactive software to build reading skills.

Those students most in need of literacy skills are benefiting from System 44. System 44 is a state-of-the-art reading technology that uses direct, research-based foundational reading and phonics instruction. This program offers direct instruction at a basic level to help the students most in need.

Goff has a full-inclusion model for special education students. Full-inclusion joins special education students and regular education students in classes taught by a certified content teacher and a certified special education teacher. This teaching model provides students with differentiated instruction to meet their specific needs.

In addition, student progress will be monitored using Northwest Evaluative Assessment (NWEA). NWEA will also be used to assess the educational needs and progress of all students to ensure they are acquiring the skills necessary to be proficient in ELA.

Data Focus Groups formed at Goff meet regularly to analyze assessment data to see if gaps exist in the current curriculum. In addition, the groups help develop strategies for teachers for meeting the needs of all students.

“We will continue to review our programming and make changes as we strive to ensure all students are proficient in ELA,” said Sloane. When a school in need of improvement makes adequate yearly progress for two years in a row, it is no longer considered in need of improvement.

The State ELA and Math assessments were implemented in New York State to comply with the Federal NCLB legislation enacted by Congress in 2001. The tests were designed to help districts monitor student academic growth.

For more information on state assessments, or the No Child Left Behind accountability system for school, please visit the NYSED website. To see the complete list of SINI schools click here.