California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II
No Child Left Behind does not give schools the option to let special education students fall behind. As one of the subgroups that affect the school’s Adequate Yearly Progress scores, students in special education have taken a front seat in discussions about education reform.
Special Education Students Gain Access to Regular Education Science Classes
Twin Hills Charter Middle School, Twin Hills Union School District, Sonoma County, is one of the 2009 California Distinguished Schools. Twin Hills Middle School is featured on the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Closing the Achievement Gap Web site for its “Signature” Practice, Access to Science. This exemplary practice addresses several of the CDE’s 12 Recommendations for Middle Grades Success, including access; rigor, instruction, assessment, and intervention; and time.
At Twin Hills Charter Middle School, special education and science teachers worked together to create and implement a mainstreaming and support program that would address the high failure rate of special education students in science. The program called for special education and resource students with a variety of disabilities, such as Asperger’s Syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), and neurological disorders, as well as other significant cognitive delays that severely impact student reading and writing skills, to be mainstreamed into regular education science classes in grades six through eight.
Intended to help students by providing access to additional support both inside and outside of the science classroom, the main components of the program include:
For some students, science is their only mainstreamed class; for others it is their first class outside of special education. In the past, the majority of special education and resource students were unsuccessful either due to their specific disability or because they lacked basic study skills. Goals of the program include:
Results of the Practice
For students who have participated, most of the goals of the program were met or exceeded. All students were mainstreamed, and the majority experienced success in the classroom as measured by their grades, homework completion rate, and STAR test scores.
The success of special education students in mainstream science classes was tracked for three years, and during this time 100 percent of students scored above Far Below Basic (17 percent Advanced, 22 percent Proficient, 37 percent Basic, 24 percent Below Basic) on the grade eight science STAR test. Eighty-six (86) percent of students have received semester grades of C or better (52 percent B, 34 percent C, 7 percent D, 7 percent F). Itemized progress reports from teachers show that the majority of students are completing over 90 percent of their assignments.
There were also unanticipated impacts of the program. As special education students began to achieve more, their status in the classroom improved. They experienced an increase in demand as lab and project partners because they were seen as students who could “get the job done.” Classroom behavior improved and their academic success resulted in a more positive attitude toward school. Students also realized that asking for assistance was a strategy that their successful regular education peers employ, rather than seeing it as a sign of weakness or failure. In addition, regular education students were exposed to a more positive cultural view of students with disabilities, seeing them as students who struggle but who can ultimately succeed.
Building on Success
To bolster the program’s effectiveness, other areas are being targeted including:
Twin Hills Charter Middle School is one of the schools featured on the CDE Closing the Achievement Gap Web site. The site contains helpful information, research, and success stories including “Signature” Practices from some of California’s Distinguished Schools.
Access to differentiated instruction
Access to English learner (EL) supports
California Department of Education
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Sacramento, CA 95814