Knocking down barriers to success: students with disabilities
Students present unique challenges to teachers. But those challenges can be exacerbated among certain groups of students who historically have underperformed.
Those groups – ranging from students whose native language isn’t English to those on the lower spectrum of the socioeconomic scale – are a part of what is called the education gap: the academic difference between white students who aren’t from economically challenged families and the students belonging to the historically challenged subgroups.
The Iowa State Board of Education recognized that closing the gap is critical for students – and the state’s long-term success. So 16 years ago, the board created the Breaking Barriers to Teaching and Learning Award, designed to recognize schools that have worked to overcome the education gap.
This year, five schools were honored for their work over the 2016-17 school year. Gilbert Intermediate School of the Gilbert Community School District was one of them.
Gilbert Intermediate was recognized for its work with students with disabilities. Among those students, 79 percent are proficient in reading and math at Gilbert Intermediate School, compared to the statewide average of only 35 percent.
The Iowa Department of Education interviewed Gilbert Intermediate last fall. Following the Breaking Barriers award, we circled back with Principal Amy Griffin.
What is the guiding philosophy of your school?
At Gilbert Schools, we believe in Every Student. Every Day. The staff truly has this mindset and work really hard to learn and grow as professionals in doing what is best for all kids.
What particular challenges does your school face?
We are fortunate at Gilbert Intermediate to have many high-achieving students, supportive parents and hard-working staff members. I don't think our challenges are any different than many schools today. We wish we had more time to go deeper with learning, we wish we had more time for professional development and we wish we had more time for our Professional Learning Communities to meet.
What, specifically, is your school doing to push all-student advancement?
We have really focused our Professional Learning Communities to keep the 4 PLC questions* in the forefront of their meetings, planning and delivery. We really work hard to look at all ranges of achievement and how can we move all students to the next level. Then, delivering what each student needs during their school day.
What, specifically, is your school doing to push the advancement of students with disabilities?
In the area of special education, we at Gilbert Intermediate are committed to do what is best for every student, every day. All students are expected to learn and to learn at high levels. We strive to have our identified students be in core instruction as much as possible. We also strive to use common language between the classroom instruction and specially designed instruction, to assist with repetition and practice. Our Tiger Time (MTSS) also focuses on implementing a variety of research-based practices!
What advice would you like to share with your contemporaries?
BELIEVE in your staff and believe in your students. CELEBRATE all accomplishments with both staff & students! Be CONNECTED with parents so that it truly is a team approach for student success. Let students have a VOICE in their learning and HAVE FUN!
- *What do we expect our students to learn?
- How will we know they are learning?
- How will we respond when they don't learn?
- How will we respond if they already know it?