District designs K12 model to better serve special populations

Dearborn's 3D Community brings specialists together to close achievement gap
By: | March 13, 2018

Striving to ensure the implementation of best practices that support all learners is critical to academic achievement for diverse populations.

Dearborn Schools is committed to ensuring that all students reach academic success.

With a population of 20,907 of which 50 percent are English learners (several refugees and newcomer students), 8 percent special education and approximately 73 percent below the poverty level, it’s even more important for us to continually explore avenues to support students to become successful.

Ensuring that staff is meeting the needs of every student, the district brought experts from various departments to work as a team. We created building leadership teams that support teachers in the core instructional classroom and targeted interventions to close the achievement gap.

The 3D experience

The district established a “3D Community” consisting of English language development specialists, instructional literacy coaches and special education resource teachers. The goal is to bring these three departments together as a team to close the achievement gap of our various at-risk populations.

This model is aligned with our collaborative professional learning community model. These highly trained specialists collaborate monthly with one another in order to meet the needs of all students in our district.

During the collaborative meetings they share areas of expertise and strategies that can be adapted within each department. All the shared strategies are evidence-based best practices that focus on student engagement, growth and achievement.

The shared practices focus on providing teachers and support staff with strategies that will allow students to develop proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Matching interventions to student needs can be very challenging. As a district we are aware that the high levels of student achievement and growth will occur only when instructional practices are defined, supported and implemented.

The 3D community incorporates many instructional practices that can be adapted in whole groups or small groups, or with individual students. These routines are often shared with classroom teachers at MTSS meetings and professional development as well as through our districtwide co-teaching model.

All members of our 3D Community co-teach in classrooms with the classroom teacher. They pair and collaborate in lesson planning, lesson delivery and formative assessment. Co-teaching allows teachers to see the impact of actual implementation of these strategies.

Serving all students

One practice that has been highlighted is the specially designed instruction model. The English Language Development Department created a framework for working with newcomers in small groups. It’s similar to the specially designed instruction model for students with disabilities.

The framework is specific to student needs and includes ongoing formative assessments that drive instruction. For example, a 45-minute lesson includes phonics, word work, a reading strategy, oral language development and a structured writing task.

The specially designed instruction model is aligned with the reading foundational skills standards from the Common Core. The English language development specialists design instruction for newcomer sessions that ensure the development of a balanced literacy model.

In addition, members of the 3D community have supported teachers in adapting and implementing lessons that meet the various needs of all students.

Ensuring academic achievement for all learners requires our educators to improve their knowledge and skills on the ever-changing best practices that support all learners. A district’s capacity to learn is a collective task rather than an individual one.

Rose Aldubaily is director of English learners and compensatory education, and Glenn Maleyko is superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools in Michigan.