In the fall of 2017, 7 districts and 2 teams of districts applied for and received $50,000 – $100,000 in funding through DESE's Resource Reallocation to District Priorities grant. As part of the grant, districts:
Nine case studies outline these districts' investments, evaluation processes, outcomes, and future plans. Each one presents a Massachusetts district that invested in and measured the outcomes of a specific program to determine if the program is likely to succeed and whether it was cost-effective. See the overview and summaries below or download individual case studies from the links in the table.
In an effort to provide more intensive behavior and literacy services for students with disabilities in early grades, the district invested in two training programs for Instructional Assistants (IAs): one that trained IAs as Registered Behavior Technicians and one through which IAs earned literacy teaching micro-credentials. IAs responded positively to training, and reading assessment scores improved for students with disabilities in elementary grades. Full implementation of the RBT interventions took longer than expected, and the district will continue to track student behaviors to measure impact in this area.
Striving for more inclusive instructional practices to address achievement gaps, the district invested in training on co-teaching and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and coaching using the Math Studios approach. The optional, after-school UDL training had limited impact, but Math Studios coaching was well-received by teachers and showed initial promising results in student outcomes.
In response to lower Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) MCAS scores than similar districts, Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District wanted to overhaul their instruction in STEAM curriculum areas (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) from elementary grades through high school. This included integrating science standards into literacy instruction and strengthening science instruction at the elementary level, overhauling science standards and instruction in grades 5–8, integrating new biology standards in grades 9 and 10, and creating computer science courses at the high school. Initial results are promising, with an increase in STE and biology MCAS scores in all grades and an increase in computer science enrollment at the high school.
Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical School
Seeing that students' ELA and math growth was less than at comparable high schools, GNBVT overhauled instructional practices across their academic programming. Components of this overhaul included providing professional development and coaching for teachers in using formative assessments to strengthen teaching practices, and adding an additional ELA teacher to reduce class sizes in grades 9 and 10. This professional development and the smaller ELA classes showed strong initial results, with observations of an increase in teacher use of formative assessment and an increase in student growth on the math and ELA MCAS.
Addressing high numbers of referrals to special education, the Village School in Marblehead worked to implement cycles of intervention for students, improving differentiation, providing small group instruction, and using formative assessment data. This shift showed promising initial results with a majority of students in intervention cycles successfully meeting exit criteria and positive responses from teachers on a survey. The school will continue and deepen this initiative in the 2019-20 school year and beyond.
Recognizing that challenging student behaviors at the district's elementary school tended to occur during unstructured time, the district hired two SEL-specific paraprofessionals to monitor lunch, amended the teachers' contract to include recess coverage, and rolled out school-wide PBIS practices. Bullying referrals and behavior referrals to the Student Support Team decreased, though students were suspended at higher rates than in previous years. The district anticipates seeing a reduction in behavioral incidents as the initiative continues.
Recognizing their high special education identification rates and challenges with inclusion, three districts across the northern Berkshire region of Massachusetts partnered to strengthen early childhood inclusive practices to meet the needs of all students. The districts participated in an audit of special education services, professional development and coaching for staff, and a new inclusive model of occupational therapy services. Initial results on language and literacy indicators were mixed, but the implementation of the new model showed promise for two of the districts. The districts are continuing the initiatives and expect to see a decrease in special education referrals in future years and increased literacy development in early grades.
Recognizing the importance of inclusive practices for the success of students with disabilities, seven districts pooled resources through their collaborative to hire a shared inclusion coach and provide staff with a summer professional development workshop about inclusion and UDL. Staff responded positively to coaching and the districts will continue to fund the coach position in the 2019-20 school year. Moving forward, districts plan to measure the impact of coaching on students.
Addressing an increase in students who were English Learners, Waltham established a new elementary school to implement a dual language immersion program that selected students by lottery. The district used grant funds to invest in professional development around literacy for the dual language program's teachers and created a summer program for dual language students. Dual language program students exhibited mixed results on English and math outcomes. Recognizing positive research results for dual language programs generally, and implementation challenges, Waltham leadership is continuing to expand the dual language program one grade at a time and providing more literacy training for teachers.