High Quality Work: Claim 3

All McAuliffe scholars produce high quality work, including scholars who have identified disabilities.

"McAuliffe does a great job making sure that everyone can get the work done. In most of my classes the teachers are watching to see if anyone is having trouble with anything and if they are they help the student(s) get to work and know what they are suppose to be doing." - 7th Grade Scholar, Class of 2018

As we have improved our high quality work for all scholars, those who have identified disabilities have also produced high quality work. The expeditions and student work already showcased in our credentialing portfolio include many scholars who have disabilities. Here we'll showcase specific examples of student work and supporting materials that helped scholars with disabilities get to the top of the mountain.

Space Magazine

The three space magazine articles below were created by scholars who were all in one of two eighth grade science classes. Every one of these scholars has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 accommodation plan or is an English learner. When you flip through the full “Are We Alone?” magazine, 14 out of the 18 articles are written and designed by at least one scholar who has an IEP or 504 plan. We highlight the three below to illustrate that even those articles created by all scholars with an IEP or 504 plan (versus an article created by a scholar with an IEP and a scholar without an IEP) are high quality with regard to writing and design.

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All scholars produced high quality work in part because scholars knew from the get go that that their work was going to be published in the “Are We Alone?” space magazine and that they would be showcasing their work at a culminating event. Scholars, whether with an IEP/504 or not, rise to the occasion when they know that their work matters. This is something that we have learned through our work with EL Education and which is woven into the fabric of our culture at McAuliffe.

In addition, scholars were offered instructional tools to help them make sense of complex topics, prepare their writing, structure their paragraphs and the flow of the article, layout their magazine, and prepare for the culminating event. For example:

  • Scholars were guided through clear steps to research their topics.
  • Scholars engaged in carefully guided stations to examine the qualities of professional exemplars.
  • When talking with experts, scholars used a notecatcher to capture the information they learned.
  • As they were working on writing their magazine articles, scholars had a daily routine of a Do Now and exit ticket that helped them to set and keep track of goals for the day.
  • Scholars who could benefit from additional scaffolding were offered a more detailed organizer to plan their article.
  • Scholars who could benefit from more simplified language used a modified rubric.
  • Before the culminating event, scholars used a notecatcher to think through answers they might provide to potential questions.

Critique, revision, and feedback is also a critical part of guiding all scholars to the top of the mountain. During their three years at McAuliffe “stars and steps” becomes commonplace language that represents the giving and receiving of any kind of specific and helpful feedback. For this product, each scholar engaged in at least two rounds of peer feedback, each with a specific purpose. For example:

  • Scholars gave each other feedback on the paragraph level by using a peer feedback form for a paragraph about Mars.
  • Having had that practice giving specific feedback on the paragraph level, once scholars had drafts of their magazine articles, they used a more detailed peer feedback form to give one another stars and steps for their articles as a whole.

Hero’s Journey

The two immigrant narratives below were written by scholars who have individualized education programs which can be compared with other narratives compiled in the final product “Immigration Narratives: Heroes in Our Community”.

2015-16 School Year
This piece of work was created by a scholar with substantial learning challenges in all subjects. He found huge success in this project because of the gentleman that he interviewed: Adam Corneille. Mr. Corneille was the father of one of the scholar’s peers and so the scholar realized the importance of him taking the interviewing experience seriously, practicing his patience and showing respect. After an engaging interview, this student worked closely with an inclusion teacher as he transcribed the interview and organized his thoughts. Ultimately, he talked aloud while his teacher scribed for him. This helped the scholar get his ideas out and participate fully in the project with the use of the accommodation that was written into his IEP. Sadly, Mr. Corneille passed away a few months later; it was quite impactful that the scholar had documented Mr. Corneille’s journey so thoughtfully prior to his death.

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2016-17 School Year
This narrative about Anker Berg-Sonne was written by a scholar who has difficulty navigating social situations. She receives targeted support from our speech language therapist and our adjustment counselor on social pragmatics. The most difficult part of the project for this scholar was the interviewing process. Interviewing Mr. Berg-Sonne with other scholars was a perfect opportunity for the scholar to apply her developing social thinking skills to a unique learning experience. She practiced taking turns, asking relevant questions, and using eye contact. This scholar did some work in a small group with a special educator to receive targeted support while working on the transcription of the recorded interview. She also used a note-catcher to keep the questions and responses organized.

In additional to more small group support, this scholar benefited from the use of a checklist to help her align the narrative with the hero’s journey and a checklist of compelling quotes to help her identify what parts of the interview to include verbatim in the narrative. As you can see in her writing, the quotes that she chose did add something to the story, were not too long or too short, and were spaced well throughout the story. When explaining Mr. Berg-Sonne’s experience in the blizzard of ‘78, she writes: “Getting out of the house was really interesting, So what I had to do to get out of the house, I went up to the second story bedroom window, and I literally walked out of the second floor window to the top of the snow drift.’ He had never experienced snow before.” The scholar frames the quote and then wraps it up with a statement that helps the reader understand how impactful this experience was on her interviewee. This follows direct instruction on embedding quotes into a narrative; the scholar was also provided an “embedding quotes cheat sheet” that helped her to integrate the quotes into her paragraphs smoothly.

This scholar’s work was assessed with the Immigration/Hero’s Journey Narrative Rubric which was used for all scholars in the inclusion classes. Components of the rubric include: information, organization, language, revisions and craftsmanship, and interviewee photograph/drawing.

Supporting Scholars in our Substantially Separate Classes to Produce High Quality Work

In addition to the many scholars who receive full inclusion services at McAuliffe, we often have small groups of scholars participating in substantially separate English language arts (ELA)  and math classes. Prior to 2013-14, our sub-separate classes also had a distinct curriculum compared with the rest of the grade. We found this to be problematic because scholars in sub-separate ELA, in particular, were only participating in components of a learning expedition when they were in their social studies or science inclusion classes, but not accessing the learning expedition elements living in ELA. One of the reasons for this was that ELA and math sub-separate classes often included scholars in multiple grades. Having found this flaw in the setup of the sub-separate programming, starting in 2014-15 we assigned scholars to sub-separate classes per grade level.

Sub-separate teachers focused on aligning the curriculum and instruction with the core grade level curriculum and modified content and instruction to make the curriculum accessible to scholars performing multiple grade levels below their peers. As a result, scholars participated in modified learning expeditions and contributed to the final products. The targets, tasks, and rubrics were also modified, as needed, mostly with attention to simplifying language. The biggest difference in instruction was that scholars were in a small group instructional setting of four to five scholars and one special educator allowing for more personalized and targeted support. Their teacher also scaffolded their projects more than in the inclusion classes. In 2016-17 we made an additional shift to have the same special educator working with the sub-separate class also push into the scholars’ social studies and science inclusion classes. This allowed the teacher to provide more seamless instructional support and modifications to scholars across the core classes.

Below are samples of work created by scholars in our substantially separate courses.

Hero's Journey Narrative

Scholars in the 2016-17 seventh grade substantially separate ELA class participated in the Hero’s Journey expedition along with their peers in the inclusion classes. They participated in each part of the process: interviewing an immigrant with peers, transcribing a portion of the interview, organizing the information into a storyline and writing a narrative. Scholars also participated in the culminating event, standing in front of their peers, family members, faculty, and the interviewee to share a summary of the hero’s journey.

For this piece of writing, scholars received a modified task card, targets, and rubric. This rubric includes the modified targets, as well as the criteria designed to meet scholars’ specific writing needs.

The narrative to the right was written by a scholar in the sub-separate class who also is an English learner. As you can see in her writing, this scholar has built a strong understanding of Paulo Silva’s journey to America and, like her peers in the inclusion classes, she crafted her narrative so that it aligns with the Hero’s Journey. She includes specific details and quotes and you can see effort made to embed her quotes. You can also notice that some of her sentences are simple, others read a bit awkwardly, paragraphs can be long, and there are some grammatical and punctuation errors in the product. This scholar has more work to do on her writing and the polishing of her writing. This is where modifications come into play: the focus of this scholar was on writing a narrative that told the story of Paulo Silva; she was expected to meet much of the same criteria in terms of content in her writing and use of quotes. She and her peers in the sub-separate class were not, however, expected to generate writing that was as fluid, smooth, and grammatically correct as seventh graders working at grade level. With their teacher, scholars went through a revision process that focused more on the content of the story and less on each and every sentence. While this scholar can struggle to organize her ideas and break them up into individual sentences, we see high quality work on display in her three paragraph narrative that includes mostly organized ideas and sentences that effectively tell the story of Paulo Silva. Meanwhile, she continues to work on writing fluid, grammatically correct sentences during targeted lessons in ELA and her English learning course and editing her writing for punctuation and capitalization.

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Are We Alone? Space Magazine

For the space magazine, scholars in the sub-separate ELA class worked toward the same product as their peers, but received targeted supports, including simplified learning targets, sentence starters, and -- perhaps most importantly -- individualized support within their science class. Their ELA teacher, who knew them and their writing skills well, worked with them within their heterogeneous science class every day. At times, she pulled them aside as individuals or a small group to work on reading and writing skills. Other times, she supported them in working with their peers.  Throughout this project and the 8th grade year, the scholars’ ELA teacher provided modified notecatchers and other curricular materials to support their science learning.

The article to the left had contributions from a scholar in the sub-separate ELA class. Working in a heterogeneous group helped the scholar build a stronger understanding of the science content since during the discussion his peers discussed it in simpler terms than some of the articles themselves. His teachers also guided him toward articles that were the right fit for his reading level. He received more personalized support from the special educator who worked with him both during science in the inclusion setting and during their small group ELA session.

Making Learning Accessible To All - 8th Grade Slam Poetry

Finally, we want to share with you a learning experience that we found particularly accessible to all scholars. No matter a scholar’s disability status, English language learning status, race, ethnicity, or economic status, all scholars reflected on their identify and experimented with ways to communicate about themselves through poetry.

In conjunction with developing “Raise the Age” podcasts and learning about adolescent development and juvenile justice, in the spring of 2016-17 eighth graders also wrote and performed slam poetry about their identities. This was a profoundly meaningful project to wrap up our 8th graders’ three years at McAuliffe and one that we anticipate will be a standing part of our ELA curriculum and an annual tradition. For many, the experience served as the culmination of their time at McAuliffe during which they’d engaged in ongoing reflection, developed a growth mindset, and discovered more about who they are and what they value. We love how scholars with such varying strengths, challenges, learning profiles, and comfort with writing poetry found their individual voices and entry points for sharing with the community.

task card including guiding questions and targets was given to the scholars. Scholars were assessed with a rubric that articulates criteria for each of the supporting targets. Included in this assignment was an opportunity for scholars to extend their learning by engaging in the “E for Exceeding” option. This is an example of how in addition to focusing on making curriculum and instruction accessible for scholars, we’re also committed to extending learning opportunities to ensure all scholars are challenging themselves to develop a growth mindset. All scholars were assessed with the same rubric.

Below are four poems written by scholars with and without disabilities; we intentionally do not identify who has a disability and who does not. Notice that each scholar’s poem meets the criteria outlined in the task card and rubric: weighing the impact of circumstances and choices on a person’s life, applying elements of poetry, and using powerful words and phrases to communicate a message. We also want you to notice that each scholar stood up in front of a group of at least twenty individuals to recite his or her poem.

Poem 1

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Poem 2

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Poem 3

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Poem 4

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A few scholars were voted by their peers to share their poems with the entire audience of more than two hundred. Ni’yah was one of the scholars selected to perform for the whole group. Ni’yah began her McAuliffe career taking substantially separate ELA classes in sixth and seventh grades; she made such gains that she was moved into a full inclusion ELA class in eighth grade. Below you can see Ni’yah sharing her poetry at the culminating event. You may find it helpful to read along as she reads because the video's audio isn’t fantastic!

N'Yah's Poem

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Notice how Ni’yah uses subtle and not-so-subtle performance techniques to create a powerful slam poem. She pauses for effect when reading a list of words or phrases, she makes some hand motions such as “air quotes”, she becomes conversational when reading as though in a back and forth dialogue between two people, she raises the volume of her voice (just before the 2 min mark) to show emphasis, and claps when announcing “congrats!” sarcastically toward the end of her poem. While Ni’yah’s artistic choices were her own, they were also the result of class time spent analyzing exemplary slam poetry performances and practicing her own performance.

Finally, notice how each poem reflects these scholars’ individual personalities and values. In many ways, this project represented a capstone for their experience at McAuliffe -- more so for some than their portfolio passage! Our ultimate mission is to bring the best out of each and every scholar during this three-year period of their life as they explore identity, find voice, ask questions, and create high quality and beautiful work that they feel proud of. We truly aim to “cultivate within each member of a diverse student body, through expeditionary learning design, an intense commitment to self and community, the courage to set high standards for academic and personal success, and the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to achieve these standards.”

Thank you for taking the time to read and explore our EL Education credentialing portfolio. We hope that the stories and evidence to support each claim give you a strong picture of how McAuliffe employs EL core practices in order to bring the best out of scholars in preparation for high school and beyond. We look forward to presenting our portfolio in person and responding to your questions.