Mastery of Knowledge and Skills: Claim 2

McAuliffe scholars with disabilities show remarkable ELA and mathematics performance compared with scholars with disabilities in Framingham and the state of Massachusetts.

"CMCS has a tiered intervention system to identify students in need of support. The school provides supports, interventions and resources to meet the academic needs of diverse learners." - DESE site visitors, fall 2016

McAuliffe’s population of diverse learners includes a significant percentage of students with disabilities, historically greater than the regional comparison index (see demographics) and state. Our inclusion program has grown over the past five years, with general and special educators working side-by-side to develop and implement engaging and accessible curriculum, while creating targeted interventions to support struggling learners.

McAuliffe students with disabilities have historically outperformed the students with disabilities subgroup in Framingham and the state for both English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. Though we have had some ups and downs in performance in this subgroup from 2012-13 through 2015-16, the subgroup continued to outperform both Framingham and the state comparison groups. In the sections below we share specifics about our students with disabilities performance in English language arts and mathematics. After that we’ll discuss some specific ways that we’re aiming to boost the group’s math performance following four years of level performance.

Note: The performance measure used is the Composite Performance Index (CPI) which is explained in previous sections of our portfolio. The CPI allows us to compare performance over time and with Framingham and the state and across different tests (MCAS in 2014 and 2015, PARCC in 2016 and 2017).



How are our students with disabilities growing as readers and writers compared with Framingham students with disabilities?

McAuliffe’s students with disabilities subgroup outperformed Framingham and the state in three out of the four years for ELA. The graphs below show this performance for the whole school (grades 6-8) and each grade individually. Each set of data reflects the same trend of outperforming the state or the district in all years and all grades except for 2014-15. In addition, all charts show a decrease in performance from 2012-13 to 2013-14 and then another drop in performance from 2013-14 to 2014-15. The two years of decline mirror the aggregate decline which was discussed in MKS Claim 1. The subsequent incline in 2015-16 also mirrors the aggregate incline. Where 6th grade was the group of students most impacted by testing infrastructure issues, it is no surprise that this group’s results dipped particularly low in 2014-15 (below Framingham performance for this subgroup) and then rose more considerably than any other grade in 2015-16. As noted in MKS claim 1, we continue to monitor ELA performance for this sub group along with our curriculum alignment with the state achievement test. We also continue to focus on improving our use of differentiation, scaffolding, accommodations, and modifications, aiming to provide all scholars with access to curriculum and instruction while holding a high bar; we have found at times that too much scaffolding may hold the bar too low for our students with disabilities. Where we want to engage all of our scholars in challenging curriculum and guide them toward independence, this is a balancing act that we must continue to evaluate and tinker with for all scholars and for each scholar individually.

McAuliffe continued to outperform Framingham and the state in 2017 according to next gen MCAS results. 29% of McAuliffe scholars with disabilities were rated as meeting or exceeding MCAS standards whereas 7% of middle school students with disabilities in Framingham and 12% of middle school students with disabilities in the state. See credentialing data for more information.

Further analysis guides us to compare the ELA performance of students with disabilities and non-disabled students at McAuliffe and Framingham middle schools. Students with disabilities at McAuliffe and Framingham perform lower in ELA than the non-disability population in the corresponding school(s). However, the gap between McAuliffe’s disability and non-disability populations is smaller than the gap between Framingham’s subgroups. The graph and chart below show the comparison and difference between the two subgroups in each district. Truly remarkable is how close McAuliffe’s student’s with disabilities subgroup is to our non-disabled subgroup for ELA in 2015-16 with just over a 10 point gap compared with Framingham’s 30 point gap. In each year McAuliffe has a smaller gap between students with disabilities and nondisabled students except for ELA performance in 2014-15, when Framingham had a 2 point lesser gap than McAuliffe. As noted already, 2014-15 was the year when McAuliffe student performance was impacted by technology infrastructure challenges.

 How are our students with disabilities growing as mathematicians and problem solvers compared with Framingham students with disabilities?


McAuliffe’s students with disabilities subgroup outperformed Framingham and the state in four out of the four years for mathematics. The charts below show this performance for the whole school (grades 6-8) and each grade individually. In these charts, notice that McAuliffe scholars outperformed Framingham in each of the four years in mathematics and outperformed the state in three out of three years. (No state data was released for 2015-16.) In addition, McAuliffe scholars with disabilities outperformed Framingham peers in each grade level each year.

McAuliffe continued to outperform Framingham and the state in 2017 according to next gen MCAS results. 26% of McAuliffe scholars with disabilities were rated as meeting or exceeding MCAS standards whereas 7% of middle school students with disabilities in Framingham and 12% of middle school students with disabilities in the state. See credentialing data for more information.

Meanwhile, the graph and table below show the math performance of students with disabilities and non-disabled students at McAuliffe and Framingham middle schools. Students with disabilities at McAuliffe and Framingham perform lower in math than the non-disability population in the corresponding school(s). However, notice that McAuliffe has a smaller gap than Framingham when comparing the disability subgroup to non-disability subgroup for each year. We also notice that while McAuliffe’s non-disability group has increased in performance annually, our disability group’s performance has stayed level. This has caused our gap to increase from 2013-14 to 2015-16.

While aggregate students with disabilities performance has remained level, grade level performance for students with disabilities (see graphs above) shows variability per year with no common pattern:

  • Sixth grade shows a slight decline from 2012-13 to 2013-14 and then subsequent gradual increases in performance.
  • Seventh grade shows an increase from 2012-13 to 2013-14 and then two years of decline in performance.
  • Eighth grade shows considerably strong performance in 2012-13, which is followed by a large drop in performance in 2013-14, a slight increase in 2014-15, and a slight decrease in 2015-16. One fact worth noting regarding eighth grade performance in 2014-15 and 2015-16 is that during each of these years of PARCC testing, our eighth graders who took Algebra I for math (instead of 8th grade math) took the 8th grade Algebra I test instead of the 8th math test. As a result, there are some scholars’ scores not included in the 8th grade CPI and chart for these years. Given that our 8th Algebra scholars have more advanced math skills than those in 8th math, we infer that including their results in the eighth CPI would increase the score, even slightly, for each of these years.

Throughout these ups and downs in performance per grade level, McAuliffe scholars outperformed their counterparts in Framingham. However, the variable performance and overall level performance guides us to problem solve how to shift performance to an annual increase for each grade.


How are we guiding mathematics improvement for our students with disabilities?


Over the last two  years, we have taken actions to initiate improvement in our students with disabilities performance so that, in addition to outperforming Framingham, they are showing continuous growth over time (a performance benchmark we’ll likely set for the next five years. The actions we’ve taken and continue to implement are closely aligned with EL core practices: using assessment performance to target skill-building during lab intervention, increasing quality of inclusion class instruction for diverse learners, and targeting specific math skills in classes and lab.

In 2015-16 we began using assessment data and teacher referral to engage struggling mathematicians, including those with disabilities, in math intervention during our lab intervention/extension block explained in MKS Claim 1. In 2016-17, our math lab teachers and math/science instructional coach narrowed the focus of lab to number sense and operations which is one area of math performance our students with disabilities have struggled with the most. Teachers also tracked student progress with more fidelity. As scholars develop greater knowledge of basic math skills, they show increased confidence applying their basic skills to more complex skills including working with ratios and proportions and algebraic equations.

We have also increased the number of co-taught inclusion math classes to ensure that students with disability are in classes taught be a general educator and a special educator. In 2016-17, we moved a special educator with particular strength in math instruction into a full time math teaching position. He, with an inclusion assistant, is now in his second year teaching all four inclusion math classes. To support co-teaching, our math/science and special education instructional coaches (who also supervise the teachers in their departments) work in tandem to coach co-teachers and inclusion assistants with the aim of improving our differentiation and targeting of instruction through co-teaching.

Sixth grade math teachers have made the most progress in designing differentiated math lessons, most of which involved stations differentiated by readiness. Below are sample materials for a math stations lesson with the target: “I can calculate the distance of two points on the coordinate plane.” The first station is the most scaffolded; scholars at this station start by practicing their coordinate plotting and then, with support from the teacher, are guided to calculate the distance between points on the coordinate grid. The second station is for scholars who are ready to practice calculating the distance and then shift their focus to applying their learning to a problem solving situation in the context of using a coordinate grid. The third station guides scholars to extend their learning to find the distance between points without having a coordinate grid on the paper in front of them. They then apply the skill to a few different situations. Scholars are guided to select the station based on a self-assessment; teachers assist with the station selection, as needed. Scholars often move between stations too. In a co-taught room, one teacher works with the scholars at the first station and the other teacher typically moves between the other two stations to consult with scholars, assess their learning through listening and observation, and to pause the whole group to clarify a confusion as needed.

Station One

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Station Two

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Station Three

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Our math/science instructional coach has also worked with teachers to create rigorous curriculum embedded assessments and backwards-designed curriculum with differentiation through the use of stations and workshop 2.0.

In student work and in class observations, teachers have observed  that our scholars with disabilities frequently struggle with mathematical literacy, including reading and interpreting problems and communicating their understanding in writing. As such, our math department goal for 2017-18 focuses on improving scholars’ written communication skills in math. Baseline assessments have been conducted and teachers have examined student work in order to set specific goals for their classes of scholars. Co-teachers are considering ways to target both written communication and mathematical literacy to support scholars with disabilities and other struggling math scholars.

Our developing theory of action for the next five years is that with increased inclusion classes, improved co-teaching, differentiation, and targeting instruction during lab, our scholars with disability subgroup will show improvements to their math skills including mathematical literacy and communication skills, and so show increased overall performance over time. With this improved performance, we should see the gap between our non-disability and disability subgroups diminish and see both subgroups continuing to outperform Framingham and the state disability subgroups.


How does McAuliffe's inclusion program support success for scholars with disabilities?


We believe that McAuliffe’s student achievement in the special education subgroup can be traced back to the school’s co-teaching inclusion program. 85% (64 out of 75) of our core academic classes (math, science, ELA, and social studies) are inclusion classes taught by a special educator and a general educator, or taught by a general education teacher and an inclusion assistant. Both teachers are responsible for the delivery of instruction and classroom management. We guide co-teachers to discuss roles and come up with norms for their work together, or even an agreement of sorts. To support co-teaching, instructional coaches engage in co-coaching at times so that instructional coaching takes into account the critical and challenging work that two professional are doing on a daily, hourly, moment by moment basis.

Having observed most success when co-teachers are together for the majority of classes (versus one special educator working with multiple general educators), the school made adjustments to inclusion service delivery in 2016-17. In 2016-17, eight special educators out of ten collaborated with a single general educator to teach three or four classes. This allowed the pair of educators to establish strong co-teaching practices and allowed the special educator to focus on making curriculum and instruction accessible in either ELA and social studies or math and science. All special educators and general educators who co-taught classes had common planning time available during the week. Two special educators taught substantially separate classes and co-taught with two general educators for science and social studies. During the 2017-18 school year nine of our ten special educators co-teach with a single general educator and one co-teaches with two total. More of our inclusion assistants are paired with a teacher for the full day too: four of the six collaborate primarily with one general educator, one collaborates with two general educators and a special educator, and one currently serves as a floater.

Special education and general education teachers collaborate to plan differentiated lessons and provide accommodations and modifications to instruction and curriculum. Accommodations include use of graphic organizers, repeating instructions, use of visuals, word processing, preferential seating, breaks, and environmental accommodations such as exercise balls as chairs and use of headphones. In addition, some scholars have behavior plans, checklists, and parent/guardian communication plans. Scholars with content modifications may complete a less complex reading, a shorter assignment, or may have a problem broken into multiple parts. These practices ensure our scholars receive access to our general education program.

By working in one to two content areas (e.g. math or math and science) special educators and inclusion assistants (often on the track to become teachers themselves) become content specialists, which allows them to both understand the curriculum and be full participants in the planning process. The quality of differentiated instruction increases along with the quality of accommodations and modifications. We believe that McAuliffe’s inclusion program has been a primary cause of our scholars who have identified disabilities performing above their peer group in Framingham.

For more information about McAuliffe’s special education services and programming, please click here for the Special Populations section of our family handbook. In addition, High Quality Work Claim 3 further highlights our scholars’ successes at McAuliffe by showcasing samples of their work and materials provided to help them “get to the top of the mountain.”