All Standards, All Students: Students with Disabilities
About 13-14% of students in public schools are identified as having some kind of disability that impacts their learning. San Francisco’s population is slightly lower, at 11.5%. Federal law mandates that school districts include these students in state performance assessments. There continues to be an achievement gap in Science for these students, even though they are given accommodations and modifications based on IEPs. Only 27% of students with disabilities are scoring proficient or above on the 8th grade Science test in San Francisco compared with about 63% of students who do not have disabilities. As is the case with most, if not all teaching strategies employed for reaching target populations, the strategies suggested for students with special needs are helpful for all. The following strategies are recommended for teaching students with learning disabilities:
- multiple means of representation.
- multiple means of action and expression.
- multiple means of engagement.
The NGSS case study used to highlight effective strategies for teaching students with disabilities focused on a 6th grade classroom using models of space systems to describe patterns of the moon’s phases and the relative sizes and distances of a few objects in our solar system. A playground ball was identified as representing Earth. The students then needed to select from a variety of balls which one would best model the Moon. After going through a series of mathematical exercises to determine which ball was best, they also determined how far the Moon is from Earth and how far the Earth is from the Sun and its size in relation to Earth. These activities were done in small groups.
The teacher then used multiple means of representation to model the moon’s phases--computer-based simulation, a styrofoam/golf ball model and foldables to help students understand. The golf ball model put the students into the model, adding a kinesthetic dimension to the activity which is particularly helpful to students with disabilities. He also provided moon phase cards to students needing extra help identifying the order of the phases--another means of engagement with the topic. Assignments on paper were modified for students with intellectual disabilities. When working in pairs at the computer, the students with disabilities were grouped according to their needs--some with a student who could provide peer support, while two of the students worked with a paraprofessional. Assessments were made throughout the unit, including one in which student pairs modelled the Earth and the Moon to show their understanding of the phases. They also created 5-week calendars of the moon’s phases and a foldable showing and labelling the phases after reading a book about the moon. All of these activities included the three key strategies and improved understanding for all students.
For more details about the relationship of the specific strategies to the NGSS standards, view the entire case study.
Back to All Standards, All Students