Union Middle School’s “Collaborative Approach to Service Provision” was designed to meet the academic needs of all of our students, but particularly RSP, SDC, ELL and other students who were struggling to meet academic standards. Our Collaborative Approach involves all of our “reform efforts” into one streamlined vision of diagnostics, instruction, and support; this includes, but is not limited to: full-inclusion of all students, Response to Intervention and Instruction (RtI2), Professional Learning Communities, and Data Teams.
Previous to 2006, “special education” students were predominately excluded from the mainstream classes for ELA and mathematics. As a group, the percentage of special education students achieving proficiency in ELA or Math consistently remained under 25%. With such results and the added AYP pressure, UMS staff committed to rethinking how struggling students and students with disabilities should be served.
Following extensive professional development that included the support of WestEd consultants Art Darin and Sylvia DeRuvo at the site level, our staff asked a fundamental question—What would it take for UMS to provide a truly collaborative model of instruction that addressed student disabilities and challenges while also giving access to the most highly-qualified teachers teaching the grade-level state standards using state-adopted materials? This question continues to drive our efforts.
Guaranteed Viable Curriculum
The first step of any successful collaboration between general and special education is subject and grade level agreement on what will be taught and when. Using the California State Framework in each content area and working backward, UMS designed a “Scope and Sequence” for each subject in each grade level.
At UMS, teachers collaborate vertically and horizontally. Vertically, our teachers collaborate by subject; sixth, seventh and eighth-grade subject specialists plan with one another during shared prep periods. Horizontally, our teachers collaborate weekly during our Wednesday late-start collaboration time in their cross-curricular teams; teams include one of each of the four core subject areas (ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies) who serve the same students.
Regardless of the label, UMS students are placed in services, courses, and interventions based on the results of common diagnostics that indicate when and where additional support is necessary. In math, UMS uses district benchmarks, adoption assessments, and additional assessments to determine the needs of all students. In ELA, UMS beings with the Informal Reading Inventory (IRI) and quarterly district writing assessments to identify the need for further assessment.
Common Benchmark and Analysis
In order to objectively measure to what degree students are retaining and able to use the information being taught, our teachers collaboratively designed benchmarks that are given at regular intervals. Time and attention are given for subject/grade level teams to act as “data teams” determining which standards were effectively presented, which might need adaptation, and which students necessitate re-teaching of fundamental concepts that are building blocks for future information.
Union Middle School utilizes the following strategies to meet the needs of all of our students in the classroom:
Collaborative Courses: “Collaborative Course” describes full-inclusion mainstream courses in the four core content areas—ELA, math, science, and social studies. At each grade level, special education and select 504 students who test at or near grade level in reading, writing, and math are fully mainstreamed. Collaborative courses guarantee an RSP specialist or instructional aide to support the instruction of collaborative students.
Intensive Courses: When our diagnostic assessments indicate that a student is reading, writing, or computing two or more grade levels behind their current grade-level, he/she is placed into an intensive intervention course dedicated to the most efficient and effective direct instruction toward grade-level proficiency.
Semester Social Studies-Science Courses: At times, ELL and Special Education students are not scheduled into science or social studies because their schedule includes extra math and ELA interventions. UMS met these challenges by offering a unique standards-based semester-long course of each subject at seventh and eighth grades. This ensures that all UMS students have access to hands-on, active learning science and social studies instruction.
THRIVE Elective: In addition to a myriad of other Asset Development programs, UMS offers a special elective to students for whom organization, healthy choices, and social-emotional well being have proven to be a challenge. Based on the Search Institute’s research around the “40 Developmental Assets” for teens, THRIVE students engage in success-building strategies. Participants regularly see dramatic increases in grade point average, homework completion, attendance, and positive emotion while also experiencing a significant decrease in truancy, discipline referrals, student conflict, and family problems. The program offers two weekly tutorials, organizational binders, mentors, behavior intervention, guest speakers, and field trips.
Flexible Master Schedule with Content Preps: The flexible master schedule that we created and annually improve serves as the backbone of UMS’s Collaborative Approach. Within the master schedule, teacher’s prep periods occur during the same period as their same subject peers to allow for vertical collaboration around content; included in this prep-time are the RSP teachers with whom they teach.
Learning Center: UMS offers all special education and select 504 students access to a comprehensive pre-teaching and re-teaching course at each grade level. Staffed with one RSP Specialist and one Instructional Aide, the “Learning Center” (LC) provides students the appropriate foundational learning and practice necessary for success in mainstream ELA and Math.
U-Turn Behavior Program: U-Turn is a strengths-based, positive behavioral intervention program serving UMS students whose academic performance and ability to succeed in the mainstream academic environment are being compromised by their choices and behavior. The program is designed to optimize staff support by customizing assistance for each individual student but within a common program, language, and approach. The program consists of three “tiers” wherein students have the opportunity to earn more independence as they demonstrate awareness and progress towards individual goals.
Intervention on a Page (IoaP): Designed to provide all adults working with an individual student the necessary information in an easy-to-read, confidential manner, the IoaP includes the strengths, needs, goals, accommodations, up-to-date testing information, and more. The IoaP is updated at every 504/IEP meeting. Each teacher has instant access to their students' IoaP with the expectation they implement and are informed of up-to-date goals, accommodations, and other specific aspects of each 504/IEP meeting.