Setting Literacy Goals for Special Day Class Students

This month’s Coaching in Action blog shares the story of a literacy consultant who successfully helped a California school district implement new literacy programs for special education students by setting a specific districtwide goal.

What teaching strategies bring about the most success for special education students?

That’s the question my colleagues and I hoped to answer when we gathered in the office of the HMH Director of Special Education at the end of a mid-year 2016-2017 implementation. We aimed to map out ways to accomplish this by continuing to use READ 180 Universal and System 44 Next Generation the following school year. Now that “year zero” was under our belts, we needed to review successes and challenges to maximize growth for the upcoming year.

The READ 180 Universal and System 44 Next Generation implementation in a California school district was dedicated to supporting the Special Day Class (SDC) students ranging from Grades 3–8. As a former special educator, I found working with this district’s implementation very personal and exciting for me. My favorite aspect of teaching students with special needs was helping them grow into their self-advocacy. Fewer things are more important for students with different learning abilities than understanding those differences and being able to communicate their specific needs for learning support. 

Setting Our Goal

It was this passion for self-awareness and self-advocacy that led our team to develop the districtwide goal of every student knowing his or her current Lexile® number. We knew that increasing student knowledge about their current reading level would provide direction for their personal growth goals and move them one step closer to autonomy.

Our expectation was that any student in the SDC classrooms should be able to communicate his or her Lexile number on the spot (with bonus points for being able to articulate what that meant and what the student would like his or her number to be!). To initiate this objective, I introduced this goal at the beginning-of-year professional learning session, where teachers collaborated with each other and developed ideas for integrating this goal into their classrooms. Through individual coaching and a follow-up professional learning session, teachers were able to evaluate their students’ progress toward the districtwide goal and set productive objectives and benchmarks to support this developing target.

During the 2017-2018 school year, we found that targeting student awareness of their Lexile number contributed to a large amount of Lexile growth as well as a greater understanding of Lexiles by the students as well. The number that appeared at the end of a Reading Inventory was no longer just a number; it was a true milestone. The transition from a BR to a three-digit Lexile resulted in pure joy and pride.

The combination of both numerical and anecdotal progress throughout the year continued to motivate both students and teachers toward an overall sense of accomplishment and personal achievement. It was each individual coaching session that allowed us to reassess qualitative and quantitative student progress toward this districtwide initiative and realign us toward the collective end goal.

Measuring Success

At our end-of-year celebration, teachers shared vignettes that illustrated the progress of their students in self-advocacy and autonomy. After delivering the district’s end-of-year gains meeting, our team was happy to announce that 75 percent of READ 180 Universal students increased their Lexile, and 68 percent of System 44 students grew in Lexile as well! 

The teachers’ collective effort toward this student-centered goal and their willingness to take action steps toward student self-awareness as a broader special education initiative really drove the success in their classrooms. I couldn’t have been prouder to support a team dedicated to the sustainable growth and progress of students with special needs.

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Visit our website to learn more about the READ 180 and System 44 programs, and learn about the full range of HMH coaching options here.

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