PARTNERSHIP CASE STUDY

Lincoln Parish

Publish Schools

Executive Summary

While more districts are shifting to a more inclusive model, where students with disabilities (SWD) are educated alongside their non-disabled peers, simply placing students in the general education classroom is not enough.

At Lincoln Parish, district leaders were asking themselves:

How can we provide high-quality core instruction to all students AND meet the needs of SWDs in the general education setting?

In a district in which Black SWDs made up 60% of students in self-contained settings in the parish, solving this problem became imperative. In 2020, LP shifted their delivery model at the elementary and middle school level, ensuring that SWDs were in a co-taught general education setting, with access to rigorous instruction.

After two years of making this shift alongside Blue Engine, LP improved its B rating designated by the Louisiana State Department of Education to an A rating by Fall 2023 and exited two of three schools from urgent intervention required (UIR) status.

The Challenge

In 2021-2022, Lincoln Parish set out to address a long-standing pattern of disparate outcomes for their students with disabilities. (add in some relevant stat about the gap in achievement). As the leadership team dug into this data, they identified two important trends underlying this data: (something about rates of inclusion being below the national average) and (something about the overrepresentation of Black students in special education).

When Dana Talley, Chief Academic Officer, joined the district in 2020, the reality was apparent: resource rooms had special education teachers who often had limited or no content expertise. Observations of these classrooms showed that the pacing was slower in self-contained classrooms, and students received 1-2 units of less instruction than their non-disabled peers.

“What you traditionally see is districts using the delivery model they’ve used in the past, sometimes trying to make them more efficient. We recognized that we needed to do something different to get different results.”

For LP, something different meant stepping away from resource rooms and implementing a co-teaching model, where a general and special educator collaborated to deliver instruction to all students within the general education setting.

Insight & Action

While the performance of SWDs was a priority, Talley and the team also uncovered that core instruction was not meeting the needs of additional groups of students below grade level. Thus, the team asked themselves a simple question:

“How can we provide high-quality core instruction to all students AND meet the needs of SWDs in the general education setting?”

The team recognized that while SWDs had unique needs that required intentional support, the truth is that ALL students have variability in how they learn. Thus, teachers needed the skill sets to implement instruction that addressed this learner variability – not circumvent it.

Blue Engine and LP’s partnership would focus on the following priorities:

Priority #1

Positioning the challenge.

Priority #2

Starting with mindsets.

Priority #3

Providing the right support.

Positioning this challenge not as a special education challenge but as a district-wide initiative led by the academics team in collaboration with their special education colleagues.

Change can’t occur if expectations of what is possible are low. The team focused on three co-teaching mindsets:.

1. All students deserve access to grade-level learning. Every day.

2. Educators can be successful in doing this work.

3. School leaders must support educators in this work.

Providing job-embedded coaching and support to develop teachers’ planning and instructional skills to teach to learner variability effectively.

Explicit support of instructional leaders was just as essential as the support for teachers. Dana Talley shares:

“Just as we had teachers who believed that SWDs couldn’t do grade-level work. We had school leaders who believed that educators could not do the work to support SWDs. We won’t provide the right support if we don’t have the right belief system about students, teachers, and even administrators.”

This partnership between Blue Engine and Lincoln Parish started with the support of an instructional coach, who directly coached a subset of classrooms across two school sites on co-planning and effectively using data to make instructional decisions that ensured every student got the scaffolds and supports needed to access grade-level instruction.

Within the first year of the partnership, LP began to see the results of this work. Reading proficiency rates for students in classrooms coached by this instructional coach, supported by Blue Engine, outperformed classrooms where this support was absent. This was true for both students with disabilities as well as their non-disabled peers.

Independent Reading Level Assessment (IRLA) for 2nd-grade students at Hillcrest Elementary

Students without IEPs

Students with IEPS

Talley’s team knew that while equipping teachers with skillsets was essential, a new reality for students would not be achieved if educators didn’t deeply believe in their ability to do grade-level work. The intentional coaching support provided by this instructional coach also significantly impacted teachers’ mindsets.

  • At the beginning of the partnership, 0% of teachers surveyed agreed with the statement that all students could handle challenging concepts.
  • Two years later, 87% of teachers agreed with the same statement, higher than the national average of 50%.

This combination of intentional focus on mindsets, alongside building the skill sets in educators to deliver instruction that meets all students’ needs, has continued to show promising results.

Over two years of this partnership, proficiency rates across the district for all grades 3-8 students have increased by 10 percentage points, from 31% to 41%. When disaggregated by subgroups, proficiency rates for Black students increased from 15% to 23%, and SWDs increased from 8% to 10% district-wide.

Impact

In 2023, Lincoln Parish was named the fastest-improving district in Louisiana. LP general education teacher shares:

“Blue Engine strategies are very helpful. I have seen so much growth in students that I did not feel would grow so much at the beginning of the year. Originally, I did not feel equipped to plan successful interventions for the many students who needed more one-on-one interactions. However, I love having the data to reflect on this improvement.”

Lincoln Parish’s strategic plan set clear direction for what needed to be done to evolve instructional practices and shift mindsets in supporting SWDs. They were clear that placing SWDs in general education settings was not enough. Blue Engine’s products provided their team with skills and resources to effectively implement inclusive co-teaching to address the needs of all students.