PARTNERSHIP CASE STUDY

Longwood Prep

Academy 

Executive Summary

Implementing High-Quality Instruction Materials (HQIM) alone does not guarantee academic success for all students. Students with disabilities (SWDs) and English Language Learners (ELL) miss out on HQIM when teaching to variability is overlooked. Longwood Prep Academy (LPA) was navigating this reality. They saw initial academic growth for students, yet the data made it clear that SWDs and ELLs experienced different levels of growth. As a result, LPA was not moving the needle on ensuring that all students graduated with a high school diploma. Thus, LPA’s partnership with Blue Engine supported educators with the mindsets and instructional skills required to address learner variability effectively. Within five years of partnership, SWDs and ELLs began graduating at nearly the same rates as their peers, and LPA exited their turnaround status.

The Challenge

Longwood Prep Academy (LPA) was at an inflection point eight years ago when the New York State Education Department (NYSED) designated it as a turnaround school. LPA’s leadership implemented High-Quality Instructional Material (HQIM) to reverse this designation. The desired outcome was that HQIM would address academic needs, increasing graduation rates for all students. Within two years, graduation rates for all students increased from 42% to 70%. Yet, their data uncovered how SWDs and ELLs did not fare equally; graduation rates for SWDs went from 35% to 38%, and for ELLs 17% to 29%.

Graduation Rate Percentage Point Increase

Graduation Percentage Point Gaps

Students had access to HQIM; however, instructional practice did not account for teaching to variability. Assistant Principal Michelle Vendetti shares:

“We were initially invested in coaching and supporting curriculum standards for good content pedagogy. That had an impact at first until it did not. As we peeled the onion, we began to uncover the needs of teachers and students. We needed to provide staff development to ensure appropriate content accommodations were being implemented for SWDs and ELLs. This wasn’t our initial focus.”

Disproportionate academic outcomes for SWDs and ELLs made it clear that more than HQIM alone was needed. HQIM provided a strong foundation for educators and exposed students to rigorous content. Yet, teachers needed access to high-quality professional development focused on inclusive mindsets and practices, co-teaching and educator collaboration, and data-driven development.

Insight & Action

A study on co-teacher roles showed that a lack of training and support resulted in co-teacher roles that a lack of training and support result in special educators spending less than 4% of their time preparing for instruction—and consequently taking on a merely monitoring role in the classroom, delivering instructional material less than 1% of the time (Harbort et al. (2007). LPA focused on optimizing roles and responsibilities for multiple adults in a single classroom to increase learning opportunities for all students. Supporting co-teachers meant specialists were expected to deliver grade-level content, not just interventions.

Blue Engine’s approach accounted for equity mindsets, data-driven instruction, inclusive learning environments, and effective adult collaboration, resulting in:

  • Creating co-taught classroom environments in which educators deeply know students’ needs.

  • Ensuring SPED and ELL teachers are fluent instructional materials as the general education teacher.

  • Equipping both teachers with the skills to maintain rigor in instructional delivery while providing modifications to meet various student needs.

Through Blue Engine’s collaboration, the school was able to pivot instructional practice by shifting day-to-day infrastructures to increase access to rigorous content for all students. With Blue Engine’s support, teachers have access to coaching, communities of practice, and co-planning. Vendetti shares how their approach to addressing graduation rates lived in instructional practice:

“We have been reflecting a lot as a leadership team about what makes us Longwood Prep. What are our beliefs and practices? What do we expect to see? We reflect on our beliefs around co-teaching and the impact of the concrete support Blue Engine has provided regarding role clarity and effective data-driven instruction. I don’t think they [teachers and leaders] see our Blue Engine support as an initiative. It’s how we teach at LPA.”

Impact

Blue Engine’s partnership continues to support LPA’s ongoing commitment to teaching to variability. Graduation rates for SWDs and ELLs now exceed the national average. This academic achievement milestone resulted in LPA exiting turnaround status. As Longwood Prep Academy reimagines what is possible for all students, Vendetti shares:

“When we think about our school mission and our efforts to be more culturally responsive, that is core to Blue Engine as an organization. Blue Engine helps us look at our students and our practices from different angles.”