Over the past several years, Monroe School District has worked to make systematic changes in the way services are provided to students with disabilities. The goal has been to include students with disabilities in the general education classroom for core instruction with special education teachers working side by side with classroom teachers. Data surrounding this work is proving that students show more academic growth when they are provided with access to grade level standards within the general education classroom and not pulled out of class for special services.
Not only is this work greatly benefiting our students with disabilities, it is also being noticed by education leaders at the state and national level. Last week, leaders from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI) and other state directors from across the country spent a day in Monroe School District learning about how we are leading the way in providing equity for students with disabilities. Leaders from OSPI included:
- Deputy Superintendent, Michaela Miller;
- Assistant Superintendent for Special Education, Glenna Gallo;
- Assistant Superintendent of Educator Growth and Development, Cindy Rockholt;
- Assistant Superintendent of System and School Improvement, Tennille Jeffries-Simmons; and
- Program Supervisor for Special Education, Tania May
While many other districts have incorporated inclusive special education practices into their schools, Monroe is one of the first districts in Washington to openly talk about specific implementation strategies and the positive impacts this work has had on students. Impressed with our inclusive practices after visiting Monroe High School and Hidden River Middle School in January, Glenna Gallo, OSPI Assistant Superintendent of Special Education, felt compelled to showcase this work to other state education leaders at OSPI and across the country. Gallo extended an invitation to her these colleagues to come to Monroe to learn firsthand how several of our schools have made these complex changes in practice to further benefit students.
The group of 20 education leaders from Washington and ten other states spent the first half of the day at Hidden River Middle School (HRMS) and then visited Salem Woods Elementary (SWE) during the second half of their day. HRMS and SWE staff were among the first in the district to fully embrace and engage in the implementation of school-wide inclusion and co-teaching practices for all students needing accommodations (special education, English language learners, learning assistance program, etc). The visitors were presented with the reasoning behind this movement in Monroe, the process in which changes have occurred at some schools, how the changes have positively impacted student growth, lessons we've learned and our plan for continued growth.
In addition, they had the opportunity to see the work "in action" in classrooms at both HRMS and SWE, which included access to the rigorous Honors English Language Arts curriculum for all 6th grade students, accomodations for the needs of all students, including students with learning disabilities, and co-teaching between general education and special education teachers.
"It was wonderful to get inside the classrooms and observe the dedicated teachers and paras. Wonderful things are occurring at Monroe School District and I am sure your example will spread to other districts and impact more children," commented John Copenhaver, Director of Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education from Utah State University.
As a leader of this work in Monroe, Director of Curriculum and Assessment, Nick French said "It is great to see our principals, teachers, and para staff being acknowledged for their excellent work, not only by leaders in education in our state, but from across the country. It highlights our staff commitment to our students and our community. By working together as teams, they are able to support the needs of students so that all students have the best opportunities in life after leaving the Monroe School District."