To date, few organizations have addressed this critical intersection, where students face the multiple adverse effects of systemic racism, ableism, and classism embedded in America’s public school system. Furthermore, the broader field of education lacks applied research on effective interventions for students at these intersections, especially in high school settings.
Our network — serving 75,000 students across 10 charter districts — is using the processes of Continuous Improvement to systematically address the way we serve Black and Latinx students with disabilities experiencing poverty. Last school year, we helped the NIC set up the infrastructure needed for this important work. This year, we led schools to explore new practices, interventions, and programs to learn what works and what doesn’t work for their students. Whether it’s creating approaches to transition planning, piloting student support systems, or collaborating to develop inclusive classroom practices, we’re excited by the improvement our Network partners are making, and proud of the essential role we play to orchestrate that learning.
Each story below is a model of the work we facilitated with schools, and shows the power of the Networked Improvement Community to enact bold changes, share lessons learned, and grow together.
Postsecondary Next Steps
Improving Reading Scores
Increasing Math Proficiency
Mastery Charter Schools serves 14,000 students at 24 schools in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ. In the summer of 2021, Mastery’s team realized that graduating seniors needed more support for the transition into college, career, or community-based services. Mastery’s Case Managers at Simon Gratz High School set up a summer program bridging skills training and 1:1 mentorship, informed in part by a Marshall-led cross-CMO collaboration unpacking the major drivers for successful postsecondary transitions.
At the conclusion of the successful summer program, the Marshall team coached Mastery to understand what they learned from the experience. The Mastery team quickly realized these weekly conferences and data reviews would be more beneficial if offered earlier and integrated into the 12th-grade student experience. An earlier start would provide proactive support and intervention to students throughout the school year, well before graduation.
Subsequently, Marshall helped Mastery craft a process for case managers and college advisors to meet on a bi-weekly basis starting in Fall 2021 to discuss individual student progress. These meetings, labeled Kid Talks, would adopt a data protocol to review progress, identify barriers, and take action to support students with their postsecondary planning. The Kid Talks would assess whether students were working toward next steps, specifically by remediating barriers of attendance, grades, work completion, and credit recovery and by establishing rigorous, but realistic, future plans.
In Spring 2022, once the process for Kid Talks was consistent and reliable, Marshall helped Mastery improve their ability to monitor individual student progress, and coached Mastery to use progress data to select effective interventions for students who were not on track. Better monitoring led to more targeted action steps that college advisors and case managers could take to support students’ progress toward their transition goals.
The results have been remarkable: Approximately 87% of 12th graders with IEPs are either on track, or have an aligned plan, to meet their goals for life after high school. Following this early success and learning, the Mastery team is now expanding opportunities for student internships and other postsecondary options. They aim to expand formalized programming across their network and to further improve their strategies to enroll students in meaningful next steps for life after high school. Marshall continues to coach the Mastery team to recognize their successes, document their learning, and codify their practices to share across the Mastery network, as well as with the rest of the NIC and the broader field of education.
Before the launch of the NIC, Green Dot Public Schools in the Los Angeles area had tried several reading interventions for their grade 6–12 students, with limited success. This year, with the leadership of the Marshall team and the collaborative support of the NIC, Green Dot has been exploring how a cohesive Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) model can improve literacy for the students who need it most. Employing Marshall’s literacy expertise, the Green Dot team piloted a course for middle school students reading significantly below grade level.
The pilot used an intensive, research-based, structured literacy curriculum. The selected reading intervention program, Wilson, was designed to deliver targeted reading intervention to individual students. Recognizing that individual intervention was not feasible in the Green Dot context, the teaching team began adapting the curriculum for groups of 3–6 students to expand the program’s impact. This rapid-cycle testing and iterating is a hallmark of the Continuous Improvement approach.
Marshall’s improvement advisors worked with the Green Dot team to utilize external knowledge and experience with the chosen intervention to make iterative changes to their implementation for students. Together, they established small scale learning cycles to discover what worked for students in the Green Dot context, and what adjustments were needed to accelerate progress. In collaboration with network data experts, Marshall and Green Dot created a plan for measurement, and Marshall helped the Green Dot team document and integrate the lessons learned from the pilot into their strategic plans, which facilitates the spread and scale of emerging best practices.
Through the Marshall-facilitated improvement routines, Green Dot uncovered additional strategies to improve their literacy programming, including:
In addition, Marshall improvement advisors connected Green Dot with other practitioners in the Network attempting literacy interventions. In small group settings led by the Marshall team, Network partners shared learning and discussed solutions to common challenges implementing literacy programs.
By March 2022, approximately 85% of students in the reading intervention program met, or made significant progress towards, their goal of 2+ years of reading growth in a single school year. Additionally, students reported increased confidence in their reading and overall learning. Teachers are seeing success as well, becoming more targeted in their collection of real-time student data and adjusting instruction to improve student proficiency in the core skills of the lesson.
Given the success of the Green Dot improvement team and the promise this work holds for Black and Latinx students with disabilities experiencing poverty, Marshall is now working with Green Dot leadership to add a second cohort this year and to scale the program across the Green Dot network in the future.
STEM Prep, located in Los Angeles and serving 1,300 students across three schools, is focused on increasing student proficiency in math, as their mission is to disrupt the inequitable access to STEM opportunities.
Within the NIC, the STEM Prep improvement team has focused on a method called co-coaching for co-teachers. The Director of Mathematics, Assistant Principal, and Director of Special Education work together to coach a team of two teachers—a special education teacher and a math teacher—serving a single classroom.
Last year, the Marshall team focused on scaffolding STEM Prep’s improvement routines, working with school practitioners and external content experts to conduct small scale learning cycles to understand the progress teachers were making in their instructional practices for students. Throughout these learning cycles, Marshall met regularly with the school’s improvement team and network data experts, facilitating conversations to analyze and reflect on data. Using these consolidated learnings, the team then planned what they would try next to make co-coaching stronger and build the capacity of teachers and their coaches to improve student results.
Also throughout this process, Marshall facilitated cross-CMO communication and collaboration with other NIC partners experimenting with co-teaching models, allowing for shared learning and group consultation on challenges to implementation.
As a result of this approach, STEM Prep saw immediate benefits:
Since starting this co-coaching method, students’ math proficiency scores have shown significant improvement. As of December 2021, proficiency had grown from 31% to 50%, and STEM Prep is on target to hit their 60% proficiency target by June 2022—and is already meeting that goal in their middle school.
Because of this work with Marshall, STEM Prep has now developed an approach for coaching co-teachers reliably and with quality. In some cases the approach has been so successful in sharing expertise and models of excellent coaching that some individual coaches are able to play the role of both math and special education co-coaches for co-teacher pairs.
Looking forward, STEM Prep intends to expand this training and coaching model to additional staff in order to ensure students continue to make gains in math proficiency. With Marshall’s technical and planning assistance, they have established an onboarding process to build the capacity of new leaders. In this way, STEM Prep is ensuring that collaborative coaching to support students with disabilities continues into the future.
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