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Meeting the Needs of Diverse Students

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The TCRWP offers workshops and on-site professional development for administrators, teachers and paraprofessionals who work in a variety of contexts and offer varied levels of services for students with special needs, English Language Learners, and schools who are implementing Response to Intervention. TCRWP staff developers guide teachers to make use of a wide range of strategies aimed at supporting students initially, and then gradually removing these supports in order to foster independence.

Since all students are reading and writing at their own level during workshop teaching, the very design makes this format especially amenable to differentiation. However, because it is entirely possible to lead workshop instruction in ways that are not actually assessment based and which do not help learners progress along learning pathways, our organization leaves no stone unturned in an effort to help teachers rise to the challenge of providing adaptive, responsive, differentiated instruction. Staff developers help teachers draw on a toolkit of performance assessments as well as on an understanding of the learning pathways that underlie skill development in order to use data to plan curriculum, provision learners with resources, write and deliver minilessons, lead small groups, and teach in one-to-one conferences. Staff developers also work with reading specialists and literacy coaches to support intervention work and an ‘all hands on deck’ mentality in schools, making sure that each student receives help that is tailored to that student, frequent tabs-on-progress, maximum opportunities to read and write, access to rich curriculum, and scaffolds required to succeed.

Many of our staff developers have specific expertise and credentials in Special Education, working with ELL’s, and RTI. These staff members spearhead the organization’s work with instruction that impacts these specialized bodies of students, expand their own knowledge through close work with major leaders in their respective fields, and, in turn, share this knowledge with the entire staff.

Special Education

The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project offers workshops and on-site professional development for those who work in a variety of contexts and offer varied levels of Special Education services. We hold close the belief that for all students, including and especially those labeled with special needs, literacy development is the result of authentic reading and writing in tandem with strategic and targeted instruction. For those reasons, our staff developers work with teachers of inclusive classrooms, push-in and pull-out resource support providers, and self-contained classrooms to differentiate units of study in both reading and writing workshops so that all students, and especially those with IEP’s, receive the support and scaffolds needed.

Response to Intervention

The Project embraces the proactive, rather than reactive, spirit of the Response to Intervention (RTI) legislation, wherein it is made a priority to reduce the number of students referred for special education services by offering high-quality classroom literacy instruction and differing levels of intervention support before students fall below benchmark levels. A central goal of RTI is to ensure that literacy instruction is a school-wide priority and that all students have access to the highest levels of instruction and learning. We work with administrators and teachers to support RTI intervention frameworks. As a part of this, Project staff help schools establish the 3-tier system of intervention—one that involves the classroom level, Tier 1, additional small group intervention, Tier 2, and for students requiring this level of support, more individualized interventions, constituting Tier 3 support. Next, we work with schools to support teachers in offering rich, differentiated instruction at every level.

English Language Learners

The Project has several methods for supporting schools with students who are learning English, beginning with the recognition that the term ‘language learners’ encompasses a range of students, each with particular needs, and that a variety of support systems are needed to ensure that all students have access to high-levels of rich, cross-curricular literacy instruction. When we plan our work in a given school, the first thing we consider is how to help that school think about its language policies in relation to the school’s data, to be sure these are designed and implemented in ways that serve the school’s population, whether that be a dual language program, transitional bilingual program, or a push-in/pull-out ESL program. Whether a school chooses a transitional program or a Dual Language approach, the Project focuses on supporting teachers’ assessment of language proficiency, ongoing assessment, and the setting of language goals. Together, staff developers and teachers examine the use of visuals, oral language rehearsal, partnerships, and powerful instructional methods to respond to the linguistic and literacy needs of students.