New York City’s Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools: Supporting Students with Disabilities via a Robust Teacher Pipeline and Personalized Instructional Strategies

By: Stephanie Lancet

As part of its effort to share best practices with the special education community, The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) identified several public charter schools across the country as “Centers for Excellence” and is communicating how each school uniquely leverages its autonomy to benefit students with disabilities. Here is a spotlight on one of them.

Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools (Brooklyn LAB), a New York City charter network with four growing campuses, serves students from 6th to 9th grade. Aiming to personalize educational experiences and unlock all students’ potential and strengths, Brooklyn LAB leaders explicitly and intentionally integrate their commitment to serving students with diverse learning needs into the mission, vision, and practices of the school. While Brooklyn LAB offers an enrollment preference to students with disabilities (via its lottery weighting formula), it does not operate as a school solely dedicated to special education, instead striving to enroll a natural proportion of students with disabilities compared to its surrounding district. To achieve this, the school utilizes a dual approach in removing barriers that often stand in the way of the learning of all students, and particularly the learning of those that learn differently: a robust teacher pipeline and a combination of personalized instructional practices.

To effectively sustain its commitment to inclusion and its culture of individualization, Brooklyn LAB utilizes a system of teacher staffing structures that cultivates a supply of special education teachers capable of effectively implementing key school instructional and philosophical techniques. This intentional, internal pipeline improves the recruitment, induction, and retention of teachers by offering individuals the opportunity to progress through four talent-development levels. Made possible in part by this staffing structure, Brooklyn LAB provides a robust combination of evidence-based personalized instructional practices that intentionally meet the needs of students with diverse learning needs. The students receive whole class, small group, and one-on-one instruction, as well as additional support from technological learning platforms that individualize and monitor student progress.

The robust teacher pipeline and personalized instructional practices support the school’s commitment to inclusive success, as demonstrated by comparing student growth and performance on statewide ELA and Math exams to the NYC District and community District. To learn more about Brooklyn LAB and its approach to serving students with learning differences, read our full case study here.

In case you missed them, check out our profiles on Denver's Cole High School and Indianapolis’ Paramount School of Excellence.

Indianapolis’ Paramount School of Excellence: Supporting Students with Disabilities via its Frameworks

By: Stephanie Lancet

As part of its effort to share best practices with the special education community, The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) identified several public charter schools across the country as “Centers for Excellence” and is communicating how each school uniquely leverages its autonomy to benefit students with disabilities. Here is a spotlight on one of them.

Located in Indianapolis, Paramount School of Excellence (Paramount) serves students from Kindergarten to 8th grade. School leaders attribute their success and strong performance on statewide assessments by prioritizing school-wide cohesion, consistency in practice, and clear communication; this is specifically supported by the school’s “Frameworks,” Paramount’s policy and instruction guide designed to support teachers’ practices.  

Reflecting the mission and vision of the school, Paramount’s Frameworks highlights the school’s commitment to true, explicit, intentional inclusion and shapes teachers’ approaches to curriculum, instruction, behavior, school culture, and more. For example, Frameworks enables and encourages general and special education teachers to regularly collaborate, co-plan, co-teach, and receive inclusivity training; this has created a school culture in which all Paramount teachers maintain high expectations and feel responsible for the success of all students, including those with disabilities. Regarding classroom teaching and learning specifically, Frameworks enables and promotes school-wide adoption of individualized instructional practices that benefit all students, such as problem solving and differentiation, as well as regular collection and evaluation of data to appropriately adapt and improve such practices.

Frameworks serves as the backbone for the school and distinctly reflect its commitment to truly inclusive, evidence-based practices. To learn more about Paramount and and its approach to serving students with learning differences, read our full case study here.

In case you missed it, check out our profile on Denver's Cole High School.

Denver’s School of Science and Technology - Cole High School: Supporting Students with Disabilities via Curriculum/Instruction Modification and Coaching

By: Stephanie Lancet

As part of its effort to share best practices with the special education community, The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) identified several public charter schools across the country as “Centers for Excellence” and is communicating how each school uniquely leverages its autonomy to benefit students with disabilities. Here is a spotlight on one of them.

Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) - Cole High School (Cole), a public charter school within the DSST network, serves students from 9th to 11th grade. Cole educates one of the largest proportions of students with mild disabilities in inclusive classrooms in its district, and, in 2016, ranked as the fifth highest-performing high school in Denver and the third highest in ELL proficiency growth. In order to effectively serve students with diverse learning needs, Cole modifies its network’s relatively structured approach to instruction. Our case study specifically explores the school’s modified curriculum and instruction, as well as its professional development model.

Cole teachers cite the ability to create new courses or to modify the curriculum as essential to supporting students' success. Guided by the school’s mission and objectives, for example, teachers may add foundational courses or make adjustments to the 10th grade trimester internship program as needed. This allows teachers the flexibility to meet the needs and foster the strengths of individual students. Moreover, the school supports intensive co-teaching practices, such as shared planning and professional development, to promote effective differentiation.

Coaching, a vital part of DSST and Cole’s professional development model, provides teachers the opportunity to continuously improve and hone their skills with each other’s assistance. Utilizing tools such as video commentaries and observation annotations, the school fosters a sustained cycle of professional feedback, reflection, and modification, with the ultimate objective of improving the experiences of students with disabilities. This practice contributes to a positive school culture, one which nurtures inclusion via comprehensive teacher support.

Together, Cole’s flexibility in curriculum and instruction and its coaching model support the school in balancing and maintaining an inclusive educational model with rigorous learning goals and high expectations. To learn more about DSST - Cole High School, and its approach to serving students with learning differences, read our full case study here.