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Guest Blog: Schools That Work

We invited Karen Golembeski from the National Center for Learning Disabilities to blog about their Tower-supported partnerships with two Cape Cod area school districts.

2015-October 15

Guest Blogger
Karen Golembeski
Assistant Director of School Transformation
National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD)

|  Karen's Bio  

Website   |   Blog


Parents want schools that work.

Educators want schools that work.

Districts want schools that work.

States want schools that work.

The country wants schools that work.

A diverse host of community stakeholders want schools that work.

Students deserve schools that work. And it is possible!

Creating schools that work is possible, but doesn't happen overnight.  Creating schools that work requires that many essential foundational elements be in place in a school district, such as dedicated and collaborative staff, engaged and informed district leadership and consistent interest and support from various community stakeholders. 

Over the past year, funding from The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation has made it possible for the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) to bring our Schools That Work project to Cape Cod and the Islands.  Our first year of the project was spent working exclusively with the Barnstable Public Schools.  In the second year of the project we will continue to work with Barnstable as well as extend the project to the Mashpee Public Schools.  These districts have shown they have the vision and grit to make their schools work.  Our job is to help them actualize their vision.

Our Schools that Work project is based on a simple theory of change.  If you tailor your district's focus to meet the needs of the 20% of students with learning and attention issues, all students in the district will benefit.  Our process for making this change is based on providing in-depth support and leadership development to districts focused on successfully implementing a district-wide Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS). 

For those unfamiliar with MTSS, MTSS is not a curriculum, it is not a special education program and it is not a new professional development strategy.  MTSS is a framework for doing business in schools...doing business in schools in a way that provides all students with the academic and behavioral support they need, when they need it, throughout their time in a school district.  MTSS provides three tiers of instruction, interventions and supports increasing in intensity to meet the needs of every student.

Taking on the task of successfully implementing MTSS is a school district is an enormous undertaking for any district no matter the size, because every aspect of the operation of the district needs to be reviewed, discussed, reworked and adjusted over several years.  Successfully implementing MTSS is a lot of work, but it's worth it. 

The Barnstable and Mashpee districts were selected for this project because of the sizeable amount of work their teams had already set into motion before applying for this project.  The work ahead in the second year in Barnstable and first year in Mashpee will be focused on making district data the primary driver for discussion and change, providing tailored professional development to all levels of educators in the districts, designing multi-year plans for their implementation efforts and carefully monitoring progress and lack of progress during the process to make timely course corrections.

Creating schools that work is possible.  It takes a lot of work from a lot of smart, dedicated and determined people working collaboratively towards the goal of creating schools that work...schools that work for every single studentSchools that work every single year no matter what a student's academic and behavioral strengths and challenges may be. Is it an ambitious goal?  Yes.  Is it possible?  Yes. 

NCLD is honored to be working with the Barnstable and Mashpee schools and The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower  Foundation over the course of this year and believe our joint efforts will making a lasting positive impact on the students, staff and schools in each district.  We welcome the opportunity to provide an update on our efforts in the months ahead.





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