Supporting English Learners and Students with Disabilities: Strategies from Turnaround Schools in Massachusetts

Meeting the needs of English learners (ELs) and students with disabilities (SWDs) is a critical yet challenging responsibility for all schools. Turnaround schools that are engaged in wholescale efforts to improve school performance may be hindered in their ability to focus on the specific needs of ELs and SWDs due to the pressures they face in quickly improving the outcomes for all students. In addition to these demands, the staff at turnaround schools may be limited in their organizational capacity, resources, and leadership structure impeding their ability to recognize and appropriately address specialized student needs.

This brief discusses successful academic interventions for ELs and SWDs implemented in seven exemplar schools highlighted during Massachusetts School Monitoring Site Visits conducted in 2015-16. Ratings on monitoring indicators as well as interview and focus group data was examined to identify common promising practices for serving ELs and SWDs.

The four key strategies that emerged were building staff capacity to meet the needs of ELs and SWDs, continuously using data to identify student needs and monitor progress, fostering staff communication and collaboration around student support, and providing differentiated support and interventions.