Through the Better Together initiative launched in schools across the Diocese of Cleveland, incorporating fundamental change into the Catholic school community has created flourishing environments that not only benefit exceptional learners but allow for every student to be engaged. Educators are investing in the art of customizing plans that develop both exceptional and gifted students as a cohesive unit.
An exceptional learner is a student that learns and develops differently. Such a student may need instruction that accommodates his or her preferred learning style, a different pace of instruction or additional educational services in order to progress learning.
Last spring, principals, teachers and intervention specialists began professional development sessions every other month that guided staff to understand exceptional students’ needs. Through instructional series that provided tangible materials for the school day, collaborative sessions with county resources and special education awareness initiatives, schools are better prepared to serve students with diverse learning needs.
“Our most recent data indicate that we have 2,219 students identified with exceptional learning needs enrolled in our diocese,” said Molly Bullock, special education coordinator for schools in the Office of Catechetical Formation and Education.
Through Better Together, which was launched with funds raised through the generosity of donors at the 2017 Alleluia Ball, schools have established a safe and acceptable place where students learn using tools that uniquely fit. An example is flexible seating or sensory aids. A student may learn better when provided with various seating options like a padded cushion or standing desk. A student who is sensitive to sound may have improved focus when provided with noise-canceling headphones.
“When inclusive practices are not successfully implemented, an exceptional learner may experience anxiety, confusion and frustration. Thus a classroom is not adequately supporting the individual’s learning needs,” Bullock said.
“Our Catholic faith calls us to serve one another in community, with each person being an important and contributing member. Better Together is helping our schools support students so that an expanding number of families are able to receive a Catholic education,” Bullock added.
The 2019 Alleluia Ball will support tuition assistance for Catholic school students. Visit CatholicCommunity.org/alleluia for more information on this gala - or- make a donation online to support Better Together by clicking here.
CLEVELAND CENTRAL CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL, CLEVELAND
The Better Together initiative developed diocesan-wide guidelines that support a consistent framework for schools. Cleveland Central Catholic provides targeted interventions that assist students with goal setting and organizational skills.
ST. JUDE SCHOOL, ELYRIA
The Better Together team at St. Jude’s consists of intervention specialists, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and applied behavior analysis therapists. The staff has taken coursework in fostering creativity in the classroom, effective strategies for working with students on the autism spectrum, effective co-teaching, dyslexia and how to motivate unmotivated students.
INCARNATE WORD ACADEMY, PARMA HEIGHTS
Incarnate Word Academy has redesigned its response to intervention program (known as RTI) under the Better Together program. This process identifies students and implements interventions for grades K-8. The intervention specialist meets with grade level teachers to review instructional approaches and best practices for students’ needs. Teachers receive digital documentation and a traveling suitcase that serves as a toolkit of resources for students identified with specific educational needs.
HOLY TRINITY, AVON
Knowing that each student has varied strengths and unique learning needs is a blueprint for instruction at Holy Trinity. Applying differentiation, teaching the material through a variety of instructional strategies, is a responsive tool that helps maximize class time and meet student’s needs.
To read more from the latest edition of Northeast Ohio Catholic, click HERE for the complete digital edition.