In the current day school landscape, students with special needs are generally the responsibility of special education staff and a limited number of school administrators. However, five local schools – Boston’s Jewish Community Day School (JCDS) in Watertown, Gann Academy in Waltham, the Maimonides School in Brookline, Solomon Schechter Day School in Newton, and Striar Hebrew Academy in Sharon – have been implementing changes with B’Yadenu, a comprehensive program to fundamentally transform the culture around educating students with special needs.
As the B’Yadenu model is implemented, each participating school’s entire administration and teaching staff become engaged in professional development. They learn about addressing and accommodating all students, and schools are reporting great success in changing the cultural norm.
“There is now an expectation of shared responsibility among all administrators and educators for all students regardless of educator background and student educational profiles,” says Nancy Kriegel, director of CJP’s Initiative for Day School Excellence. “Teachers and administrators have really come together to embrace changes that benefit all students.”
By the end of the project, the Boston demonstration schools will have each developed a cohesive, school-wide approach to address the learning needs of all students. This will include integration of new pedagogical strategies in teachers’ daily practice. Teachers will also reflect on the impact of these strategies in terms of meeting the diverse learning needs of all students, and in particular, of the least confident learners. The ultimate goal for the project is increased retention of students with special learning needs, and higher satisfaction among parents of students with special learning needs.
“B’Yadenu provides an opportunity for each school to coordinate and integrate the many initiatives the school may have in place while expanding and adding to their practice,” says Nancy. “We’re very excited about how far we’ve come, and the future that holds so much promise.”