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A Day with KIPP Special Educators: Part 3 – High School

Would you believe it, if we told you 95% of our KIPPsters with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) graduated from High School within four years? Across New York State, only 44% of students meet this milestone. Both stats are true.

KIPP’s incredible graduation rate for kids with IEPs is a testament to the hard work of our students, but also of the special education teams who work tirelessly to differentiate instruction to meet the diverse needs within our classrooms.

You’ve already had a chance to learn about our elementary school and middle school approach to special education. This week, our final piece showcases two exceptional teachers, Ron Watson and Sheilla Lehr from KIPP NYC College Prep High School.

Special Education at KIPP NYC College Prep
At the high school level, we use a variety of approaches to support our at-risk students. We combine SETSS (Special Education Teacher Support Services) with a range of specialized supports and schedules for students who have unique needs.

Sheila Lehr at KIPP NYC College Prep

Sheilla Lehr

KIPP NYC College Prep High School, Special Education / History Teacher

Sheilla Lehr has been teaching for 9 years and this is her first year at KIPP NYC College Prep High School. She previously taught 9th Grade English, 9th and 11th Grade ESL, Global History Studies, and advised the Student Government Association. In short, she’s a jack-of-all-trades and brings a wealth of teaching experience to KIPP.

What do you feel makes special education at KIPP unique?

The services that KIPP provides to its SPED population are quite different from what I have seen in other schools. We have 15:1 classes to provide a smaller learning environment, paraprofessionals who work one on one with their students or help others if needed, and a speech and language specialist and a hearing specialist who push into my classes once or twice a week. I plan lessons with my team, but I also I have the freedom to modify lessons in order to support my students’ success. I get feedback from my manager, who offers insight as to how my students are performing and the type of questions I should be asking. This support allows me to create strategies to help my students who have the greatest needs.

What supports help you serve your at-risk students?

I teach two 15:1 Global History 2 classes and get support from a vast array of individuals who push into my class and from other special educators who work more closely with some of my students. I know that I can pop into one of their Study Skills classes to review content with kids if I have the period off. We also have a testing system in place where if a student is not finished with a test they can finish it in study skills class with more one on one help.

How does KIPP promote your growth as a professional and special education teacher?

I meet with my direct managers every other week and they give me feedback to help me better serve my students. Earlier this school year, my students struggled with reading historical documents independently. I discussed this with my history department chair and she came in to observe my class. We debriefed, came up with next steps, and I have now changed how I incorporate documents into each of my lessons. It works so much better for the students! Receiving regular feedback is not something I experienced before, so I really feel like I am being set up for success.

Sheila’s Day

8:20-9:10am - Global History 2

Teach a 15:1 Global History 2 class, differentiating the presentation of content for students.

9:14-10:02am - Prep Time

Plan and edit lessons for upcoming classes. I also use this time to observe other Global History 2 classes to later discuss with my colleague or get coaching on how I can improve my lessons.

10:08-10:58am - Prep time / One-on-one meeting

Plan and edit lessons for upcoming classes. I also use this time to observe an AP Global History class. Every two weeks, I have a one-on-one meeting with my direct manager.

11:02-11:52am - Professional Learning Community Meeting Time

The Professional Learning Community is comprised of other Global History Studies teachers at our school. I meet with these colleagues three times a week to discuss data, plan lessons, and engage in deliberate practice.

11:56am-12:46pm - Global History 2

Teach a 15:1 Global History 2 class, differentiating the presentation of content for students.

12:50-1:40pm - Lunch

Plan for my afternoon classes or grade student work.

1:44-3:28pm - Two Classes of Critical Reading

Teach two sections of a reading intervention class for ESL students who are reading below 9th grade level.

Ron Watson

KIPP NYC College Prep High School, Special Education Teacher

Ron Watson has been teaching for 10 years and is completing his second year at KIPP NYC College Prep High School. Ron first discovered his passion for teaching during high school, but fully committed to the profession while in college. With over a decade of teaching experience, Ron still dedicates himself to refining his skills as a special education teacher. He feels KIPP sets staff up for success, and in turn, unlocks profound student success.

What do you feel makes special education at KIPP unique?

There is so much camaraderie among our team. Together, we develop a curriculum based on students’ needs and create an efficient learning environment conducive to student growth. Each person brings something unique to the table, making the special education team a positive and dynamic group.

What systems are in place to help you serve your at-risk students?

At the beginning of the year, we have workshops where we go through all IEPs and review the accommodations our students may receive. Students with IEPs receive extended time on tests and quizzes in their Study Skills class. Content teachers post upcoming test and quiz dates in a computer system, so as the special education teacher, I remain in the loop and can plan ahead for upcoming assessments. Students also have access to laptops, planners, folders, and notetaking aids for additional support.

How does KIPP promote your growth as a professional?

Within one year at KIPP, my knowledge of systems, operations, and accommodations grew in a way that far exceeds my previous work environment. There is always someone available to answer questions and ensure I feel supported. Without a doubt the days are busy, but I walk out of the doors feeling challenged, accomplished, and willing to learn more. There is balance between feeling supported and working hard.

Ron’s Day

8:20-9:00am - Study Skills 4

Teach the first of my four Study Skills sections to 12th grade students. The curriculum focuses on academic progress, self-advocacy, and social intelligence in preparation for students’ post-secondary pathway. The period is a combination of guided and independent practice.

9:14-10:04am - 12th Grade Professional Learning Community

I Collaborate with my coworker who also teaches 12th grade Study Skills. We outline upcoming lessons and review student data. Our Professional Learning Community (PLC) meets three times a week with people who teach the same course. Teachers look at student work, engage in deliberate practice, and review upcoming lesson plans as a group.

10:08-10:58am - Study Skills 2

Teach my second Study Skills session, now with 10th graders.

11:02-11:58am - Push-In, Algebra 2 with Trigonometry

Push into Algebra 2. At the start of the school year, I chose to push into two content classes. I don’t do any co-teaching and am there to support students as needed. I chose these classes based on my student caseload.

11:56am-12:46pm - Study Skills 4

Teach my third Study Skills class of the day, with seniors.

12:50-1:40pm - Lunch

I chose my lunch period based on when I am free outside of my content class push-ins and Study Skills classes.

1:44-2:34pm - Push-In, Geometry

Push into another math class, this time Geometry.

2:38-3:28pm - Study Skills 2

Last Study Skills class of the day working with a different group of 10th graders.