U.S. Secretary of Education Visits Beers Elementary School, Discusses Best Practices 

March 16, 2011


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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Alexa Posny and representatives from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education participated met with Beers Elementary School staff and parents earlier this week about their schoolwide approach to learning and inclusion.

Beers is one of 16 DCPS schools that follows the Schoolwide Applications Model, or SAM.

Secretary Duncan said he came to learn what does and doesn’t work at Beers as they practice SAM, and what lessons he could learn from them.

SAM is a whole-school, all-staff, all-students school model designed to provide the best possible educational environment.

Instead of providing supports and services to students in an isolated setting, they are fully integrated and available to all students. That means special education students aren’t taught in a separate setting – they are part of the general education classroom.

Principal Gwendolyn Payton said it was a collaborative effort among staff to turn Beers into a SAM school. She said it was about developing school leaders who were not afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone and what they know about special education.

Beers uses their special education teachers as "support teachers” who differentiate learning based on a student’s level of need, rather than whether the child receives special education or not. All students who have support needs in either behavior or academics can receive intervention support — not just those who have an Individualized Education Plan, which is required for students in special education.

Support teachers and related service providers offer a continuum of services and supports, from small group to one-to-one, depending on the student’s needs.

SAM schools follow a Response to Intervention (RtI) model, which means school leaders and teachers use individual student achievement and behavior data to identify the supports that each student needs to achieve and meet grade level expectations.

Ultimately, Beers staff said they had to work together to create an inclusive environment, one where special education and general education students learned together.

“The SAM model changed the mindset, and the mindset was ‘my’ students and ‘your’ students. SAM changed that to ‘our’ students,” said Faye Christian, a social worker at Beers.

You can read the U.S. Department of Education’s blog post and watch a short video about Secretary Duncan’s visit.

Learn about SAM »

Learn about inclusion »

More Special Education News »

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