Tower Foundation Grant Will Accelerate Success of Students with Disabilities in Beverly and Gloucester Schools

The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation has awarded the Bay State Reading Institute (BSRI) a three-year, $90,000 grant to fund staff coaching and professional development at BSRI’s ten partner schools in Beverly and Gloucester. Created in 1990, The Tower Foundation is a family foundation dedicated to improving the lives of young children. One of its goals is to fund organizations that help children with learning disabilities to be identified early, diagnosed, and given services that meet their individual needs.

“The Tower Foundation has been an ardent and reliable supporter of the work of the Gloucester Public Schools,” says Gloucester Superintendent Rich Safier. “They have provided funding so that we could organize our approach to using data and the decision making that comes from the data and they have supported our work with elementary literacy. We can now add to those initiatives a greater focus on understanding the needs of students with learning disabilities and the ways in which we can maximize their experiences in the classroom.”

According to a 2002 Presidential Commission report, 40% of elementary-school children identified as learning-disabled are given that designation because they struggle to read. Many schools fail to assess or address these students until reading failure has occurred—often in third grade. As a result, these students fall behind in school and must be referred to special-education services, often outside their classrooms.

At BSRI’s partner schools, the assessment methods put in place identify and address students’ learning disabilities early on, increasing student success and reducing Special-Ed referrals in many of its partner schools by about half.

BSRI’s partner schools also shift most classroom instruction to small groups and match the work in those groups to the abilities of each student, challenging every student regardless of their ability. This generally leads to an increase in students with disabilities being fully or partially included in mainstream classrooms. In Gloucester, for instance, 71.2% of students with disabilities are fully included, which is 20 percent above the state average of 59.2%.

Started in 2005, BSRI is a non-profit that currently teams with over 40 elementary schools across Massachusetts. BSRI first partnered with the Ayers Elementary School in Beverly in 2006, and is now also working with all of the Beverly elementary schools: Ayers/Ryal Side, Centerville, Cove, Hannah, and North Beverly schools. BSRI partnered with Beeman Memorial Elementary in Gloucester in 2010, and is now also working with all of the elementary schools in Gloucester: Beeman, Veterans, East Gloucester, Plum Cover, and West Parish schools. BSRI provides embedded training, coaching, and support to teachers and principals. Using BSRI’s model, each school institutes a variety of modern, science-backed instructional methods which allow teachers to teach to each student’s ability, beginning in kindergarten.

“We’ve found that when each student of every ability is challenged at her or his own level, all day long,” says Ed Moscovitch, BSRI’s co-founder and Chairman, “classroom behavior is improved, kids love coming to school, teachers love their jobs, and scores go up.”

Over the last two years at BSRI’s highest-implementing schools, English Language Arts MCAS scores rose at nearly four times the rate of the state average. BSRI is achieving these results with some of the state’s most disadvantaged populations, including Massachusetts Gateway Cities of Taunton, Revere, Malden, Fitchburg and others. Whereas statewide the achievement gap on MCAS gap is widening, in two years BSRI narrowed the proficiency gap for English-language learners at its highest-implementing schools by 35 percent.

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For more information contact:
Michaela O’Brien / / 413-587-0713