Plymouth School System Staff
According to Ellen Sugita, the director of special education for the town of Plymouth, the number of students being referred for special education services has been steadily rising over the past few years.

Recovery Act Impact: Education in MA

  • Over $1 billion spent

  • $80 million on education for the disadvantaged

  • $154 million on individuals with disabilities

  • $719 million on education stabilization fund

Many of the referrals were due to reading issues that were not dealt with at the lower grades. As the students get older, noted Sugita, it gets more and more challenging to help them succeed. "The gap grows wider at the secondary level," she explained, "and interventions at that age are very difficult."

With stimulus, Sugita saw an opportunity to reverse that trend. Her school system received nearly $20K in stimulus wards for preschool grants for children with disabilities

Plymouth School
and $2.1 million in grants to states for the education of children with disabilities.

Sugita along with Lisa White, the school system's English language arts coordinator, purchased the Level Literacy Intervention (LLI) as well as assessment kits to monitor their students' progress. LLI provides intervention at kindergarten and first grade. "Putting these interventions at a lower level is really helpful," said Sugita. "We have to get to these kids really early and then we can lower the number of kids being referred for special education services."

Plymouth School
Sugita added that student intervention at a very young age ultimately leads to a lower drop out rate because it catches the students before it becomes harder to help them.

The assessment tools provide teachers with the ability to identify the students who require the intervention. "We wanted to have real data," said White. "We wanted to help classroom teachers have a better way of knowing their students."

The stimulus funds were also used to train all teachers - Title 1, special needs and regular education - to use the curriculum, and, said White, there was an unexpected benefit to the training. "We started to see a dialogue between all the teachers," she said. "Its been nice working collaboratively."

Plymouth School
The system has also been able to hire Natalie LaCroix-White, a Consulting Teacher of Literacy, who is providing job-embedded professional development to the teachers to help them become proficient with LLI. LaCroix-White works with teachers in groups, in the classroom and individually. "Professional development when the kids are there is so effective," said Sugita.

LaCroix-White agrees. "The kids are now in an environment with a teacher who is accustomed to meeting their needs," she said.