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Center for Disabilities Studies : School Age Initiatives : ACCESS Project

Adapting Curriculum and Classroom Environments for Student Success


Since its inception in mid-2011, the ACCESS project has focused on both access to the academic curriculum and inclusive environments for students with intellectual disabilities. Funded by the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE), ACCESS carries out several activities that serve students with significant intellectual disabilities, their teachers, administrators, additional school personnel and families.

The first phase of the ACCESS project involved examining the Delaware Content Standards and creating extensions for students with severe intellectual disabilities. These extended standards, known as Grade Band Extensions (GBEs), will assist special educators by providing a variety of entry points to the academic standards. After a year-long creation and review process, the GBEs for English language arts and mathematics were completed in September 2011; science and social studies were completed in February 2012.  ACCESS staff held trainings in school districts throughout the state to help teachers navigate the standards and develop lesson plans based on the GBEs.  New professional development sessions are planned for the science and social studies extensions.

The second phase of the ACCESS project focuses on instructional planning, creating adapted materials and supporting teachers in learning how to implement the extended standards in the classroom.  A GBE companion guide was created to assist school staff in linking classroom activities to the GBEs.  In addition, the ACCESS staff has created adapted materials for use within classroom settings and is continuing to move toward customizing supports for individual districts.

The ACCESS project also has a research component. ACCESS staff will collaborate with a team of teachers from around the state to develop standards-based lesson plans and adapted materials for classroom use.  Teachers will then share information about the lessons in an online forum. This information will be used in a research study on student outcomes resulting from instructional planning and adapted materials. Partnering with the ACCESS project to complete this study is Dr. Chrystalla Mouza, associate professor of educational technology in the School of Education at the University of Delaware.

The project also provides technical support to DDOE for the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System-Alternate 1 (DCAS-Alt1), the state’s new alternate assessment. ACCESS staff members conduct parent trainings on the DCAS-Alt1 to orient parents to its structure, uses and the ways in which extended standards fit with the new alternate assessment.

With the focus on improving the access of students with significant intellectual disabilities to the same content standards as their typical peers, the ACCESS project strives to provide equal opportunities for learning to all students. A future goal is to build a resource database that includes lesson plans and adapted materials that teachers can use in their classrooms. This will increase opportunities for all students to have access to the general curriculum.

Esley Newton directs the ACCESS project with the support of staff member Judi MacBride. For more information on the ACCESS project, visit www.deaccessproject.org.

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Esley Newton