“A Constant Conversation” The Implementation and Impact of the Learning Differences Program at Manning Elementary School in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina


There is growing attention to the differences in how students learn; however, little is known about how schools and districts can successfully build capacity and make progress in addressing students’ learning differences. To better understand and support the capacity-building process, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation (FI) used a modified Research-Practice Partnership (RPP) with a continuous feedback approach as schools implemented the FI’s Learning Differences program and applied concepts of learning differences to their professional practice. This case study details the implementation and impact of the Learning Differences program at Manning Elementary School (MES) in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina.

The authors intend for this case study to be a practical resource that schools and districts can reference as they implement their own learning differences initiatives. This case study is organized into three sections. Section one provides an overview of the Learning Differences program. Section two describes how the Learning Differences program was implemented at MES and how data were collected. Section three draws on qualitative and quantitative data to illustrate the program’s impact on MES teachers and students. Section four discusses the seven key lessons learned from the implementation process.

Executive Summary

During the 2019-2020 academic year, Manning Elementary School (MES), a public school in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, implemented the Learning Differences program, which was developed by the Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative (PLLC) at the Friday Institute (FI).

Implementation began with the formation of a modified Research-Practice Partnership (RPP) established by the director of the PLLC and the principal of MES. The purpose of this RPP was to provide technical assistance to MES teachers as they took the Learning Differences Massive Open Online Course for Educators (MOOC-Ed) over the course of the school year.

Throughout the year, MES certified staff (i.e., teachers, teaching assistants and social workers) completed the Learning Differences MOOC-Ed modules on their own time and had dedicated time within their professional learning community (PLC) meetings to collectively strategize how to infuse the Learning Differences content in their classroom instruction and interactions with students. To facilitate this partnership, program developers from the PLLC and an evaluator from the Friday Institute Research and Evaluation (FIRE) team visited MES on a bimonthly basis. During these visits, program developers provided teachers professional development and support in their PLC meetings. Likewise, the evaluator conducted non-obtrusive classroom and PLC observations and collected teacher feedback through surveys and focus groups.

In analyzing the data, the evaluator found seven key lessons from the MES Learning Differences program implementation that may help future schools and districts as they design their implementation strategies, namely:

Seven key lessons. Key lesson one: Determine the Most Feasible Implementation and Support Approach. Key lesson two: Engage the Instructional Leader. Key lesson three: Strategically Garner Teacher Buy-In. Key lesson four: Consider a Year-Long Implementation. Key lesson five: Utilize PLC Time for Group Engagement. Key lesson six: Explain the Research Process Early and Often. Key lesson seven: Be Mindful When Collecting Observational Data.
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