About Discovery Plus
In the 2019-20 school year, FirstLine Schools applied to partner with New Orleans Public Schools (NOLA-PS) as a specialized pilot program, offering services to students with cognitive disabilities citywide. The application was approved for a three-year pilot program beginning in the 2020-21 school year, with funding to build upon the existing Discovery program. This new program, Discovery Plus, would allow for students from across the city meeting the qualifications to enroll in any of the Discovery Plus classrooms across three FirstLine schools – Arthur Ashe Charter School, Phillis Wheatley Community School, and Langston Hughes Academy. The Discovery Plus program is available for students in grades 3rd through 8th to address highly varied needs in self-contained classes and provide richer and meaningfully aligned Discovery Plus experiences for students with the greatest needs.
The majority of students in Discovery rooms receive educational programming aligned to the Louisiana Connectors across a wide breadth of educational content across subject areas, grade levels, and even differing standards. Discovery Plus programming serves students whose cognitive functioning is 2.3 or more standard deviations below the mean and need support in two or more of the following areas: Life Skills Support (e.g., toileting, play, social communication, feeding, etc.), Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Motor Skills Support (Physical Therapy and Adaptive Physical Education). Discovery Plus settings provide intimate, responsive support at a 3:1 student to teacher ratio.
The Discovery Plus program primarily uses the Unique Learning System for academic and functional instruction. This approach is an evidence-based program designed specifically to give students with complex learning needs meaningful access to Louisiana State LEAP Connector standards. All instructional materials are leveled and differentiated for students based on data collection and assessments designed to guide the instructional path of students with unique learning needs. The lessons are provided with a combination of direct instruction, independent practice, interactive computer-based practice, and specially designed assignments. The assessments can also help predict student achievement on the LEAP Connect Assessments. Students have access to lesson practice, independent work, and life skills building games at school and home. As part of the Unique Learning System, students have access to News-2-You, an online weekly newspaper that provides insight into exciting current events around the world, and L3, a skill-based game platform.
Students in the Discovery Plus program participate in core instruction for ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies based in the UNIQUE Curriculum through multisensory instruction. In addition to academic classes, students participate in life skills, social skills, related services, and other individualized supports in alignment with their IEP goals. Students in the Discovery Plus program participate in enrichment, lunch, and recess to the greatest extent possible with students in other classes.
Firstline Schools believes in supporting all students through enriching their minds, body, and spirit. Discovery Plus embraces that mission by providing various opportunities for Discovery Plus students to participate with their non-Discovery Plus peers. Students in the Discovery Plus program attend non-academic school-based activities and celebrations with their peers. These activities include; gardening, field trips, assemblies, spirit week, presentations, and more. Students also have opportunities to participate in citywide events, such as the Special Olympics.