Superintendent Revises Special Educ. Proposal

January 18, 2007
All Grade 6-12 Special Education Students Will Have the Option of Remaining in a Learning Center

Parent meetings will be held on Monday to discuss the revised proposal

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast announced a revised special education proposal Thursday that would allow all special education students in grades 6 through 12 who are currently in secondary learning centers to remain there through graduation. The revised proposal phases out the learning centers over a six year period, but continues the effort to include more special education students in general education classes.

Under the revised proposal, approximately 45 rising 6th graders who might be candidates for the learning centers will receive their special education services in their home schools.

“As a school system, we are committed to preparing our special education students to meet the high school graduation requirements, which includes passing four high school assessments. We believe a key ingredient to academic success for these students is increased access to the general education classroom,” Weast said.

Weast said the two concerns that prompted the initial plan remain and can still be addressed in the revised plan.

“No matter how you slice the data at the middle or high school level, performance of students in learning centers lags far behind their special education peers who are not in learning centers,” Weast said. “Even more troubling is the fact that we have far too many African American and Hispanic students being educated in segregated learning centers.”

“My concerns notwithstanding, we have heard very clearly from parents who are opposed to the plan to close the learning centers. We believe this revised proposal will give us time to work with the community as we transition to a more inclusive setting for our special education students,” said Weast.

To address parent concerns but also move forward with the goal of improving the academic performance of special education students, the revised proposal contains five elements:

-All current grade 6-12 students can remain in the secondary learning centers through graduation.

-Approximately 45 rising 6th graders who might be candidates for the learning centers will receive their special education services in their home schools, according to their individualized education program (IEP). These students’ progress will be carefully monitored to ensure that they are progressing in accordance with their IEP.

-All of the current students in the learning centers will have the option of returning to their neighborhood or consortia schools to receive services if the families request it.

-Additional efforts will be made to improve the quality of instruction at the learning centers for the students who remain through graduation.

-Principals and staff will receive additional professional development to better help them support special education students in their home schools.

Two parent meetings have been scheduled for Monday night to discuss the revised proposal with parents and to solicit their feedback. The meetings will happen simultaneously at Watkins Mill High School and John F. Kennedy High School. Both meetings will begin at 7 p.m.

“We understand that parents are anxious and nervous about any proposed change and that there are challenges to be addressed,” said Weast. “As a school system, we have to do a better job of working with our special education parents to address their concerns and fears and in the end do what is right for each student.”

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