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Liberty is meeting special ed goals
School notes
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The preceding seven articles have discussed the Georgia Performance Goals and Indicators and where we are as a system in meeting the targets.
Students with disabilities (SWD), as a sub group, have not kept a single school in the district from making AYP for the past two years. As a district, we are making positive progress in our attempt to meet each and every one of the goals and indicators. As a result of our progress, the Division for Exceptional Learning was asked by the Georgia Department of Education to be part of a panel at this year’s state spring conference of special education administrators.  We were asked to share what we are doing that has caused such improvements.
The division has partnered with the personnel department to attend job fairs and review applications. As a result, last school year is the first time in many years that long-term substitutes were not teaching in special education classrooms. We have fewer vacancies this year and we have been able to fill nearly every vacancy with a highly qualified, special ed teacher. A highly qualified, special education teacher not only has the skills to work with students who have difficulty learning, they also know how to complete the IEP paperwork and the other requirements of the position.
We have met the target to have 61 percent of the SWDs in general education environments.  We have met the state target for test scores in both reading and math at the elementary level and are improving at the middle and high school levels. Because SWD must meet or exceed the standards set for “all” students, it is critically important for SWD to be exposed to the curriculum in the regular education classroom, so they have at least heard those things they will be tested on when they take the CRCT. Not being in a regular education classroom and taking the CRCT is like taking the driver’s test without ever having driven a car.
We believe that having instructional coaches to support teachers in the classroom (observe, offer suggestions, model lessons) will improve instruction that leads to better performance of students in the classroom and an increase of skill mastery. Using stimulus funds, we will have four special education instructional coaches to work with special education teachers in all of our schools. We believe the additional tutoring of SWD at the high school level to help them pass all portions of the Georgia High School Graduation Test will lead to more graduates obtaining regular education diplomas and will lead to fewer drop outs. We have already seen positive results with just one semester’s trial of this tutoring program and are using stimulus funds to expand the opportunities for next year.
We also believe the implementation of transitional math classes for SWD at all three middle schools and LCHS is helping to produce stronger math students who can pass the math courses necessary to graduate with a regular education diploma. This program began with a grant from the GADOE two years ago.
The work of our transition coordinator has helped to increase the post secondary activities of our graduates (working full or part time, college or vocational school). LCSS was recognized at the state level as the top performing school in our size group in this area this past year. We have transition plans for all of our high school students and we have summaries of performance ready for each SWD who graduates. Our transition coordinator is on the State Transition  Steering Committee and the CD she developed to help train teachers has been used, in part, by the state for their training module.
Our parent mentor has worked with a committee of parent advisors for two years. This team was able to work with the YMCA to get after-school activities provided to SWDs. She was instrumental in working with parents at each of our schools to create a banner for students in Special Olympics. She is largely responsible for the great return rate this year on our parent surveys, thereby exceeding the state target. You will see our special education parent mentor at many activities in Hinesville.
These are but a few of the many activities going on through the division to better serve SWD and improve their performance in class and prepare them for life after graduation.

School notes is an opinion piece written by staff members of the Liberty County School System covering areas of their expertise. Kelly is executive director Liberty County Division for Exceptional Learning
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