Click Selection

Search News Releases:

News Resources
on the Web

20 December 2007
Grant Would Team Up JSU with Oxford

Markeshia Ricks
Star Capitol Correspondent

Reprinted here in its entirety.

MONTGOMERY — Jacksonville State University is in the running for a $20,000 grant that would establish Oxford City Schools as a demonstration site for co-teaching.

Known throughout the state for its success in teaming-up general and special education teachers in the classroom, Oxford City Schools is a natural fit for such a collaborative program, said Stephen Armstrong, professor of special education at JSU.

“Oxford City Schools are already doing great things in special education and its one of the top systems in the state for co-teaching,” he said. “One of the issues for school systems that want to do this (co-teaching) is having enough special education teachers, but Oxford does have enough and they also have good administrative support.”

Armstrong said if JSU is successful in getting the grant from the Alabama State Improvement Grant program it would bring about a marriage of the academic study of co-teaching and the realities of making it work.

What they learn from the seven-month project could be beneficial to school systems and educators throughout the state and beyond, he said.

Khristie Goodwin, special education coordinator for Oxford City Schools, said for several years the school district has sought to educate students with disabilities in “the least restrictive social and academic environment.”

Putting general and special education teachers side by side in the same classroom helped make that happen, she said.

Instead of having special education students isolated from other students, Oxford schools put the students together and use co-teaching as a way to make sure no student falls behind.

For instance, special education teachers at Oxford High School are assigned to academic departments such as math, science and social studies and they provide support in the general classroom setting.

In the past, it was commonplace for special education students to be separated from general education students, or pulled out of class to address specific developmental needs.

“Our main concern was to try to provide the students with an environment that would increase achievement levels and proficiency rates,” she said. “Research was showing us that when we pulled our special education students into the resource room, they were still struggling academically.”

Goodwin said that since the district began systematically including special education students in general education classes, special education students who have known nothing else but inclusion from third grade to high school had, on their first attempt, a 53 percent pass rate on the state graduation exam.

“That confirms in our mind that we’re doing the right thing,” she said.

It’s confirmed in the minds of others too.

Mabrey Whetstone, state director of special education services, says co-teaching and other ways of integrating special education students into general education is a growing trend that is having a significant impact on student achievement.

According to a draft of the state’s annual special education services performance report, of the school districts in the state that have to account for the progress of their special education students to meet federal No Child Left Behind requirements, all 30 of those districts made adequate yearly progress in the special education subgroup.

Whetstone said before the trend shifted to more inclusiveness, the outcome for Alabama’s special education students was not a good one.

“Our students did not move from high school to employment, but now our students are employed within one year of finishing high school,” he said.

Whetstone said co-teaching the way Oxford City Schools does it is beneficial for students, but it’s also a help to the teachers too.

“Special education teachers are trained to use frequent student progress monitoring to see which students understood something and which ones didn’t,” he said. “For those students who missed it, immediate intervention is provided, that way we don’t wait half a semester or a whole year to catch up.

“General education teachers are picking up on it and using it to help their regular students because sometimes those students miss it too.”

Armstrong said co-teaching is the best of both worlds for special education students and their teachers.

“You get the advantage of the high quality content that is provided in a general education setting with the specialized teaching skills of a special education teacher who can adapt the lesson and explain any misunderstandings,” he said.

About Markeshia Ricks

Markeshia Ricks is Capitol Correspondent for The Anniston Star.

See story at The Anniston Star's website: .

Note: JSU faculty, staff and students may access The Anniston Star online through their affiliation with the University. Those not affiliated with JSU may have to subscribe to receive The Anniston Star online. If you already subscribe to The Anniston Star, you receive a complimentary online membership. This provides complete access to all the content and services of the site at no additional charge. Otherwise there is a $5 online monthly charge for their online service. Contact The Anniston Star for information.

Submit items for news releases by using the request form at