Grant Would Team Up JSU with Oxford
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
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
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
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,”
About Markeshia Ricks
Markeshia Ricks is Capitol Correspondent for The Anniston Star.
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