New Albany News

District officials mull upgrades to special ed, intervention programs


New Albany-Plain Local school officials met with parents and educators Sept. 18 and presented plans for improving the district's intervention and special-education programs.

Superintendent April Domine said the district asked the University of Cincinnati to study intervention and Bowling Green University to study special education during the 2012-13 school year.

Both studies identified strengths and weaknesses in the programs.

The intervention study showed the need for a districtwide intervention program. Similarly, the special-education study showed data on students aren't always transferred when students move from one school building into another, Domine said.

Domine said the results from both studies seemed "intermixed" and it was hard to isolate the results.

Samantha McMasters, director of special education, said district officials want all teachers to ask three questions when evaluating all students, not just when dealing with different subgroups:

* What does my child need to know and be able to do?

* How is my child doing and how do we know (using data)?

* What are we doing about it?

Schools with good results in special education allow those students to spend more time in the regular classroom, McMasters said.

McMasters said teachers should be thinking about how to teach a lesson based on all of their students' needs before they go into a classroom, instead of reacting to the fact that a student didn't learn a lesson as taught.

Teachers also need to recognize when a student needs intervention in more than one subject, she said.

Students who receive intervention in math might improve math scores but still might not do well in science because they are not grasping the math concepts in science, McMasters said.

In that case, the students need intervention for both classes, she said.

Parents told district officials about their students' needs, mentioning summer programs and other paid interventions used to supplement education.

Parents also asked questions about how the new strategies will be implemented.

McMasters said the district started the changes last school year but she said it's not an overnight process.

It requires professional development for all teachers and a new way of thinking in the district, she said.

"We're asking you to hold us accountable," McMasters said.

She said parents should ask general-education teachers questions about their children. If the teacher doesn't know the answer, he or she should be able to get the answer.

Domine said the progress of the district's elementary students with disabilities received a D on the most recent state report card.

She called the score "not acceptable" and said district officials want all students to achieve the district's vision of ensuring "the development of high-achieving, ethical, self-directed and intellectually curious citizens of the world," not just students who don't fall into one of the state's subgroups.

"Those labels (subgroups) don't define our kids," Domine said. "This (district's vision and mission) should define our kids."

The district's mission is to become the leader in reinventing education.