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Posted: April 24, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Special education figures below state targets

Early intervention the only timeline on target

In an update, Newton County School System Special Education Director Cathy Stubbs showed Board of Education members just how far behind the county’s special education program is compared to state percentages.

According to Stubbs, Newton County serves 2,452 students with disabilities between the ages of 3-21, which is 12.34 percent of the system’s students. The numbers were broken down by specific disabilities, but Stubbs was quick to point out that some students may suffer from multiple disabilities and cannot be classified by just one category.

In the county, 24 percent of disabled students are other health-impaired; 21 percent have specific learning disabilities; 14 percent are significantly development delayed; 12 percent are speech and language disordered; 13 percent have intellectual disabilities – mild, moderate, severe and profound; 11 percent are emotional/behavioral disordered, 4 percent have autism, 1 percent suffer from other disabilities such as orthopedic impaired, deaf, traumatic brain injured, visual impaired, blind and hearing impaired.

Stubbs went over how services for the students are determined as well as discussed individual education programs and how they are developed with each student in mind. She also discussed related services that are available for students with disabilities in Newton County Schools and that allow the student to progress on their IEP.

System-wide, 106 students have physical therapy, 345 have occupational therapy, 125 have adaptive physical education, five have orientation and mobility and 680 require special needs transportation -- the county has 45 buses with which to provide this to the students who need it.

After discussing how Newton County works to provide the students who are qualified with the things they need in order to be more successful in their education, Stubbs then presented the board members with the Georgia Fiscal Year 08 district determinations, showing the percentage of the county’s students versus the state target.

In increasing the graduation rate of students with disabilities, the NCSS had 34.1 percent and the state target was 36 percent, the decrease in the drop-out rate for the county was 5.8 percent and the state target was 5.6 percent, and in having the students with disabilities spend at least 80 percent of the day in the general education setting, the NCSS had a 55.5 percent success rate while the state target was set at 59 percent.

"We are measured by our date and right now we have approximately eight areas in which we are graded on and each year that will increase," said Stubbs.

In increasing the percentage of disabled students in early childhood settings (children ages 3-5), NCSS made 57 percent and the state target is 63.53 percent, the increase of reading performance in grades 3, 8 and 11 was at 59.2 percent for the county and state target is 66 percent, for math performance the county was at 36.8 percent and the target for the state is at 53.77 percent.

In determining the initial eligibility for students the special education team has 60 days in which to complete these deadlines. In meeting the initial timelines for evaluation and eligibility for determinations, the county had a 94.3 percent success rate and the state target is 100 percent. According to Stubbs there will be summer testing for students this year in order to attempt to meet those deadlines for next year due to the referrals that will be and have already begun coming into the system.

The department is also required to report on where the special education students who graduated the year before are now and what they are doing, whether it be college, technical school, a job or nothing at all. The county percentage is at 28 percent and the state target is 56 percent.

"The most difficult part is contacting people," said Stubbs, adding that the department has added additional people to help with the process in order to meet the state requirements in post-school outcomes next year.

The department also has to increase parental involvement as a means of improving services and results for students with disabilities, which is done by selecting four county schools and sending surveys home to parents. Newton County has a 14 percent success rate and the state target is 36 percent.

"This number is deceptive," said Stubbs. "It’s based on how many people turned the surveys back in and state-wide the numbers are horrible." Stubbs said the department now has a part-time parent mentor to help with this.

The one timeline that the NCSS met with 100 percent was in Babies Can’t Wait – an early intervention program to ensure children with disabilities have access to resources – which matched the state target.

As of press time Cathy Stubbs did not respond to messages left for her to clarify testing methods of students with disabilities.

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