The growth of Morgan County has been of major focus the last few years. As a community, we have grown in population, opportunities, and challenges. Morgan County School District is no different. The district has been experiencing challenges, as well as many opportunities for growth and improvement in its schools due to our growth as a community. This applies to all areas of our schools including special education.
Special education is mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). The purpose of special education is to ensure students with disabilities receive a ‘free and appropriate education.’ This means that schools need to help students appropriately access the regular curriculum to the fullest extent possible in their least restrictive environment. This is done through an individualized education plan (IEP) whose purpose is to provide guidelines for appropriate services, adaptations, modifications, and curriculum that a student needs to succeed. Each IEP should be individually designed at least annually to meet the educational, social, and behavioral needs of a particular student so that they can access school curriculum in the regular classroom as much as possible.
“Special education” is a broad term. It covers a broad spectrum of disabilities and needs. We do serve students with more significant needs such as autism or Angelman syndrome. These students may receive most of their services in a special education classroom and have a very specialized life skills curriculum with some basic academics. However, they also spend as much time as feasible in the regular education setting so that they and their peers can gain social and academic experiences with each other. Our district believes this is good for all children.
Special education also covers students with less obvious disabilities. These students may struggle with learning disabilities in an area such as listening, reading or math. They may have speech problems, or some other non-visible disability. These students receive their services in a regular classroom or resource room setting. Special education for these students is designed to help the students succeed in the regular curriculum as much as possible. The students may receive individual curricular adaptations and instruction from special education teachers, regular education teachers, paraprofessionals, or peer tutors. They are taught coping and other skills that help them advocate for themselves.
There are many challenges for special education. One of the major ones is paper work to show goals and services for each student. This should also include data collection that shows instruction is improving the skills of each student. It can be a tedious process. Another challenge is meeting the requirements of No Child Left Behind. This is done with test scores and improvement. With the ever increasing demands of this law, the first area to not meet requirements academically is usually special education. This is because the students are held to the same standards as regular education. It means that we need to involve everyone in their education so that the student is given ample opportunity for growth.
It is vitally important for special education and regular education professionals to work as a team. This allows all students to receive a valuable education. That is why much of special education is done in a regular classroom setting. History has shown that students grow and learn from each other to a large extent from interaction and proximity. This is why in Morgan including students with disabilities in regular education classes as much as possible is a large part of our program, it works.