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Special recognition for special education efforts
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The Effingham County Board of Education has been recognized by the state Department of Education for excellence in education of students with disabilities.

Superintendent Randy Shearouse presented the certificates to Dr. Colleen Webb, exceptional children coordinator, at the school board’s most recent meeting. At the annual fall conference of the Georgia Council of Administrators of Special Education, Effingham was recognized as a state leader in its efforts to improve the performance of students with disabilities.

Shearouse commended the staff and faculty from the central office to all teachers in the schools for their work with the students.

The awards were for improvement in the number of students who meet or exceed state standards in math, and meeting the state target for students who meet or exceed standards in math, reading/English language arts, students receiving a regular education diploma, teaching children in the least restrictive environment and teaching young children in the least restrictive environment.

Webb said the state targets come from working to reach the No Child Left Behind Act’s requirement that all children will be on grade level by 2014.

Cynthia Knight, assistant coordinator for exceptional children, said the awards also are based compared to other systems with 1,000 to 2,999 students with disabilities.

Webb said the award doesn’t mean that all students met or exceeded the goal. The system did get as many kids with disabilities in a regular environment and met the target for educating young children, those in pre-kindergarten through third grade, in the least restrictive environment.

Knight said the young children category refers to pre-kindergarten to third grade students.

“We have students with special needs in the general pre-k program, in the head start program, in private preschool, in private child care programs, and that’s what they mean by serving them in the least restrictive environment,” Knight said.

Webb said the credit goes to everyone, including general education teachers.

“Credit goes not only to the special ed teachers in helping and supporting and collaborating with the general ed teachers, but also the general ed teachers in accepting the fact that all kids are their children,” Webb said.

“When a principal and the teachers accept that every child in that school is their responsibility to educate, you get these kind of results.”

Knight said the system has made other improvements including working on ways to keep students with disabilities in school to graduation.

Webb said students with disabilities participate in all the programs offered by the school system including the gifted program. Students are participating in career, technical and agricultural education programs.

“What gets us excited is those folks are now including special educators in the planning of it, and they’re planning for students with special needs to be a part of those programs,” Knight said.

The state curriculum has had an impact on the education of students with disabilities.

“The state has said you will teach the state curriculum to all children,” Webb said. “It is no longer a choice. You can’t decide that because this child is two or three grade levels below that you will only teach what is two or three grade levels below. You may have to go back and pick up the skills that were lacking, but you also have to teach. It’s like double duty. What has happened is they do score better because they have been exposed to it.

“Everyone is encouraged to learn at their highest level,” she said.

Knight said all teachers have undergone extensive training in the Georgia Performance Standards, the new state curriculum.