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Jefferson Co. school cited by state as seriously impaired

September 14, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Citing shortfalls in the school's special education program, the state Department of Education has determined that Charles Town Middle School's accreditation is "seriously impaired," Principal Charles Hampton said Wednesday.

The seriously impaired accreditation status means that a team from the state Department of Education will be sent to the High Street school to help correct the situation, said Hampton, who announced the findings during a press conference at the school Wednesday afternoon.

The seriously impaired accreditation was based on annual yearly progress testing under the federal No Child Left Behind guidelines, Hampton said.

Specifically, it dealt with test results in the subgroup area of special education, Hampton said.

Superintendent of Schools Steven Nichols criticized the No Child Left Behind guidelines Wednesday and said there has been quality instruction at the school.

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Special education students study under "individualized education programs," Nichols said. In such specialized education programs, a seventh-grade student who might only be reading at a third-grade level gets special assistance in the plan, Nichols said.

The problem comes in the yearly progress testing, Nichols said.

When that student takes the yearly progress test, the student must be tested as if he is reading at the seventh-grade level and can not depend on help for the test, Nichols said.

"What we're doing is we're setting them up for failure," Nichols said.

Having the seriously impaired accreditation due to deficiencies in the special education program is a common problem among schools across the country and Charles Town Middle is taking steps to remedy the situation, Hampton and Nichols said.

Instead of teaching special education students separately, Charles Town Middle School is moving to a more "inclusive environment" in teaching by exposing special education students to more regular classes, Hampton said.

The school also has established a "content mastery center" where special education students receive special remediation to build skill levels, Hampton said.

Hampton said the school has been making progress with its special education students. Since 2004, special education students at the school have made about an 8 percent improvement in reading test scores and the students' math scores have improved about 9 percent, Hampton said.

"We've shown improvement and we're confident the improvement will continue," Hampton said.

Hampton stressed that other students in the school have done well, with 75 percent of the kids achieving a level of "mastery" or above in reading and 80 percent of the students achieving a level of mastery or higher in math.

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