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School cited for failure to improve skills of special education students

February 15, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson High School - the state's largest high school - has been cited for failure to improve special-education students' math and reading skills and there are recommendations that the school must meet by May 31, according to state school officials.

The shortcomings come to light after about 24 percent of special education students at Jefferson tested proficient in math and 31 percent tested proficient in reading and language arts on the 2005-06 WESTEST.

"That school has been a good school in the past, they can get there again," said Kenna Seal, director of the Office of Education Performance Audits.

Pete Dougherty, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, said the issue is one that plagues many schools that teach special-education students.

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Education plans that are drafted for special-education students rely on verbal instruction for the students, but the students are tested through written examinations, Dougherty said.

"That doesn't make much sense to me," Dougherty said.

But Dougherty said he did not want to minimize the issue, and said Jefferson High School has an excellent staff that will work hard on the issue.

"I have every confidence the folks out there are doing the best they can," Dougherty said.

The state Board of Education gave conditional accreditation to Jefferson High School on Wednesday as part of the situation dealing with the special-education students.

Seal said there also have been disciplinary problems at the school, and said state school board members were upset when auditors found two students who use wheelchairs unsupervised in a darkened classroom listening to the radio.

The auditors visited the school for two days in November.

Dougherty said he never has heard anything about that account, and said "one can read 10 different versions about what that's all about."

Seal said the school struggled with its large number of students, and Dougherty said the school's current population of 2,302 is a record high.

Besides the usual challenges of handling a population that large, Dougherty said it is tough finding enough teachers for the school.

Local school officials and lawmakers have been pushing for higher pay for local teachers to keep them from crossing state lines for higher pay and Dougherty criticized state education officials for not doing more to help address the problem.

"But that would take some real work," Dougherty said.

County school officials are building a second high school next to the Huntfield development to ease crowding at Jefferson High School.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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