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CASD schools deal with progress issues

The district wants to bring more special education students into the mainstream.

The district wants to bring more special education students into the mainstream.

August 26, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - For hundreds of Chambersburg Area School District students with individualized education plans (IEPs), the new school year starting Monday will mean less time in "pullout programs" and more time in regular classrooms.

Along with the IEP students will be special education teachers, in a co-teaching arrangement aimed at bringing many of the special education students into the mainstream and raising their scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) standardized tests.

"The reason we think this works best ... is the regular education teacher knows the content best," said Lisa Frantz, the district's director of special education for the past decade. "The special education teacher knows how to modify that and present the materials in a different way" for special education students, she said.

In past years, many students with IEPs were pulled from regular classes for small group instruction, "mainly for reading, math and English," Frantz said. Not all pullout classes will be eliminated because some special education students still will respond best to a small group setting, she said.

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At Chambersburg Area Senior High School, Faust Junior High School and Chambersburg Area Middle School, there will be co-taught classes at all levels, Frantz said. Regular teachers and students will work with students in need of learning support and special education teachers.

"Everybody will mix and work together, and nobody needs to know which is which," Frantz said.

The three secondary schools and two elementary schools - Scotland and Hamilton Heights - found themselves on the Pennsylvania Department of Education's list for not having achieved proficiency or adequate yearly progress (AYP) in 2006-07. The school's general population hit the targets, but various subgroups fell short, particularly IEP students.

At the high school and Faust, IEP students' scores in math and reading failed to show adequate yearly progress, according to the department. At the middle school, IEP math and reading, black reading, Latin and Hispanic reading, and economically disadvantaged reading scores did not make adequate yearly progress, according to the department.

Hamilton Heights' economically disadvantaged students did not meet the AYP goal for reading. At Scotland, it was IEP math scores that did not meet the AYP.

In the case of Scotland, which had not been on the warning list before, Frantz noted there is an unusual concentration of seven special education classes - two each for emotional and learning support students, and one each for hearing-impaired, autistic support and part-time learning support.

"The reason they are there is there's space," Frantz said. Those classes include students from around the district, and some of the classes will be dispersed to other schools as new elementary schools are built.

There are about 1,800 students on IEPs in the district, with learning disabilities ranging from mild to profound, Frantz said. A student with a speech problem might need speech therapy and no other assistance, while others have severe mental, emotional and physical disabilities.

About 1,000 of these students will be affected by classroom changes in the new school year, Frantz said.

At Faust, the administration will take an additional step to improve academic performance. Principal David Shank said at Wednesday's Chambersburg School Board meeting that the eighth- and ninth-grade students will be spending much less time together.

"The change actually resulted from an initiative of (Superintendent Joseph) Padasak's to make Faust feel more like a small school," said Lisa Crouse, the eighth-grade assistant principal.

The schedule for morning periods will remain the same to allow for "blended classes" that both grades take, such as advanced math or English as a second language, Crouse said. Eighth- and ninth-graders, however, will have separate lunches and different afternoon schedules, she said.

The two grades also will be separated by floor, with the eighth-grade homeroom and core classes upstairs, Crouse said. There will be no bells to signal the end of periods, either, with students simply being told to move on to their next class, she said.

The staggered schedules will mean less congestion in the hallways, with only half of the approximately 1,400 students changing classes at a time. Shank said the schedule also has been adjusted to add more than 100 minutes of additional academic time each week.

"Ninth-grade students are high school students" developmentally and academically, Crouse said. They will be separated by eighth-graders by more than a stairway in a few years, when the expansion and renovation of the high school is completed and ninth grade is moved to that building.

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