Master’s Prepared Educators are Critical to Improving Graduation Rates Among Georgia’s Special Education Students
According to Dr. John D. Barge, Georgia’s State School Superintendent, during the 2010-2011 school year, there were 169,954 special education students enrolled in Georgia’s public schools among 1,633,596 total students, representing roughly 10% of the state’s total student population. The services special education teachers provide are absolutely critical to the success of these students. The unique skills and perspective these teachers gain through graduate work has been proving to be an asset in preparing them to provide the individualized support and classroom accommodations these students need to be successful.
The Georgia Department of Education encourages special needs students to strive toward meeting the same graduation requirements as every other student, promoting fully integrated classrooms where these students learn right along side their peers from the general student population. Students served under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) who are unable to complete the traditional curriculum may still graduate with their peers and receive a Special Education Certificate. While the graduation rate for traditional students remains one of the lowest in the country, it has risen from 67% at the end of the 2010-2011 school year to 72% by the time the 2012-2013 school year came to a close.
However, for the 2013-2014 school year, only 36% of Georgia’s special education students graduated, comparing poorly to the national rate of 63% for these students (US Education Department). Relying on the help of its dedicated staff of master’s prepared special education teachers, the Georgia Department of Education is working hard to correct this by launching new initiatives designed to provide special ed students with individualized curriculum, instruction and support in the classroom.
Georgia’s Most Successful Special Education Programs Rely on Master’s-Prepared Educators
Georgia’s public and private schools are working hard to help students with special needs graduate successfully:
- The Howard School, located in Atlanta, has been recognized as one of the top special education schools in the country. Positioning students as “architects of their own learning,” the school evaluates students based on individual progress rather than letter grades.
- Another outstanding school, Jacob’s Ladder Neurodevelopmental Center and School, is a private school located in Roswell. Though Jacob’s Ladder serves students with neurological disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and learning disabilities, 60% of the students are diagnosed with autism. Like The Howard School, Jacob’s Ladder builds curriculum to meet each student’s individual needs. The students receive one-on-one instruction and the program incorporates rigorous data collecting to help judge progress and inform future curriculum.
- Georgia’s second-largest school district, Cobb County, supported its special ed students in 2013 by appointing a special student services administrator in every school in the district. The administrators work with the students and parents according to each student’s individual needs, working toward the goal of graduation.
- The largest school district, Gwinnett County, was able to raise the graduation rate of special ed students from 31% to 38% in just one year (2011-12 to 2013-14), by implementing a similar strategy to offer special ed students personalized help.
- The Georgia Department of Education offers a Special Needs Scholarship Program that allows parents of students served by an IEP to have some choice in where their child attends school. The scholarship program allows parents to transfer their child to a public school, authorized private school, or a state school for the blind or deaf, depending on which school offers the best accommodations for the particular needs of their child. Because special education programs and accommodations can differ from school to school, this program allows parents to have some say in determining what program is best for their child.