In 2017, 100% of Special Education Students identified as in danger of failing will graduate on time.
Several factors were taken into consideration when creating this closing the achievement gap goal. The South County School Improvement Plan highlights the need to close the achievement gap for special education students. Data indicated that a disproportionate percentage of our at-risk seniors in recent years have been students with disabilities. As a result, our team focused on the needs of our seniors in the special education program. Since many of the concerns are unique, we created specific plans for each student based on his/her areas for growth.
One of the resources we used to help achieve this goal was referring at-risk students to the Minority Achievement Committee (MAC) group meetings. Counselors collaborated to provide a Saturday session with MAC facilitators to deliver instruction to students on the importance of school performance as it relates to post-secondary options. This group is comprised of students receiving both general and special education services. The counselors met with parents and students to explain the importance of grades, testing, and extracurricular activities in preparing for education beyond high school. They used a PowerPoint presentation and provided a 12th grade college planning timeline (attached) to emphasize important dates for graduation preparation and beyond. This aligns with M 4 of the ASCA Model.
The delivery was effective for the special education students in the MAC program because the Saturday sessions allowed us to focus on students individually allowing students to explore opportunities they may not have considered without this support. In the 2017-2018 school year, it may be possible to reach more students by offering sessions during homeroom so they can access information during the school day as well.
We also offered multiple college application help sessions in the College and Career Center throughout the year. Thirteen students accessed these sessions, four of whom received special education services. Students met with our college and career specialist, counselors, and the Northern Virginia Community College admissions specialist. This program allowed students the opportunity to access computers and work with adults who could assist with completing college applications. This session empowered special education students to build self-confidence and the ability to succeed (M 2). When students have a plan after high school, there is more motivation to complete graduation requirements (M 4).
Another academic barrier many special education students faced was completing the standardized tests necessary to graduate on time. Counselors, students and their families collaborated with the assessment coach to ensure that each at-risk senior was given every opportunity to earn the required SOL tests needed for an on-time graduation. The counselor worked with the assessment coach to coordinate remediation and retest opportunities for special education students who did not earn a passing score. Additionally, we participated in IEP meetings to discuss different diploma types for the students and develop a plan to successfully meet graduation requirements (B-SMS 5).
Our Senior On-Time Graduation Group is an integral part of our intervention plan for special education seniors. Five of the students in the senior group received special education services. The students have a special education case manager, but they also require additional resources and support which this group provides through opportunities for goal-setting and tracking weekly progress (M 2). The survey data reflected a change from 47% who initially had a plan with their teachers to improve grades to 90% at the end of the group.
Our multi-tiered approach contributed to our success in working to close the achievement gap. The college application sessions allowed students to make concrete progress towards achieving their post-secondary goals. The group sessions showed students how to connect with adults in the building and to persevere in the face of obstacles. The MAC committee continues to focus on the needs of our underserved students and the counselors will continue to encourage special education students at risk of not graduating to utilize this opportunity. We will continue to support students through workshops and presentations, as well as individually. Unfortunately, we did not meet the goal of 100%. One special education student did not graduate on time. Although this is an improvement from last year, we will continue to explore best practices and interventions for student success. In the future, we will offer additional application help sessions and modify the Senior On-Time Group and the SOL interventions to address student concerns earlier in their senior year.