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School programs honored by state
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Warren County’s Special Education Department received two statewide awards for its late afternoon and co-teaching programs during a State Special Education Conference at Opryland Hotel recently.
The awards were presented by the Special Populations Division of the Tennessee Department of Education after division representatives visited and reviewed innovative programs that were nominated across the state.
Dianna Tudor, management consultant with the State Department of Education, nominated Warren County’s Special Education Department. Linda Wilson, director of Special Education in Warren County, coordinated the visit and selected specific programs from across her department for the committee to evaluate for possible award selection. 
Among the programs that were reviewed by the division were Warren County High School’s LA Program (Late Afternoon School) and its Co-Teaching Program. The goals of both programs include increasing graduation rate, providing inclusionary services, and assisting students in passing Gateway and End of Course work. Division visitors heard presentations, reviewed data and attended student classes.
Wilson initiated the start-up of these special education programs at the high school two years ago.
“We have been very pleased with the progress we’ve seen in student graduation,” said Wilson. “It has provided a continuum of services, particularly the co-teaching program has resulted in so many more inclusion opportunities for our students.”
The Co-Teaching Program at Warren County High School currently provides team teaching in the areas of English, algebra, geometry, biology, physical science and chemistry. Nine highly qualified, licensed general education teachers are paired on a daily basis with nine licensed special education teachers, thus creating two-teacher teams in each of the designated subject areas.
Teams consist of Courtney Bennett (SE) and Charlotte Hillis (GE) in English 1; Marilyn Martin (SE) and Tia Medley (GE) in English II; Sallie Slatton (SE) and Shannon Priestley (GE) in English 111; Anita Moore (SE) and Melissa Paz (GE) in algebra 1; Lillian Stewart (SE) and Denise Hillis (GE) in algebra 1; Justin King (SE) and Doug Gandy (GE) in geometry; Alene Pedigo (SE) and Jimmy Walker (GE) in biology 1; Deborah Hutchins (SE) and George Smartt (GE) in physical science; and Teresa McCormick (SE) and Rebecca Holcomb (GE) in chemistry.
Being an inclusion program, students with disabilities and students without disabilities are taught together in the same classroom. The classes are taught by two teachers, both of whom assume responsibility for all students in the classroom and design lessons to accommodate individual learning styles.
The structure of the co-taught classroom provides increased opportunities for small groups and one on one instruction, but avoids the stigma of pull-out programming or the introduction of unnecessarily watered-down instruction. All students are exposed to full course content. However, some students receive additional help, accommodations or modifications as necessary.
Rebecca Leech, LA School teacher at Warren County High School, was selected to serve as a presenter at the conference. She shared ideas from her unique program including alternative scheduling, small group tutoring, coordination with general education classes and related services, and provision of multiple opportunities for credit recovery.
Leech stressed the importance of “outside the box” solutions to student obstacles.
“We work with students to establish their personal goals for education,” she said. “Then, we match them with current graduation standards to make sure they will meet what the state requires. That might include credit recovery or new credits.”
Leech says they work with the student’s schedule to meet those requirements.
“We work with the student’s schedule,” she said. “We have some that need to do work in the morning, or some can stay after school in the evening. Some come in the summer to do work.”
The program works, says Leech.
“We have been very successful in raising our graduation rates of students with education needs. I get calls from students in Motlow and other higher education programs thanking me and being grateful they did not give up on their education.”
Warren County Co-Teachers Program was selected to make a presentation at the LEAD Conference in Nashville at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year. Wilson says that invitation was also an honor and a reflection on the success of the program.
“It was a conference for all administration, including general education and special education,” she said. “We submitted the program and it was selected.”
Warren County High School principal Tony Cassel is happy with the programs.
“I’m please by the success of both programs,” he said. “I have found them to be very beneficial in helping students with special needs to meet graduation requirements.”