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Disabled program falling behind

Sedona Red Rock News of Sedona, Arizona

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According to Sedona-Oak Creek School District Director of Student Support Services Michael Remus, over 60 percent of the district's students identified with disabilities are not proficient according to state literacy standards.

"Lack of effective reading instruction in both the general education and special education classrooms is causing students with specific learning disabilities and speech or language impairment eligibility to perform well below their peers on AIMS Reading Assessments," Remus explained during the SOCSD Governing Board meeting Monday, Oct. 2. "This is due to a lack of ongoing quality professional development, consistent and focused collaboration between general education and special education staff."

As a result of the situation, Remus announced that the district will take part in the Arizona Department of Education's Examining Data for Improving Student Achievement initiative. According to Remus, in addition to being selected by the state due to the district's "scores on state assessment for students with disabilities" and a "risk analysis indicator profile," West Sedona School Principal Scott Keller requested to be part of the initiative in order to improve student outcomes.

"The federal level is moving from compliance of checking files to results-driven accountability," Remus stated in his presentation materials to the board. "Rather than coming in and looking at files we will self-monitor with the state checking our work. The primary outcome is to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. We must close the gap between typical peers and students identified with disabilities."

Remus said that though most students with mild disabilities have an IQ level on par with their non-disabled peers, a disability presents different demands on teachers. The first year of the five-year process of the Examining Data for Improving Student Achievement initiative will help the district identify these demands and form "a problem statement and actionable cause to close the identified gap with the focus" reading and general literacy.

"This makes us more accountable," Remus concluded.

SOCSD Director of Student Services Mark Cunningham delivered an presentation on the current state of English Language Learners in the district, focusing the board's attention on

Arizona Revised Statutes §15-757: English Language Education for Children in Public Schools:

"The Arizona State Board of Education is charged with developing and adopting research-based models of structured English immersion programs to be used in school districts and charter schools in Arizona," Cunningham stated in his presentation materials. "Arizona Revised Statutes §15-756.01 requires that the models include a minimum of four hours per day of English language development for the first year in which a pupil is classified as an English Language Learner."

Cunningham urged the board to be aware that district teachers are required to show proof that they are following both the "letter and spirit" of the law, ensuring that English language learners are receiving the allotted amount of time of English language instruction.

Currently, WSS has the most first-year English language learners, with three classes dedicated to the mandated four hours of daily language instruction.

Zachary Jernigan can be reached at 282-7795 ext. 125 or "We must close the gap between typical peers and students identified with disabilities."

Michael Remus

Sedona-Oak Creek School District Director of Student Support Services

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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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