Metro to launch Spectrum Academy high school in the fall (Nashville, Tenn.)
Source: The Tennessean
Date: June 17, 2010
Author: Natalia Mielczarek
June 17, 2010
Intervention school for troubled special ed students to open
By: Natalia Mielczarek
A handful of Metro Nashville special education students with severe behavioral problems will get a chance to learn in a new intervention program opening this fall.
Spectrum Academy will gather about 30 high school students for whom the traditional school setting has proven unsuccessful in advancing academically and socially.
All have a wide range of problems, from emotional disturbance to developmental disabilities.
“We know that with these students, we have gone through every other option,” said Linda DePriest, who oversees special education and other programs as Metro’s assistant superintendent.
“If we put all the support in place, and the student still has such intense needs, we look to this. It’s not the first resort. It’s a last resort. This is the most restrictive setup.”
The main goal of the program is to help students catch up academically — most are one to three years behind — and socially transition them back to their original high schools before graduation. All participants follow individualized lesson plans and will come recommended by teams of teachers.
The initiative is another example of Metro’s attempt to expand and improve its special education services. Earlier this year, the department launched a special education parent adviser council.
The changes stem from an unflattering 2008 audit in which the department was criticized for separating special education students from their peers. Its top administration has since been replaced.
Last year, more than 8,600 children in the school district, or 12.2 percent, were in special education, according to Tennessee Department of Education. Their disabilities cover a wide spectrum, from learning disorders to mental retardation.
Offering another avenue for kids who need more guidance is good news to Beth Urbanczyk, board certified behavior analyst who has consulted for Metro school district for years.
“It’s very much that we try to keep them in their school of zone if at all possible, but sometimes the high schools are just too big,” she said.
There are mental health issues going on that are complex, and there are family issues that are complex. Sometimes you do have to go to a place like Spectrum Academy to help stabilize the situation and figure out what’s going on.”
In addition to academics, students at Spectrum Academy will also learn from behavioral specialists how to cope with and overcome repetitive and sometimes severe behaviors or disrupting class — a desire to hit others or threaten them.
Some of the learning will happen on computers and some in small groups with as many as three adults in the room. The teacher-student ratio will be 1 to 12, with two assistants in the classroom.
Metro has hired Nashville-based Spectrum Center Schools and Programs to run the academy. The company has offered such services for more than three decades across the country. The five-year contract is for up to $9.2 million.
“What we want to do is get them back to a point where they can interact with their peers and go back to the normalcy of a regular school,” said Gail Debiec, Spectrum Center’s chief operating officer and a former special education teacher.
“The practices that we’re going to be using are ones that are evidence-based and research-supported. We really are a data-driven company, so we really make ongoing instructional decisions based upon the data.”
All hired teachers will be certified in special education, she said.
Category: News Coverage