GCS Improving Education for Students with Disabilities

Guilford County Schools Exceptional Children staff presented a comprehensive plan to improve the educational experience for all students served by the department. Executive Director of Exceptional Children Dr. Alicia Tate reviewed the plan during the Aug. 28 Board of Education meeting.

The Department of Exceptional Children works with students who need specialized education services, as well as students who need accommodations via the American’s With Disabilities Act (Section 504) and students in general education who require homebound services. Across GCS, the department’s 1,400 employees serve 10,687 students.

"Currently 15 percent of Guilford County students are identified as having a disability,” said Tate. “Therefore, improving the outcomes for these students is directly related to improving overall outcomes for GCS.”

Tate joined GCS in July 2013 and immediately saw the need for a comprehensive plan to set department goals and a timeline to achieve those goals. Over the 2013-14 school year, department staff reviewed practices and achievement data, then reached out to a number of key focus groups to hear concerns and ideas and seek input.

Focus groups included Exceptional Children staff, parent groups, the EC Parent Advisory Committee, community partners and institutes of higher education. In addition, staff, school-based administrators, parents and members of the community responded to surveys about the department and student needs.

The plan will roll out over three years, starting with the 2014-15 school year, and has four main priority areas:

  • Priority Area A:  Increase the percentage of students with disabilities meeting annual growth measures.
  • Priority Area B:  Build capacity of school-based staff to provide effective instruction and supports for students with disabilities.
  • Priority Area C:  Increase effectiveness of internal (GCS, EC department) and external (parents, families and community) collaboration/communication.
  • Priority Area D:  Assure compliance to policies governing services for students with disabilities.

The plan also includes comprehensive professional development opportunities for teachers, teacher assistants, general educators, principals, assistant principals, EC support staff and parents.