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School system focusing on special education

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By Trena Packer Streetschoolslogo
When classes officially start for Collierville Schools on Aug. 4, it will be the result of many hours of review, planning and study of pre-requisites and resources to ensure the curriculum and services provided are exceptional.
“In Collierville Schools, we are fortunate to have started out with a good system. Our priority is to keep as close to the same as possible, with minimum changes,” Superintendent John Aitken said.
A key area of interest within Collierville Schools is Special Education, programs designed for students with a disability.
“To benefit from curriculum, some students may need specialized instruction or services to meet their educational needs as recognized by the state of Tennessee.” Joyce Keohane, supervisor of the Department of Exceptional Children for Collierville Schools said.
Collierville currently has around 50 special education teachers, including APEX, a program for gifted students. Levels of support may vary by student as some students may need specialized instruction, or the more challenged might spend more time in a SPED environment with intensive support.
Special Education for exceptional learners is available in all eight Collierville Schools. Programs are determined for students from the age of three to the year they turn 22 by an Individualized Education Program team.
“Collierville has a rich history of specialized programs for students with a disability,” Louise Claney, director of Curriculum and Accountability for Collierville Schools said. “We are focusing on specialized programs for students with a disability and we always strive to meet their needs. It is important for these children to maintain contact with their teachers. We know that, so there have been very few changes in SPED in our Collierville Schools staff.”
The Tennessee Department of Education website offers a link on special education that sets standards and guidelines for special education for exceptional learners.
“When a student with a disability comes to us, we not only rely on information from the parents, we readily monitor the progress or ‘RTI-response to intervention and instruction’ for the students who might have a learning disability. Data is collected weekly, recorded, and analyzed so we can monitor their progress and better determine the level of ability and needed instruction to meet and go beyond the State standards,” Mrs. Keohane said.
Keohane, who has 37 years of experience in the field, said special educators need special education degrees, and some are now adding coursework on behavioral interventions and reading specialist certifications.
Collierville Schools has three staff members in the special education department who also have strong backgrounds in behavior consultation and analysis.
With the direction of Keohane and Claney, the program for exceptional leaners in Collierville Schools is updated and reviewed often, with assistance of parents, teachers and Collierville Schools Central Office staff working together to form a council to collaboratively create the best program possible.
“As teachers, we often asked ourselves, ‘When special education students leave us, what will they be able to do?’ We work to allow them to be as independent as possible and career-ready to do what their exceptional learning ability allows,” Keohane concluded.
For more information on Collierville Schools, go to colliervilleschools.org or call 901-861-7000.

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