Each year, Alabama’s public schools release an adequate yearly progress report, better known as AYP.
It's part of the of requirements initiated under the no child left behind act, which requires every student in America to be on grade level in reading and math by the year 2014.
Last year, the Houston County School System did not make AYP because of special education. Now they are trying to bounce back.
Ashford Elementary, Ashford High School, Rehoboth Middle School, and Wicksburg High School all failed to meet the standards in special education. Students scored too low on tests like the Alabama Graduation Exam or the Alabama Alternate Assessment.
Because all schools did not reach AYP, the system didn't either.
"We formed a team, literally, immediately here at the central office, and just tried to figure out what is it that we can do better," says Assistant Special Education Coordinator, Denise Whitfield.
In addition, individual schools formed leadership teams and selected an AYP leader.
A new assessment program was also purchased. It features frequent benchmark testing for all students, not just special education.
"That makes all the difference in the world, and you can see it on paper. You can literally see a data chart where a child is mastering concepts or they're not. If they're not then you know you have to back up right then and re-teach,” says Whitfield.
And research shows children with special needs require a tremendous amount of repetition.
Now they are tackling that with a team approach using regular and special education teachers.
Whitfield says, "They're all working together to provide children with special needs additional opportunities for exposure to the material. We're exposing them, and then we're testing them. If they master it, great we move on. If not, then we have to go back.”
They are already seeing results. Whitfield says the graduation exam results are in for all students, and they look great.
"One school had 65% percent of tenth graders pass the grad exam. Are other schools had 50% percent of their 10th graders pass the grad exam. That's incredible. That tells us what we're doing is working."
School leaders will find out if they reached AYP for this year, sometime in late July or early August. If they didn't, the federal government could step in.