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68.42% of Estacada High students with disabilities graduated in the 2018-19 year, up from 37.5% the previous year

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Estacada School District's move to inclusive practices has led to increased numbers of educational assistants helping both students with disabilities and general education students.

Estacada School District leaders attribute increased collaboration between educators as one factor in the rise of graduation rates for students with disabilities.

"Learning specialists spending more time with their gen ed peers has given them a better insight into the learning targets and scope and sequence of the gen ed curriculum," said Jason Hobson, director of student services for the Estacada School District, also noting that the move to inclusive practices has led to students with disabilities spending more time in general education classrooms.

At Estacada High School, 68.42% of students with disabilities graduated in the 2018-19 school year, up from 37.5% the previous year, according to data from the Oregon Department of Education. Historically, graduation rates for students with disabilities in the Estacada School District have fluctuated, and at Estacada High School, the rate has been between 37% and 80% since 2014.

Particularly in smaller school districts like Estacada, lower percentages of students can lead to varying numbers like this. Across the district, approximately 18% of those enrolled are students with disabilities.

"It's important in our district that we keep in mind each and every student, each and every day, because of the number of students we have in our district," Hobson said.

He added that he's happy to see the growth in graduation rates for students with disabilities since the previous school year.

"We're closing that gap between (general) graduation rates and students with disability graduation rates," he said.

One reason for the rise in graduation rates among disabled students, Hobson said, is the Estacada School District's focus on inclusive practices, which began several years ago. Through the program, special education students and those with behavioral concerns are spending more time in general education classrooms rather than self-contained classes or outside placements.

"(It's) aligning our special education services to be more in line with content and curriculum (that) the high school has implemented," Hobson said.

The amount of time each individual served by student services spends in general education classrooms depends on their specific needs. For example, a student might stay in class for the first 20 minutes of the period to receive instruction and practice the work one-on-one or in a small

group with an educational assistant.

"These are all decisions that are made by a team, including especially at the high school level, the student, parents and guardians, classroom teachers and learning specialists," Hobson said.

Since the district's move to inclusive practices, six additional educational assistants have been hired to support students in classrooms, bringing the total number to 42.

Students with disabilities at Estacada High School have also benefited from tutoring, freshman coaches and a class period called "Ranger Time," during which all students

can seek out academic assistance.

Hobson is optimistic that these factors will continue to guide students to graduation day.

"I would anticipate our students with disabilities' graduation rates to be even at a steeper climb (in years to come)," he said.


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