School districts are required by federal law to help kids with disabilities transition from high school to the outside world. But getting that done effectively takes support from across the community, according to Karen Curry, a Stratford Comprehensive High School consulting special education teacher.
Curry said Monday that she sees that kind of support starting to grow in Nashville.
“It takes everybody. I think that, finally, we have everybody on board,” Curry said.
Metro Nashville Public Schools already has programs in place to help kids with disabilities move to work or school after high school graduation. But last year, members of Mayor Karl Dean’s Advisory Council on Special Education identified this as an area in need of improvement.
In response to the recommendations, a pilot program was developed to start at Stratford next year that will help high school kids make plans for the future. Stratford currently has almost 180 students with disabilities, about 100 of whom are expected to go on to additional schooling after they graduate. The pilot program at Stratford will be geared to help special education students with no plans for after high school.
The Stratford program was one of the areas of focus at Monday’s education summit, an annual initiative of the Mayor’s Office. Last year’s summit tackled truancy, and recommendations from participants led directly to the recent establishment of the new Metro Student Attendance Center. The summit this year focused entirely on transition services for students with disabilities.
Dean told summit participants that the Mayor’s Office can help the Stratford pilot program by facilitating connections between the students and the community, most immediately through the Mayor’s Office and Metro government.
“A pilot program like this, if it’s successful, can be used at all our high schools,” Dean said. “That should be something we’re able to do.”
After the summit, Dean said improvement of transition services can be part of the positive changes that are already taking place for Metro special education. He also pointed to the economic benefits of preparing students with disabilities to work and contribute to the community.
District-wide, 12 percent of Metro students receive special education services, according to Report Card information from the Tennessee Department of Education. Visit Nashville.gov/mocy/specialed for more information about recommendations from Dean’s Advisory Council on Special Education.