By Matthew Sockol
FREEHOLD – The Freehold Borough K-8 School District is seeking assistance from a special education consultant in order to address an achievement gap that has been identified between general education pupils and pupils who receive special education instruction.
The Freehold Intermediate School, where students in grades six through eight are educated, has been identified as a focus school by the New Jersey Department of Education.
A focus school, according to the department, is an institution that has the overall lowest performing subgroup of students, a graduation rate below 75 percent, and/or the widest gaps in achievement between different subgroups of students.
According to Superintendent of Schools Rocco Tomazic, the Freehold Intermediate School was identified as a focus school in 2012 because of an achievement gap between black pupils and white pupils, and an achievement gap between general education pupils and pupils who receive special education instruction.
He said the achievement gap between black pupils and white pupils has been closed to the point where it is no longer an issue, but the gap between general education pupils and pupils who receive special education instruction persists.
On Sept. 12, the Board of Education awarded a bid to the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education Inc. (NJCIE) to serve as the special education consultant for the Freehold Intermediate School. The bid was in the amount of $1,450 in daily expenses for 30 days, a total cost of $43,500.
According to the board’s agenda, the purpose of the middle school special education consultant is to provide staff members with coaching, training and consultation services necessary to support the achievements of all students.
As stated on its website, the NJCIE offers services to school staff members that are intended to provide them with the skills needed to teach in classrooms where general education pupils and pupils who receive special education instruction learn together.
To further address the achievement gap, the Freehold Intermediate School has a school improvement plan overseen by the state through the Department of Education’s Regional Achievement Center (RAC).
According to Tomazic, the RAC monitors the school, reviews plans and analyzes data during the year, and conducts regular walk-throughs of the building.
Representatives of the NJCIE are expected to visit the Freehold Intermediate School later in September, according to district administrators.