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Sweeney-Taliaferro Bill to Expand Model Program for Students with Disabilities Now Law

TRENTON – A model school program for students with special needs would be expanded to 10 schools in each of the three regions of the state, under terms of legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro that was signed into law today by Governor Phil Murphy.

The law, S-2486/A-4264, would use the “Clayton Model,” developed in the Clayton School District in Gloucester County, as the blueprint for similar programs that promote the “social and emotional learning” of students with physical or developmental disabilities.

“This program has been successful in helping students with special needs get the support they need to attain a quality education and gain the living skills that will help them for their entire lives,” said Senator Sweeney. “It is a means of advancing their academic performance and life skills. The controlled expansion of the program will make this terrific model available to students throughout the state.”

“The Clayton Model is based on the idea that a student’s educational environment can influence his or her capacity to learn. A safe and supportive educational environment can make a real difference in the development of students,” said Assemblyman Taliaferro. “Parents, educators and caregivers can play a vital role in this process. “As we plan our recovery from the coronavirus crisis programs that help our children thrive will be even more important.”

The program uses Individualized Education Plans for the students and makes use of “tiered” support services, such as working in small groups and providing individualized counseling.

Many of the organizations responsible for the success of the program offered these comments:

Darren Spielman, executive director, Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs, Rutgers University-Camden:

“Over time, we have found that the positive impacts of the Clayton Model on the entire school community are wide ranging,” said Darren Spielman, executive director of Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs at Rutgers University-Camden. “Because it is a holistic, collaborative approach, beneficial outcomes from the Clayton Model go beyond the social development in students and improved academics and extend into the lives of families, caregivers, and the school’s culture.”

Lisa Twomey, special project coordinator, Clayton Public Schools:

“Social emotional health significantly impacts positive youth development and academic achievement,” said Lisa Twomey, special projects coordinator at Clayton Public Schools. “The Clayton Model provides students with the tools they need to learn in developmentally, contextually, and culturally appropriate ways, and supports a nurturing and safe school environment so that all students come to the classroom ready to learn and achieve.”

Nick Koutsogiannis, superintendent, Clayton Public Schools:

“I’m proud of the work that our teachers and administration have done to build a social emotional learning program that is inclusive, agile, and most importantly, empowers our students and families,” said Nick Koutsogiannis, superintendent of Clayton Public Schools. “The Clayton Model has changed the lives of many of our students and their families.”