Friday, November 16th, 2007

Special Education

Consistent with public school districts across the nation, Madison School District provides special education services to qualifying students from preschool through Grade 8. Special education services are mandated by the federal government and the services are considered a student's right, not just a privilege.

In providing special education services in public schools, school districts are mindful of federal laws and regulations mandating that districts must:

  • Provide a continuum of services for special education students with programs for students ranging from age 3 through grade 8;
  • Meet the requirements for delivering services to each individual special education student in the least restrictive environment (LRE);
  • Assure that the special education services for each qualifying student follow the individualized educational plan (IEP).

Preschool Screening for Special Needs

Preschool screening for special needs students occur year round through inquiry at the school or district level. Appointments are confirmed with parent/child for initial assessment and possible extensive follow-up evaluation. Students who qualify for special education services can access individualized plans for therapy, training and modifications to the regular curriculum as early as their third birthday.

Testing for Special Needs

Evaluation of a student in grades K-8 usually follows a series of team meetings about various classroom interventions and the student's continued difficulty in learning despite teacher efforts in using a variety of methods and materials. A full special education assessment occurs only after conference with the school team and the parents with signed parental permission to gather further information about the student's strengths and challenges. Following a full battery of tests over several weeks, the school team and parents reconvene in a meeting to review the results. The information is used to assist the school team in designing optimal learning experiences for the student. Before special education services begin for the student, the school team and the parents sign off on an agreed upon individualized educational plan (IEP) for the period of one year with quarterly progress reports to monitor student progress toward meeting the goals of the plan--the IEP.

Special Education Service Delivery Models

Special education services are provided through several different delivery models:

Consultation is a form of special education in which a speech therapist or other special service provider offers suggestions and strategies to the regular education homeroom teacher to maximize a student's success while the student remains in a typical, regular education classroom.

Resource services are provided through the school's special education resource teacher in which a student may receive services within the regular classroom through the special ed teacher working with the student and perhaps a small group of other students. A student qualifying for resource services may also receive math or language arts instruction in a smaller classroom setting other than the homeroom, with the special ed teacher delivering the instruction to the student and other students of similar needs often on a daily basis.

Self-contained services are appropriate when a student may require more intensive interventions to be successful in reaching IEP goals. In a self-contained setting, the student remains with the special education teacher for a majority of academic instruction and usually joins typical peers in special subject areas such as: art, music, physical education and library as well as lunchtime.

Private placement services provide the highest level of therapeutic and technical interventions for students unable to be served within one of the three service delivery models described above. The district contracts with these highly specialized providers on an as-needed basis typically serving less than 5% of the district's special education population (which is less than one-half of 1% of the total district student population).