Special Education Needs Policy
Created by DPC, Erik Brandt
Reviewed by Wendy Williams, lead Special Education teacher
In Minnesota, schools are required to serve eligible children from birth until the age of 21, or graduation from high school, whichever comes first. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special education means “Specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with disability.” Children who receive special education and related services are entitled to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). A student is typically referred into a Special Education program by a parent or guardian, the classroom teacher, any member of the school district (public or private), a judicial officer, or a student (18 years or older, or an emancipated minor). If the referral warrants Special Education services, s/he will receive an Individualized Education Program/Plan (IEP). An IEP is a legally binding contract detailing special education and related services to be provided for the student. By law, the IEP must be monitored in a collaborative process by a team that includes at least one parent, one general education teacher, the special education teacher, a district representative and the student.
*** some ideas and language here taken from Minnetonka Public Schools Special Education Services Handbook
- How is the philosophy of inclusion aligned with the school’s mission statement?
We feel that our school mission statement (below) embraces an inclusive spirit.
Harding High School Mission Statement
We, the community of Harding Senior High School, are committed to developing and challenging our students by:
- preparing each individual for life,
- creating active, inquiring, compassionate and knowledgeable life-long learners,
- shaping a better and more peaceful world through a sense of international-mindedness,
- welcoming and respecting all cultures, beliefs, opinions and differences, and
- fostering personal growth, self-respect and a positive school climate.
Harding is a world-class comprehensive International Baccalaureate school where we value earning a diploma and guiding students toward a post-secondary pathway. Whether it is academics or work, Harding prides itself on preparing students for their futures.
- How does the school define inclusive education? (For more information about IB programmes and inclusion please refer to Learning diversity and the IB Programmes: Special educational needs within the lnternational Baccalaureate programmes (2010).)
As part of the St. Paul Public Schools, Harding takes its cues regarding inclusivity and special education from the district leadership. The mission of the St. Paul Public Schools Specialized Services Program is:
“We are committed to reducing the disparity of our most marginalized students, primarily our African American males, by bringing inequity to the forefront. We will be achieving excellence through equity for all students with disabilities by providing access to culturally responsive curriculum, environment and instructional practices.”
- What expertise does the school have access to?
Harding High School has 30 educators dedicated to Special Education, 4 full-time Social Workers, 6 licensed Counselors and, coincidentally, our principal was once a Special Education teacher. These educators serve as our experts in the building.
- Who are the staff experts and/or consultants who work with students and/or guide teachers to work with students with learning support needs?
All Special Education students are “main-streamed” for most, if not all, of each day at Harding. They are in regular level classes along with non-Special Education students. There is an additional teacher assigned to each of these main-streamed classes - i.e., regular 10th grade English teacher + Special Education teacher working with a class of 30 students, 5 of whom receive SpEd services. These co-teachers guide the work and implementation of learning support needs.
- Is the school physically accessible? If not, is there a plan for creating accessibility?
Harding is an environment that is accessible to students with physical limitations.
- Who is responsible for notifying parents, students and teachers of testing results?
Each student who qualifies for Special Education has a case manager who monitors that student’s IEP and serves as the link between school and parents. The case manager would relay any testing results to the necessary parties.
The IB Diploma Program Coordinator is the one responsible for communicating results of DP exams.
- How does the school communicate its policies and procedures regarding confidential information? How is information held on students, is any of the information confidential, where should it be held and who should manage it? Who has access to student files?
Information about students is limited to Harding educators based on their credentials.
Counselors, Administrators, Social Workers and Special Education case managers are generally the ones who communicate, regulate and manage confidential information. They have special clearance that other educators do not. At times, the DP and MYP Coordinators do have access to some limited confidential information like Free/Reduced Lunch status.
- How are the needs of existing students being met?
We believe that with the combination of our co-teaching, the support classes for SpEd students and whole-child services we provide that we are meeting the needs of our existing students. A student’s IEP determines which special education classes are taken and what, if any, adaptations are required in other classes.
- How many students in the school have learning support/SEN needs?
284 students in grades 9 - 12 have learning support/SEN needs.
- How is the provision for inclusion/SEN structured, coordinated and monitored?
Through our Special Education Department.
- What is the policy review process? How does it ensure that the inclusion policy remains a work in progress, keeping up to date with the needs of the student population and in line with learning needs legislation as well as roles and responsibilities?
Harding’s Special Education lead teachers keep abreast of changes and developments at a national, state and district level and communicate those updates to their staff. The district lead Special Education coaches review all policies at least yearly.
Harding’s IB DP is an open-access program in which all students may participate. We currently have at least 35 Special Education students taking at least 1 DP class and 10 are taking at least 1 Accelerated (formerly Pre-IB) class.
Special Education students who take Accelerated or DP courses receive support from their case managers and/or Special Education resource teachers.
Whenever there are a significant number of Special Education students mainstreamed into a regular education class, a Special Education teacher is assigned to that class and the course is considered “co-taught.” Additionally, Special Education paraprofessionals are assigned to students who are mainstreamed into classes where there is no co-teacher. The Special Education department strives to balance the numbers of their students in all classes.
Teachers in St. Paul have been instructed in and do their best to incorporate best practices at all times--differentiation, valuing prior knowledge, scaffolding learning and working to prevent and overcome learning challenges.
Harding students may also participate in OJT (On the Job Training) wherein they learn and experience the skills and attitudes necessary for the successful employment, including, relating appropriately with co-worker and supervisors and performing to expected standards. Work site experiences may be paid or non-paid.
Note: Our 5-year Program Review evaluator suggested that we align this policy with our “Admissions policy,” which is impossible. We are a public school and are open to all students – therefore, we have no admissions policy to which we can align – and, as stated above, we are an open-access IB DP, so all students are welcome to take IB DP classes.
Additional note: the creation of this policy was a superfluous requirement for our school since we, like nearly all American public schools, have had an existing Special Education program for decades that has its own state and federal mandated guidelines and ways of operating. It is through this program that all Inclusion and SEN is communicated to the community.