Special Education Services

  • General Guidelines

    • Special Education supplements core general education curriculum and instruction. It does not supplant general education instruction. Students have access to and make progress in achieving a standards-based curriculum
    • Special education instruction is integrated at each instructional tier. The intensity of instruction increases as it moves from Tier 1 to 3 (see callout).
    • Instruction is culturally relevant, differentiated, and aligned with general education standards.
    • Routine progress monitoring with quantitative data is a key to ensuring learning and providing timely feedback for decisions about when/how to adjust instruction.
    • Co-taught classes are general education classes. The general education and special education teachers share responsibilities for the learning of all students in the class. Co-teachers use a variety of approaches to accelerate learning, including team teaching, parallel teaching, stations, small-group, and one teach-one observe/assist. The priority areas for co-taught classes are literacy (reading and writing) and math.
    • Accommodations and modifications are implemented throughout all instruction. Information about the accommodations and modifications are shared with all teachers who support each student.
  • Early Childhood: Birth to 3

    • Family-guided, routines-based intervention in natural environments (surroundings that are familiar to young children, such as their home or daycare) through the Primary Service Provider model, targeting outcomes on the Individual Family Service Plan


    Early Childhood: Ages 3-5

    • Specialized interventions in community preschools, PreK and homes are embedded in typical daily routines.
    • ECSE (Early Childhood Special Education) classrooms and co-taught PreK classrooms provide access to Early Childhood Workshop.


    Elementary: Grade K-5

    • Special Education services are delivered through collaboration, co-teaching and small-group instruction both inside and outside the general education classroom.
    • Students with intensive learning needs are supported in the specialized Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Developmental Cognitive Disabilities (DCD), and Emotional Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) programs. These programs provide all three tiers of instruction adapted for the learners.


    Secondary: Grade 6 to Age 21

    • Special Education services are delivered through collaboration, co-teaching and small-group instruction in special education courses geared to reading, math and skills interventions.
    • To prepare students to be organized, set goals for learning, and become college and career ready, teachers integrate AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) strategies as the core curriculum in the Skills for High Readiness and Skills for Career and College Readiness Courses.
    • Students with intensive learning needs are supported in specialized ASD, DCD and EBD programs. These programs provide all three tiers of instruction adapted for the learners.
    • Students are prepared for their post-secondary options through instruction in the five areas of transition: Jobs/Job Skills, Postsecondary Education, Daily Living Skills, Recreation/Leisure Skills, and Community Participation. Work experience instruction is provided through STEPS (Specialized Transition Employment Planning Services) and Community Site-Based courses.


    In effective Special Education services, all educators:

    • engage in instructional collaboration. For example:
      • Plan for differentiated instruction for all content areas
      • Routinely assess and monitor student progress and use the data to adjust instruction
      • Reflect on the collaborative process and adjust teaching practices
    • scaffold and differentiate instruction with regard to content, process, and product
    • celebrate the cultural assets students bring to their studies and provide them voice and choice in how they express these assets
    • integrate the core components of effective English Language instruction for students who qualify for both Special Education and English Language services
    • develop meaningful daily lesson plans for all instruction that link the instructional tiers to students’ IEPs
    • provide visual supports through low-tech and high-tech strategies and verbal supports to make core content accessible
    • consciously facilitate greater student talk and less teacher talk
    • scaffold questions to facilitate deeper understanding to concepts and text.

  • Assessment

    • State Accountability Assessments: MCA or MTAS (Minnesota Test of Academic Skills, an alternate assessment for students with significant disabilities)
    • Initial evaluation and subsequent re-evaluations at least every three years to focus the annual IEP
    • Ongoing benchmarking and regular progress monitoring in literacy, math and IEP goals using district screening and progress monitoring tools, curriculum-based measures, and applicable instructional scales or checklists

  • Tiered Instruction

    Tiered instruction is an instructional support model for all students. Special Education instruction and supports fit into the tiered instruction model.

    • Tier 1 instruction (for all students) is the standards-based, general education core curriculum. Instruction is differentiated to increase access to a rigorous curriculum. 
    • Tier 2 instruction (includes most students with Individualized Education, or IEPs) provides a “second scoop” of instruction. Tier 2 instruction includes differentiating instruction through pre-teaching and re-teaching content to assure students make progress in the curriculum. 
    • Tier 3 instruction (provided for all students with IEPs) is a “third scoop” of instruction. It targets small group and individual instruction designed to meet the intensive learning needs identified on students’ IEPs.