The goal of the Department of Special Education and Student Support Services is to have all special education students achieve in school at the highest possible level so that they can become productive adults. In order to achieve this we feel it is important for all special education students to be challenged in their academic program. School for general education students is not easy nor should it be easy for special education students. It is through the process of being challenged and succeeding that one discovers that hard work leads to success and that we can succeed when we try. It teaches us to try rather than to avoid.
We believe the success of students in school is achieved through a partnership between general education, special education and the parent. The parent plays a very important role in the student's life long success. The more involved parents are in the students' education the more successful a student is. The parent needs to insure that their child is doing what is required at home and coming to school. If we give the student the same message that school is important and that the only way they will achieve is through hard work we will be able to achieve our goal. However, if the message we give the student is that they have a disability and they do not have to work as hard or harder than the average student we will likely fail to reach our goal. Some of the ways parents can help a student learn, that education is important, is by checking students homework every night, setting aside time for students to do school work and study, ensuring they complete projects asking specific questions regarding school, attending parents night and school functions.
The placement of choice for special education students is the general education class with the appropriate supports and aides. We realize we need to provide a continuum of services so that students who cannot access the general education curriculum in a general education class are able to be given a program in a special education class. The special education class, however, should not be easier for the child. It should be challenging and push the child to achieve at the highest possible level. The special education class should expose the student to the general education curriculum and require the student to do homework and projects just like the general education class. The ultimate goal of the special education class is to have the student be able to return to the general education program for the subject or subjects for which they are receiving special education. This can only happen if we teach the child the general education curriculum and have the child learn that hard work and effort pays off. Students who have a disability are capable of learning, they however need to learn that they have to work harder than the average student in order to achieve at an average level. If we do not have students learn this lesson they will be not able to succeed in the general education program. Hard work does pay off.
Some special education students need modifications in the general education class in order to succeed. We need to further make sure that these modifications do not create a situation where we are teaching the student that they do not have to work hard. Modifications need to be based on need. If a student does not need a modification to succeed, it should not be part of their program. Modifications placed in IEP's need to be justified in the PLEP and based on actual identified weaknesses. Modifications need to be reviewed at each IEP meeting to determine if the student has used the modification, to what extent and with what success. If a modification is not used nor needed it should be removed. The purpose of a modification is not to eliminate requirements that a student is capable of meeting or to make school easier for a student. The goal is to have the student be able to benefit from education in the general education class.
Special education students need to learn that if they do not come to school on time, do their homework, study for tests, and are not prepared for school that they can fail a general education or a special education class. The special education department believes that a special education student who is trying their best should not fail a subject even if their grades are poor. Special education students need to be held accountable for their effort. If there is no effort they should not pass the class. It is important for parents of special education students to insure that their child is doing their homework, projects and coming to class prepared. If students choose not to do their work outside of class, those student will not e able to succeed in a general education or a special education class.
Special education students are required to take all state tests. No Child Left Behind requires all students to be able to pass statewide assessments by the school year. Students at a very young age need to learn how to prepare and take tests. We believe that all students need to try their best on every test given.
To summarize, the special education department believes that each student needs to reach their potential and the best way to do this, is through a program which challenges students to try their best and teaches the student that hard work pays off. We further believe this can only be accomplished through a partnership which includes general education, special education and parents.