Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Transforming Special Education in the Needham Schools

It’s time for us to transform special education in the Needham Public Schools.

After almost two years of surveys, focus groups, and a programmatic study of our special education services, Christine Brumbach, our Director of Student Development, tells me two things have become clear:

1. Needham teachers, administrators, and staff offer excellent programs and educational support for students with special education needs.
2. At the same time, we can become more efficient with our resources and offer even better services for special education and regular education students in each school throughout the district.

In order to become more efficient with limited resources and ensure all students are learning at high levels in an inclusive classroom environment we need to address these challenges:

• Develop an early intervening or Response to Intervention (RtI) model in each school that parents are aware of, teachers understand, and principals support.
• Provide professional development for regular and special education staff that reflects the district’s values and ensures collaboration and articulation between and among our teachers as they work to serve students with disabilities.
• Ensure vertical alignment and supervision of the district’s special education programs through a reorganization of the administrative structure and supports.
• Ensure a cohesive instructional model, including co-teaching and learning and skills centers, that meet students’ learning and developmental needs.
• Provide stronger transition planning from year to year and level to level to enable student growth and success.
• Support special educators, teacher assistants, and related service providers with a robust supervision program and opportunities to learn new skills.
• Stem the tide of out of district placements by examining the “breaking points” for existing in-district programs and by providing additional training and better supports for staff and families. Look for new program opportunities within our schools.
• Develop stronger, more trusting relationships with parents of special education students to ensure their children are well served and are growing and learning throughout their years in the Needham Public Schools.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we will need the support, encouragement, and assistance of parents and the community to get us there. But I am convinced we have the capacity and courage to bring an already strong special education program to the next level. Along the way, we welcome your suggestions, comments, and input.

Now, let’s get to work!

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