Improving Special Education
With the increased enrollment of students identified with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the resulting need for more specialized services, how will you ensure that the District complies with the requirement to provide appropriate services to these students while supporting overburdened general educators, special educators, and paraprofessionals? What improvements in special education should the District make so that it meets the needs of all students?
As a district, we are fully committed to meeting the educational and developmental needs of all 5,200 students. Nearly 16% have special learning needs that require additional specialized services. This is one of the highest in the mid-State.
The solutions largely come down to having enough qualified teachers, and the funding for the additional services and support staff these students require. Special education funding from the state has largely flatlined over the past decade, yet it is one of the fastest growing areas of our budget.
Despite this, Carlisle has done remarkably well in managing our special education programs with limited resources.
Here’s what we can do to address the needs of all our students, particularly those with special needs:
1. We must actively involve Parents—teachers can’t do it alone.
2. We must have the right staff—qualified and trained in special education. This includes behavioral support and learning support, particularly in reading and math, to focus on critical skills sets. The district is currently piloting intervention groups for k-1 math instruction and already has intervention groups for K-5 Language Arts. We must evaluate these programs and apply lessons learned to future improvements.
3. To help classroom teachers, we have to provide on-going professional development so they have the skills and confidence to integrate them into the classroom while maintaining high academic standards for the whole class.
We know these strategies work and our students benefit from a school board that invests in them.