Ipswich Special Education Programs
Special education services in the Ipswich Public Schools are grounded in guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), as well as federal guidelines. The essentials of this guidance include the provision of a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) with the following pillars of learning:
- exposure to high quality curricula for all students,
- education in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) possible given a student’s needs
- service delivery based on the individual needs of the student, as determined by the IEP team
For the majority of students found eligible for special education services, specialized instruction takes place either through provision of services within the classroom setting, or in small group or individual tutorials that offer the specialized instruction necessary to generalize skills into the classroom setting and beyond. According to state and federal guidance, students participate in “full inclusion” programs if they spend less than 21% of their time outside the general education setting. Guidelines are clear that the same high quality instruction available to students without disabilities should be available to special education students. Supporting this belief is the requirement that the student’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP) include a statement for Nonparticipation Justification, meaning that the IEP Team is required to examine and document reasons why removal is considered critical to the student’s program.
At present, there are no stand-alone, self-contained programs at the elementary level in the Ipswich Public Schools. Special education students successfully receive instruction in the general education classroom with a variety of supports. This does not mean a lesser degree of support for special education students than would be required in a self-contained program. To the contrary, providing the necessary specialized instruction, educational scaffolding, and non-discriminatory accommodations, involves skilled interventions and a large investment of professional time. Special education students may receive support in the classroom from co-teaching special education teachers, special education Teaching Assistants, and/or Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT’s). Not all special students receive the same level of support and there is no “one size fits all” model. The specific services that each student receives in the classroom are detailed in the student’s IEP, which serves as a blueprint for services.
Students at the middle and high school level who present with more intense level of needs including cognitive, behavioral, or social emotional needs, might be considered for support through the respective Students Achieving Independent Living (SAIL) programs at each level. This is a functional living /educational program that includes support in communication skills and social pragmatics, daily and community living , pre-vocational skills, and functional academics. Students in the SAIL program receive support from the program, benefit from “reverse inclusion” where peer mentors are part of their classroom, and also are integrated in the inclusion setting, depending on their level of functioning. A Young Adults Community/Career Home Management Training Academy is also available for students remaining at the high school through age 22.
Students with severe needs at any level who, based on Team determination, are unable to receive support within the District may be considered for alternative placement. This is a Team determination.