What is Special Education?
Special education is the instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. It is provided at no cost to the parents and it is provided in the least restrictive environment that can meet the individual student's needs. Prior to special education, the school district attempts to meet the student's needs and address deficits through interventions and accommodations provided in the regular education classroom.
In order to qualify for special education, a student must meet two criteria.
- The student must meet the criteria for one or more of the 13 disability categories defined by federal law.
- The student must show a need for special education services.
To identify students who may be eligible for special education, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities may include hearing, vision, physical, and speech/language screening; a review of group-based data (cumulative academic records, ability, and achievement test scores, enrollment records, report cards, and health records); and a review by the building-level team.
When screening results suggest that a student may need special education services, Plum Borough School District (PBSD) will, with parental consent, conduct an evaluation to determine whether or not a student meets the two criteria described above. Data collected for the evaluation include input from parents, teachers, and other school staff who interact with the student. It includes observations of the student and rating scales, when necessary. These rating scales may explore behavior, emotional/mental health, adaptive behavior, and executive functioning. Typically, a school psychologist completes individual cognitive and academic achievement testing, as well. Finally, other professionals' expertise may be necessary to explore vision, hearing, or motor concerns. All of this information is documented and interpreted in an evaluation report (ER), which is provided to parents. Based on data collected, a determination is made regarding whether or not the student meets the two criteria necessary to receive special education services.
If the student qualifies for special education services, a meeting will be held to develop the student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The parent is a member of the IEP team and is involved in all decisions regarding the child's education. The parent must provide signed consent before the district has permission to implement the IEP.
The extent of special education services and the location for the delivery of those services are determined by the IEP team and based on students’ identified needs and abilities. Consideration also is given to the student’s chronological age and level of intensity of the specified intervention. The district provides supplementary aids and services, such as transportation, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, as necessary for the student to benefit from the special education program.