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TUSD makes changes in special education

POSTED July 6, 2010 11:25 p.m.

Two big changes are working their way into the special education department in the Turlock Unified School District starting with the 2010/2011 school year in an effort to better meet the needs of the students.

“We do annual reviews and make changes to programs based on the needs of the students,” said Lacrisha Ferriera, TUSD assistant superintendent for educational services. “Nothing is broken. We are being more efficient with our students and our services.”

One of the changes was implemented last year at Dennis Earl Elementary School and proved to be successful, Ferriera said. Administrators implemented the “push in” model for students in special education to keep them in the classroom and still assist them with their needs.

The “push in” model allows students to stay in their day to day classes instead of being pulled out of class every day for resource assistance, Ferriera said. Resource teachers and paraprofessionals will go into the classrooms and work with their students while they keep up with the day to day curriculum.

“They won’t be missing class time to be pulled out for resource time,” Ferriera said.

With this model students still get the same material taught in the classroom but there will be paraprofessionals or resource teachers in the classroom to assist them.

“(The teachers) will have the opportunity to tighten up collaboration with a team approach,” Ferriera said. “They will be doing this together.”

Students will have the time to work with their paraprofessionals or resource teachers individually or in a group during activity time between teacher instruction.

“It is a win-win situation,” Ferriera said.

The other change that will start to be implemented this upcoming school year is TUSD’s Response to Instruction and Intervention. It is a federal initiative that is new to California.

“It is one way for districts to identify, diagnose and support special education kids,” she said.

The new model makes sure that each school district has helped each student with their educational needs and done everything they could do before diagnosing them as a student that needs to be placed in special education, Ferriera said.

TUSD’s Response to Instruction and Intervention Chart gives the district a road map on how to diagnose students and what steps to take to help them better succeed.

Their chart starts with Tier 1: Universal Instruction that ensures each student receives district adopted curriculum, differentiated instruction and appropriate research-based strategies along with regular progress monitoring by the classroom teachers.

If students have trouble with the Universal Instruction, then administrators use the Tier 2: Targeted Interventions with the specific student. It focuses on classroom-based interventions for students who fall within the far below basic, below basic and basic levels. Those students will be organized into strategic intervention groups and receive frequent progress monitoring. If that student’s learning gap increases, then the assistant principal at the school site will schedule a cooperative review meeting to make sure the student has received appropriate differentiated instruction, research-based strategies, at least three classroom-based interventions, frequent progress monitoring and at least two parent/guardian contacts.

If the student is still struggling in school, administrators will provide intensive interventions with a student study team. The student study team will review the student’s response to instruction/interventions, student history, student interview, parent letter/survey and the impact of extrinsic factors like attendance, language skills, home environment, etc. The team will then put together an action plan listing the areas of difficulty, specific plan, person responsible, completion date and the outcome date.

This is the specific chart for TUSD after the federal initiative was made to help school districts better identify students in need of special education.

This initiative will take years to be fully implemented in the TUSD. The district is “going slow to go fast,” Ferriera said.

Both changes are the district’s effort to keep up with the needs of the students, she said.

“We want to stay current,” Ferriera said. “We are paying attention to what’s going on in the world and what’s working.”

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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