UNIONTOWN -- USD 235 has a new plan in place as it strives to help meet the educational needs of all students in the district.
During its regular meeting on Monday, the USD 235 Board of Education approved the district's Assurances and Intervention Plan, which outlines when and how district officials need to intervene in the process of educating students.
"It (the document) is based on practices that our district uses to provide the best interventions for students' needs," USD 235 Superintendent Randy Rockhold said. "We did not previously have a document that clearly defined our academic intervention process. It details how we go about screening if a need comes up, how we intervene in the general education process, and how to set up interventions."
Screening is the first step in the district's process of identifying exceptional children. Screening procedures consider all children in a given population in order to locate those students who may be in need of special education services. Because all children are screened, prior written consent from parents is not required, a district statement said.
Rockhold said he and other school officials take several measures to ensure that educational needs for all students are met, and to identify and help students who require special education services.
"Before we develop a special ed IEP (Individualized Education Plan), we make every intervention possible, we get student and parent referrals, we look at achievement tests," Rockhold said. "We look at all adaptations we're making for kids. If something's not working, we'll use multi-dimensional steps to ensure student needs are being met."
An IEP is mandated by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires all public schools to develop a written plan for every student with a disability who is found to meet federal and state requirements for special education. The IEP provides the child with a free public education. An IEP team typically consisting of teachers, parents and other school officials work together to design the child's education plan, which may include special instruction and other services.
Rockhold said the district's goal, through use of the Assurances and Intervention Plan, is to "create a culture of continual improvement," and to use the proper academic interventions for students who require special needs.
"It is our goal that every student reaches their individual potential," he said. "We plan to make every effort to effectively communicate, adequately document, and use appropriate interventions and adaptations when needed. Despite these efforts, there are some instances when our general and ongoing interventions are not adequate. In these cases, an exceptionality likely exists and we will pursue avenues of assistance beyond our typical student intervention practices."
USD 235 has designed a set of systematic procedures to screen all school-aged children for learning assets or deficits that may require special education services. Screening procedures include vision and hearing screening, and an age-appropriate developmental instrument or screening procedure designed to identify those children with possible delays. Instruments or procedures may include teacher and parent referrals or self-referral by students; a behavior checklist; group achievement tests; adaptive behavior observations; teacher and parent observations; or any other techniques developed locally by multidisciplinary efforts, according to district documents.
If a student is not making progress in the school's general education curriculum after being screened, the student may then be referred to an intervention team consisting of teachers, parents, counselors, psychologists, principals, and special education staff. The goal of the team is to improve student success in the classroom using the least restrictive environment; a process done through problem solving and developing a strategic education plan for the student.
"We simply want the needs of our students to be met, but we want our students in a learning environment that is least restrictive, but still effective," Rockhold said. "We believe that most needs can be met through a problem-solving process which looks at the student's instruction, curriculum, environment, and individual skills. We use the data from these indicators to develop the student improvement plan of strategies targeted at the areas of concern. We rely on parents, students, teachers, aides, counselors, principals, and school psychologists acting as a team to accomplish each student's academic and social goals. We also depend on outside resources, agencies, and support systems when our local resources aren't adequate or capable of meeting the needs identified."