Posted in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Primer Series, Programs

Primer Series: An Introduction to Special Education

Special education is a vast and complex subject. It encompasses a host of factors regarding specific classifications of special needs and the process of identifying and qualifying those needs as well as the various approaches to instruction, specialized services, funding, and even legal issues. Because it is so complex a subject, we offer an introduction to it in this article, and we will build upon this groundwork in a series of articles about special education going forward—including insight about Colchester School District’s diverse special education program offerings.

Special education, at its essence, tailors instruction through a variety of measures to students with identified, explicitly defined disabilities. The variety of measures employed to accommodate students in special education can include alternative learning environments, individually tailored instruction, adaptive materials and equipment, modified curriculum, and so on.

Because special education is closely monitored at local and state levels, there are very specific parameters used to determine eligibility for its services, and it is important to understand that while special education applies to a student population with a far wider range of disabilities than many people typically realize, it is distinct from general education, and as such, it is not a program into which all students may enter for specialized instruction.

In the state of Vermont, there are defined categories of disability into which a student must be placed in order to be eligible to receive special education services—as well as equally defined procedures for evaluating and determining eligibility. In fact, to be eligible for special education in the state of Vermont, a student must have specifically defined disabilities in certain disability categories, such as autism; emotional disturbances; traumatic brain injuries; orthopedic challenges; and impairments in such areas as hearing, vision, learning, speech, and language.

In addition, the defined disability (or disabilities) must adversely affect a student’s ability to acquire knowledge to the extent that the student ranks below the fifteenth (15th) percentile on standardized assessments.

Furthermore, there must be an identified need for specialized instruction as defined by the state.

As a result of all of these distinct requirements and parameters, special education is not a loose designation, and it is not designed for students who may struggle with a particular subject matter a bit more than some of their classmates. The state is very particular in its classification of special education students, and Colchester School District’s special education offerings are governed by the state’s requirements.

As we mentioned earlier in this article, the topic of special education is complex, and we will continue the discussion in future articles. If you would like additional information in the meantime, however, you may find the Special Education Guide on the Vermont Department of Education’s website particularly helpful.

Stay tuned for more information about special education in future articles!

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