Ellington Public Schools provide a free, appropriate public education for each preschool and school-aged child requiring special education and related services. The district provides each child requiring special education and related services with a program appropriate to the child's needs as set forth in an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Ellington Public Schools have established procedures for developing, implementing, reviewing, maintaining, and evaluating IEP's for each child requiring special education and related services. The IEP is based on the diagnostic findings and the educational progress of the child. Changes in a child's IEP can only occur through recommendations made at a PPT meeting based upon the current IEP and information relating to the child's current educational performance. An IEP shall be in effect at the beginning of each school year for every child with a disability who requires special education services. Before any student with disabilities is initially placed in a special education program, a full individual evaluation of the child's educational needs is conducted by the Ellington Public Schools.
Child Identification Procedures
In accordance with federal regulations, state statutes, and local board of education policy, Ellington Public Schools assume responsibility for the location, identification, and referral of all children requiring special education and/or related services from birth through age 21. The district's child identification process is coordinated by the Ellington Special Services Department, which utilizes a variety of community resources and conducts many systematic activities in its effort to identify children requiring special services. A standard referral form is used to document all referrals.
Birth to Three Component
The school district works in collaboration with the statewide Birth to Three system to ensure the identification of children ages birth to three with disabilities. Parents and referring parties should call 1-800-505-7000 to initiate entry into this system. Children are referred to the Birth to Three system by a variety of sources, including parents, hospitals, pediatricians, nursing services, social services, and school staff. Children identified as being in need of services are referred to community agencies. Programs and services are provided in accordance with the eligibility standards and service options currently available through the Birth to Three system. The school district maintains a record of the children with disabilities for whom special education and related services will likely be required upon entry into school at age three.
Pre-referral Process and Scientific Research-based Interventions
As a result of changes in federal law, Ellington Public Schools are transitioning from a Student Assistance Team model of student support to implementation of Scientific Research-based Interventions (SRBI). SRBI are a way to provide support and instruction to children who are struggling to learn. A child’s progress is studied and findings are used to make decisions about teaching and other learning supports.
SRBI are most commonly used in addressing needs in the areas of reading, math, and behavior. A “continuum of support” is developed by school districts and programs to meet the needs of the children they serve. The SRBI framework has three “tiers.” Each tier provides differing kinds and degrees of support.
Federal and state regulations require that alternative strategies be implemented prior to referral for special education.
A student will not be referred to the PPT unless the pre-referral or alternative strategies process has been completed. This process ensures that strategies in the general education classroom have been developed, implemented, and evaluated. Parents are encouraged to contact a teacher, pupil personnel staff, or other school official to discuss their concerns before making a referral. If it is determined that all reasonable strategies have been attempted without significant progress toward meeting the student’s needs, then a referral to the PPT should be made.
Planning and Placement Team Procedures
The Ellington School district complies with all state and federal regulations concerning the PPT process. Planning and Placement Team meetings are initiated and conducted for the purpose of developing, reviewing, and revising the IEP for a student with disabilities. The Planning and Placement Team meets to determine assessments necessary for an evaluation to address eligibility for special education and to design the IEP, if required. Written parental consent is required prior to conducting a pre-placement evaluation. This consent allows for subsequent reevaluations with parent notice rather than written consent. Thus, this consent is obtained even if independent evaluations are the primary source of assessment data. Parents of students receiving special education must receive written notice five school days prior to any reevaluation.
Evaluation Content and Procedural Safeguards
The evaluation study includes reports concerning educational progress, structured observation, and such psychological, medical, developmental, and social evaluation as may be appropriate to determine the nature and scope of the child's exceptionality. The evaluation study shall document all sources of information
Each student receiving special education and related services is reevaluated at least once every three years. A reevaluation can also be conducted upon request of the parent(s) or personnel working with the student. The reevaluation is designed and conducted by a multi-disciplinary team using procedures consistent with the pre-placement evaluation.
Parents have the right to obtain an independent evaluation, the results of which shall be considered by a planning and placement team, board of education, or hearing board. If parents disagree with a school district's evaluation, they may request that an independent evaluation be done at the school district's expense. If the school district refuses to assume the cost, due process procedures must be initiated to determine the appropriateness of the school district's evaluation. If the hearing officer finds the school district's evaluation to be appropriate, the parents shall assume the cost. If it is found to be inappropriate, the district shall assume the cost. When the cost is assumed by the school district, the criteria under which the evaluation is obtained, including the location of the evaluation and qualifications of the examiner, shall be the same as the criteria which the school district uses when it initiates an evaluation. If a hearing officer requests an independent evaluation, it shall be provided at public expense. The school district is responsible for providing parents with information about where an independent education evaluation may be obtained. Parents may obtain an independent evaluation at private expense. This evaluation must be considered in any decision and may be presented as evidence at a hearing.
Screening of Transfer Students
The principal or designee of each building is responsible for reviewing the records of any new student transferring from another school system. If the records indicate that the student has been identified as a student with disabilities and that appropriate educational programming for the student includes special education and related services, the student is immediately enrolled in a program that provides the appropriate special education and related services. If IEP modifications are necessary, a Planning and Placement Team meeting is held at the earliest possible opportunity.
Screening of Gifted and Talented Students
As part of the district’s identification procedures, children who may be gifted or talented will be reviewed through the Planning and Placement Team referral process. Based on school records and other additional information, the Planning and Placement Team will review and determine whether a child can be identified as gifted or talented.
Attendance, Disciplinary, or Suspension Review
Excessive absences are reviewed periodically by the building principal or designee as outlined in the district’s truancy policy #5115.1 and in accordance with state statutes (C.G.S. 46b-149). Students whose attendance is of concern are referred to the Student Assistance Team (SAT) for further investigation and assistance. If the SAT team suspects that a student may have a disability, the team must make a referral to the Planning and Placement Team (PPT). A disciplinary record review is conducted by the building principal or designee on a periodic basis. Students with excessive disciplinary citations should be referred to the SAT. Strategies may be developed to assist the student, or a referral to the PPT can be made if the team suspects a disability exists. The number of suspensions a student receives is monitored. If a student receives repeated suspensions within one academic year, the SAT team should review the situation and develop strategies to assist the student. Immediate referral to the PPT can be made if the team suspects a disability.
Written Prior Notice
Requirements for written prior notice are found in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA Part-B) at Section 300.504 and in Connecticut Regulations C. G. S. 10-76d-8. Written prior notice is a basic element of the procedural safeguards regarding special education. Parents must be notified in writing of any proposal or refusal to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the child. Written prior notice is provided after the decision of the Planning and Placement Team (PPT) is made, and before the recommended actions are implemented. Written prior notice must be given five school days before implementing the actions. Minutes of a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting can satisfy the written prior notice requirements.
Written parental consent must be secured before: pre-placement evaluation of a child; initial placement of a child into special education and related services; or placement of a child in a private setting. Once written consent is secured, it is valid for reevaluation and/or changes in program or placement; however, written prior notice must be given to the parents before reevaluation or changes. Parental consent is valid until the parent revokes consent.
Parent Involvement in the Planning and Placement Team (PPT) and Individualized Education Program (IEP) Process
Parents must be invited to all PPT meetings. The district makes an active attempt to involve parents in PPT meetings and in IEP development. The district records attempts to arrange a mutually convenient time and place for PPT/IEP meetings including: records of phone calls attempted and the results of those calls; copies of correspondence and any responses received; and records of visits to parents’ home or place of employment and results of those visits.
Parents must be invited to IEP meetings at least five school days prior to the meeting. The notice of PPT/IEP meetings must indicate its purpose, time, location, and participants. The notice states that parents are given the opportunity to bring other individuals with them to the IEP meeting. The parent invitation letter must indicate that PPT/IEP meetings will be held at a mutually convenient time and place.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) Procedures
The Planning and Placement Team (PPT) has the primary responsibility for determining if a child referred to the PPT is a child with disabilities that impact his/her education to such an extent that she/he requires special education services. Federal and state regulations mandate informed written consent from a parent or guardian prior to the initial evaluation, initial placement of their child in a special education program, or for a private placement.
Educational placements are made according to the requirements in the IEP of any child requiring special education and related services. Such services are reviewed annually. District special education programs are available to eligible students. In selecting a program, consideration is given to any potentially harmful effect on the child or on the quality of services the child needs. Each child with a disability, including students placed in separate facilities, participates with nondisabled children in non-academic and extra-curricular services and activities, including meals and recess periods, to the maximum extent appropriate. Students with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with their peers in regular education environments to the maximum extent appropriate. Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of disabled children from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. Extended school year services are available for consideration by a PPT for all students with disabilities regardless of the category of disability.
The Continuum of Services in the Ellington Public Schools
When the PPT/IEP meeting makes the determination of which placement is most appropriate to deliver education in the least restrictive environment, the district ensures that a continuum of services is available to meet the special education and related services needs of children with disabilities and that alternative placements are available to implement the IEP of each child with a disability. The options listed below ensure that programs are available for students, from those who are not disabled to those who are the most severely disabled. In addition, the district may make provisions for services such as a district program, itinerant instruction, or homebound instruction to meet the needs of children with disabilities.
Regular education services are provided for students who qualify for special education. This is appropriate when the PPT determines that the student who receives special education services would benefit from instruction within the regular education milieu. If suggestions for regular education modifications are made by the PPT, such modifications are provided through the regular education support system. All schools in Ellington provide this service.
Special education instruction within the regular education classroom is provided for students who qualify for special education when the regular education classroom is considered the least restrictive environment. Special education services are provided by a special education teacher or instructional aide who provides specially designed instruction within the regular classroom. All schools in Ellington provide this service.
Regular education with direct, supplemental special education services. Placement in the regular public school program with minimal removal for special education services is an option. Direct supplemental special education services such as tutoring, small group or resource room services, or group or individual therapies are provided. All schools in Ellington provide these services.
Resource room programming within the local public school. Students with special education needs are enrolled primarily in regular education at their local school and are provided resource room services on a "pull-out" basis as a substitution for regular education instruction. All schools in the district provide these services.
Specialized, self-contained, or semi self-contained special education classes. Students with special education needs that cannot be met in regular classes may receive specially designed instruction in self-contained special education classes within district programs or in their neighborhood school in a regular school building. Unless specifically determined to be inappropriate, homerooms, lunch arrangements, and non-academic activities are provided in regular education. Some schools in the district provide these programs.
Another school in the district. Students whose educational needs cannot be accommodated in their local school building, may be transferred to another public school building within the district. In such cases, resource room, self-contained, or semi self-contained special education class services may be provided, with the maximum appropriate amount of regular class participation and the availability of supplementary aids and services.
Regional Educational Service Center (RESC) or another school district. For some students, an appropriate day program may be selected at an area RESC or in another school system. Such programs can sometimes be found near the child's home. In such cases, self-contained special education class services may be provided, with the maximum appropriate amount of regular class participation in the receiving school and/or neighboring public schools.
Private facility day program. Placement in a day program at an approved private special education program within the state may be necessary to provide an appropriate education.
Private facility residential program. If none of the above options is appropriate, placement in a residential program at an approved special education private school facility within the state is considered in order to provide an appropriate education. The district ensures that a student with a disability in a private school or facility has all the rights of a student with disabilities who is served in the school district.
Additional Placements to Complete the Continuum
Diagnostic placement. The purpose of such placement is to assess the needs of a child for whom an IEP may be needed, but for whom the evaluation study is either inconclusive or insufficient to determine the child's IEP. A diagnostic placement is a structured program of not more than eight weeks duration.
Homebound or hospitalized instruction. Homebound or hospitalized instruction shall be provided when recommended by the PPT. One or more of the following conditions must apply:
- A physician has certified in writing that the child is unable to attend school for medical reasons and has stated the expected date the child will be able to return to the school program.
- The child's presence in school endangers the health, safety, or welfare of the child or others.
- A special education program recommendation is pending and the child was at home at the time of referral.
- The child is pregnant or has given birth and a physician has certified that homebound instruction is in the child's best interest and should continue for a specified period of time.
The Ellington Public Schools and/or the State Board of Education shall not be responsible for the cost of educating a child requiring special education and related services whose parents/guardians unilaterally place the child.
When a child is placed in a residential facility because of needed services of a non-educational nature, the financial responsibility of the board shall be limited to the reasonable costs of the special education instruction only.
Special Education District Programs
District programs are part of the Ellington School System's continuum of services. Presently there are five types of district programs that serve students from ages three to twenty one:
The Preschool Education Program (PEP) services preschool students with disabilities, usually between the ages of three and five years old. The PEP program consists of four separate classes: extended classes are five hours per day, five days per week; and other classes are two and one half hours per day, five days per week. The PEP program is a reverse mainstream program and offers a tuition program for typical children to participate with students with disabilities. The ratio is usually 50/50. The PEP program is able to serve most children with identified special education needs. From children with autism using the "TEACCH" approach to children who have language delays, the PEP program serves the special education needs of children in a well organized and structured preschool environment.
The Exceptional Intermediate Education Program (EIE) serves students typically in grades five and six. Like all special education programs, the EIE program offers specialized and individual instruction to identified special education students. Students in the program will usually require prevocational and life skills curricula and have an IEP that is so specialized that it is not always adaptable to a regular education classroom. The program also serves students whose modifications in the regular classroom are so pervasive that the program no longer resembles the regular education curriculum and the core academic areas are significantly below grade level and require extensive alternative programming. Children participating in the program usually have related service hours that exceed more than half of the school day. Similarly, if a student’s affect is adversely impacted due to awareness of academic limitations and frustration, the student may be considered for the program.
The Programs for Alternative Learning (PAL) serve students who are experiencing serious emotional disturbance or social and emotional maladjustment that significantly impacts educational performance or social development. The students in PAL often require alternative strategies in order to succeed in school. The strategies fall into two general categories, academic and behavioral. The goals of PAL are to return each student to successful and independent functioning within the regular education environment and to provide a comprehensive self-contained option for students not ready to return to the mainstream.
School to Life Program serves special education students typically during the later high school years. The program presently serves students whose modifications in the regular classroom are so multifaceted that regular education curriculum requires extensive assorted programming to meet a student’s IEP goals and objectives. The program is comprised of prevocational and life skills training and places a strong emphasis on experiences in the world of work.