Bigfork School District 38

Special Education

Philosophy

In the Bigfork Schools, we believe in success! When students believe that success is possible, they will try. Our first priority in every class is to help students believe in themselves and their ability to learn.

Mission

The purpose of special education is to assist students in becoming responsible, contributing citizens.

We Believe

All students are members of the educational community.

All students have the potential to learn and grow.

All students should be respected, supported and educated with staff and resources to meet their needs.

Our Essential Learnings incorporate all areas of lifelong learning and encompass diverse instruction for all learners.

All staff share responsibility in assuring that all students receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).

Special education and community agencies promote students’ growth and development in collaboration among students, families and general education.

Continuous improvement of services is dependent upon evaluations of systems, programs and student progress and the implementation of needed change.

Educational Disabilities

Many children demonstrate learning challenges, but some children require not only accommodations to address their learning needs, but specifically designed instruction, curriculum modifications, and therapy or other related services in a school setting. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) ensures that students with disabilities are not excluded from educational opportunities and obtain a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment necessary to address the child’s educational needs. IDEA lists and defines thirteen disabilities. They are: autism, deaf-blindness, auditory impairment, emotional disturbance, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, learning disability, speech impairment, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, or non-categorical early childhood disability. Children identified as eligible for IDEA services and, subsequently, an individual education plan (IEP), must meet both the definitional criteria for the educational disability and demonstrate a need for specially designed instruction.

The Pre-Referral and Referral Processes

At Bigfork Schools #38, diverse learners and children who are struggling to meet standards are provided with support and skill instruction through differentiated instruction and skill-based grouping. In most circumstances, students will participate in documented interventions prior to referral for an educational evaluation. The school-based intervention tem tracks student performance and response to interventions. Many students with learning challenges will make progress with interventions and will not require special education.

However, a teacher, parent, other professional or school-based intervention team may refer a child to a multi-disciplinary evaluation team to be considered for an educational evaluation in order to determine if the child is eligible for special education services if an educational disability is suspected. The referral should be made in writing and provided to the child’s classroom teacher who will forward the referral to the school psychologist or a speech/language pathologist in the event that speech or language is the primary concern. The speech language pathologist or school psychologist will identify the appropriate evaluation team members and convene a team meeting in order to meet with the individual referring the child. The team determines if the evaluation request is appropriate or if additional information is needed, such as response to classroom interventions and/or if specialist consultations are necessary prior to initiating the evaluation process. Parents are provided procedural safeguards when the evaluation team meets to discuss the referral and must give written consent prior to a school-based evaluation being initiated.

At the completion of the evaluation process the evaluation team reconvenes to determine whether the child meets eligibility criteria and demonstrates a need for special education services. Following the evaluation process establishing eligibility, the IEP team members review the identified educational needs and present levels of performance of the student, and then develop an IEP. The IEP will document annual goals, services that the student will receive, identify the personnel positions involved in providing direct or related services, and the setting in which the services will be delivered. The IEP will be reviewed at least annually. Progress on identified goals will be monitored/documented and a copy of progress provided to the parent during regular reporting periods.

 

Parent and Community Involvement

In the Bigfork Schools #38, parent and community involvement are believed to be essential to a quality education. In the case of a child with a disability, parent involvement is essential. IDEA regulations require parent consent for evaluation and parent participation in the educational decision making/planning process.

It is important that when visiting and/or volunteering in schools and classrooms that parents/volunteers schedule with the student’s teacher and remember to sign-in at the school office. Parents and volunteers are also asked to remember that classroom teachers and educational specialists are focused on instruction and their efforts are directed toward the lesson and positive outcomes for students. If you have questions or concerns, please schedule to meet with the teacher privately or participate in planned parent/teacher conferences. Bigfork Schools #38 also places high value on confidentiality and reminds parents and volunteers that information about students may not be shared with others who are not part of the evaluation or IEP process. Information regarding individual students is private and confidential and subject to the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

 

Other Resources

For additional information, please email Director Matt Porrovecchio.

Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) provides guidance and support to school districts and parents related to providing services for children eligible for special education services. OPI’s helpful website includes parent rights and procedural safeguards, forms, and other links, such as Parents Let’s Unite for Kids (PLUK).

OPI Procedural Safeguards Documentation

Instructional Services

In Bigfork Schools #38, each student with a disability has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) that has been developed to meet his/her educational needs. This plan reflects services, not a “place.” Services include, but are not limited to, the following:

General Education

Most students with disabilities receive instruction in the general education classroom. Teachers follow the Essential Learning objectives for the grade level or content area. Special education staff monitors all eligible students. The general education teacher may differentiate instruction and provide modifications to the learning objectives when modifications are indicated in the student’s IEP.

 

Content Mastery/Specific Skills Instruction

Eligible students who receive instruction in the general education curriculum may also access special education services support in or outside of the general education setting, depending on what is the least restrictive and most appropriate instructional environment. Students leave the general education classroom and report to the special education classroom or therapy setting for direct services. Student skill deficits related to fine motor, large motor, speech/language, social skills and academic skill development may be addressed in the general education setting, or through pull-out services or replacement classes.

Skill instruction may occur in the following settings:

Special Education Resource
Resource services are special education instruction for less than 50% of the school day. This may be supplemental service or curriculum content replacement.

Related Services
In order for some students with disabilities to make adequate progress in their educational program, they require additional services in the school environment. Examples of such services are speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, transportation, and health services.

Self-Contained
Self-contained services denote special education instruction for 50% or more of the school day. Instruction and curriculum are generally replacement curriculum in a self-contained setting. Instruction may also include related services, adaptive PE and other specialized instruction.

Homebound Instruction
Homebound instruction may occur for any child. It can be the educational setting for a child with an educational disability which prohibits regular school attendance. Depending on the nature and the impact of the illness/disability, educational services may be identified through a home hospital placement or an IEP that identifies educational services that take place in the home.

Extended School Year
Eligible students may receive special education services during extended school breaks if significant regression in skills are documented and recoupment of skills takes an inordinate time. Other factors that may contribute to Extended School Year (ESY) services initiation are skills at a critical development juncture, and lack of documented skill progression.

Transition Services
IDEA requires transition services for students with disabilities ages 16 years and older. These services are a planned, coordinated ser of activities that focus on improving the academic and functional achievement of a student in order to facilitate the student successfully transitioning to life after high school. Transition activities must be based on the student’s needs and take into account the student’s strengths, preferences and interests. Such activities may include volunteering, job shadowing or other offerings such as work experience in which the student receives high school credits as part of maintaining a job and receiving a salary.

Extracurricular Activities
Each BFSD #38 campus sponsors some before and/or after school activities. All eligible students may participate. If a parent has questions about an activity or wants to determine the appropriateness of the activity for his or her child, the parent should contact the campus sponsoring the activity. Bigfork Schools #38 does not exclude students from participation based on a disability.

 

Learn more about Special Education programs at each of our schools: