Vivian Vitullo, Director
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
Newport News Public Schools offers a full continuum of programming options for students with disabilities. To the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities are educated along side their non-disabled age-appropriate peers. While IDEA provides assurances that a student with disabilities will be educated in the least restrictive environment appropriate for that individual student, it also provides assurances that the educational needs of other students will not be violated by the inclusion of a student with disabilities in the general education classroom.
Placement decisions are the responsibility of the IEP committee and must take into consideration the educational needs of both the student with disabilities and those of other students in the classroom. Provisions in the 1997 revisions to IDEA also place particular emphasis on the consideration of general education curriculum and class placement by the IEP committee when planning appropriate goals and objectives for the student with disabilities. The parents are an integral part of this decision and their input regarding the student's social, emotional, self-help, and academic competencies is extremely important in planning the appropriate placement.
Newport News Public Schools supports a variety of appropriate settings for students with all types of disabilities. School-based services comprise the majority of placement options and are provided for students with varying abilities. These services include:
- Program for Educating Exceptional Preschoolers (PEEP)
- General education classes with special education supports
- Level I classes (less than half day)
- Level II classes (more than half day).
The IEP committee is charged with ensuring that the educational placement of a child with a disability is determined at least annually, based on their IEP, and is as close as possible to the child's home. When that is not possible, due to the severity of the student's needs, options other than school-based classes also exist in the Newport News Public Schools. Some are private services provided for in the Tidewater area, while others are public regional partnerships, shared by other school divisions and overseen by the Virginia Department of Education. The off-campus regional and area programs include:
General Education Classroom
Often students with disabilities can be educated effectively in the general education classroom with their age-appropriate non-disabled peers. This decision is the responsibility of the IEP committee and when considering general education class placement, should always include a general education teacher. The 1997 revisions to the IDEA specifically address the need for consideration of the general education curriculum and class placement during the development of the IEP.
Students who are functioning near or at grade level in specific skill/subject areas should be considered for general education classroom placement, but only with appropriate supports. Appropriate supports may include:
- Modifications to instructional techniques
- Accommodations for differing learning styles
- Enhanced student access to information or modes of feedback
- Technology enhanced instruction or communication devices
- Additional personnel support such as consultation or collaborative teaching with special education teacher
- Other supports that the IEP committee may decide is appropriate and vital for the student to remain in the general education classroom
The IEP should always address the consideration of the general education classroom placement, in relation to the goals and objectives already developed, whether the decision is made to either place the student there or not.
Resource Classroom (Level I)
Sometimes a student with a disability is not able to receive an appropriate education in the general education classroom for some subjects and / or skill areas. Perhaps the student's academic functioning level is so far behind that of his non-disabled peers that instruction in the general education classroom is not feasible. After careful consideration of the general education curriculum and / or class placement and documentation of such, the IEP committee may decide that the resource room is the appropriate placement for at least part of the student's academic instruction.
The resource room is a classroom on the student's home campus that is taught by a certified special education teacher, trained to give specific support to students with specific disabilities, in the appropriate subject / skill area, as determined by the IEP committee. At the elementary or middle school level, a student who receives instruction in a resource room may be learning reading and writing skills, listening and organizational skills, and / or math skills. At the high school level, a student may be instructed in the subject area that best meets the student's individual educational need for future job or training considerations. Students of the same approximate age and instructional levels attend the resource class together. The remainder of the student's instruction usually takes place in the general education classroom, for at least ½ of the school day.
Self-Contained Classroom (Level II)
When a student with a disability is not able to receive meaningful instruction in the general education classroom, the IEP committee may decide to place the student in a resource room for more than ½ of the day. This is referred to as self-contained classroom placement. The IEP committee has several options regarding the extent to which the placement will remove the student from instruction with age appropriate peers. They should consider carefully the present levels of performance and goals and objectives on the students IEP when making such placements. The general education curriculum and classroom placement should also be addressed, with documentation of reasons why it has been rejected for particular subjects / skill areas.
The following options are examples of placements in self-contained classrooms that have been implemented in Newport News Public Schools:
- Self-contained class for more than ½ the day (modified self-contained)
- Self-contained class for full academic instruction
- Self-contained class for full academic and non-academic instruction
Public Day Programs
In Newport News Public Schools, separate school placement, or the removal of students with disabilities from the regular education environment, occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular school settings is not in the best interest of the student with disability and/or his age peers. The decision to educate a student with a disability in an out of school placement must be made by the IEP committee and usually involves special education personnel from the central administrative offices, in order to insure procedural safeguards for all involved.
The IEP committee should consider placement of a student with a disability in a public day treatment program only after it has been determined that school-based services are unable to provide an appropriate education. In Newport News Public Schools, regional treatment programs (considered a part of the public educational system) are shared by other area school divisions and administered through the Virginia Department of Education.
Private Day Programs
Sometimes, students with disabilities need a more restrictive environment than can be offered through either school-based settings or regional public partnership programs. In such cases, it may be the decision of the IEP committee that a student with a disability may need to be educated in a private day treatment facility.
Before the IEP committee places a student with a disability in a private day treatment program, it must determine that the services available in the school-based and regional partnership settings are not appropriate for the student as determined by the IEP. The involvement of the appropriate staff at the Newport News Public School Offices is necessary to insure the procedural rights of those involved.
The Newport News Public Schools shares a regional partnership program with other school divisions in the Tidewater area which offers a well-developed vocational skills training program for students with disabilities who are preparing to enter the world of work.