Daniel Bartz: Director, Special Education
Special Education Secretary: Paula Kohles
Office Phone: 269-471-1059
Students who are diagnosed with certain special needs may receive a variety of special education services. The following diagnostic categories are used by the state of Michigan for eligibility:
CI: Cognitively Impaired PI: Physically Impaired
EI: Emotionally Impaired OHI: Other Health Impairment
SLD: Specific Learning Disability HI: Hearing Impaired
TBI: Traumatic Brain Injury SXI: Severe Multiple Impairment
VI: Visually Impaired SLI: Speech-Language Impaired
ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder
ECDD: Early Childhood Development Delay
Special Education Services:
Depending on the disability and the needs of the student, many options are available for students with diagnosed special education eligibility. The placement is determined at the IEP (Individual Educational Plan) meeting.
A. Resource Room Services for Local Special Education Students:
Resident students of Berrien Springs Public Schools may receive special education services within the district. The district is continuing to develop their Response to Intervention model, providing general education options for struggling students and monitoring their progress over time. Child Study Teams in each building develop plans for students and monitor progress during the intervention process.
For those students who are unable to demonstrate progress with significant interventions, special education referrals may be developed.
Berrien Springs follows federal, state, and Berrien RESA processes for special education referral, evaluation, eligibility, and IEP (Individual Education Plan) planning and placement. Local special education services include resource rooms combined with general education. In most buildings, classroom instruction is provided by the general education teachers with special education teacher support, and close monitoring of progress. The students follow a general education curriculum.
Part of the IEP process includes the determination of appropriate aids, supplementary services, accommodations, and modifications for success in general education.
Ancillary services are available for students who qualify. These services may include speech-language therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.
B. Center-Based Special Education Programs
Berrien Springs hosts several center-based programs for Berrien County RESA. These programs are housed in Berrien Springs and operated by Berrien Springs Public Schools. The funding comes through federal, state and RESA sources. Most of the students in these programs are not residents of Berrien Springs, but are able to take advantage of the center programs through the IEP (Individual Educational Plan) process. Transportation to and from Berrien Springs is provided through the local district. These programs include:
· Hearing Impaired Classrooms, Teacher Consultant Services, Audiological Services:
Hearing Impaired students have been part of Berrien Springs Public Schools for almost 50 years. Cass County contracts services through Berrien Springs, so students come from both Cass and Berrien counties. Babies are frequently identified at birth and start receiving intervention services at a very early age with teachers seeing families in their homes. Classroom services are available for preschool through high school. These students may also participate part time in general education classes. Between 35 - 40 students are served in this program.
Many students function best in their home district classrooms and receive the assistance of teacher consultants. Over 60 students receive teacher consultant services.
Two audiologists provide audiological services and equipment management for students with identified hearing losses. They also provide diagnostic information for children with diagnosed, fluctuating, suspected or possible hearing losses. They work with physicians, the Health Department, families, Early On and Early Hearing Detection and Intervention to diagnose children as soon as possible and get amplification and intervention started. The audiologists work with 400 – 500 students per year.
· Speech-Language Impaired Preschool:
This program is taught by a speech therapist, to a maximum of 15 students between the morning and afternoon sessions, ages 3-6. To qualify, students must demonstrate severe or moderate-to-severe delays in at least two areas of speech and language.
· Middle School Cognitively Impaired Classrooms:
The district operates two classrooms at the Middle School for students with mild cognitive impairments. Teachers are certified in the area of cognitive impairment. The program is run on a thematic basis, incorporating reading, writing, vocabulary with social studies and science topics, following the Extended Grade Level Content Expectations from Michigan Department of Education. Up to 36 students can be placed in this program.
· High School Cognitively Impaired Classroom:
A classroom for students with mild cognitive impairments is housed within the high school and taught by a teacher of the cognitively impaired. The students work through a series of objectives that are linked to the Extended Grade Level Content Expectations and daily living skills for transition to post-secondary goals. This program includes some pre-vocational and vocational experiences. Since the focus is not on the Michigan Merit Curriculum required for a high school diploma in Michigan, the students receive a certificate of completion. They participate in the high school graduation ceremony.
C. Specialized Programs for Students:
Some students need programs that are not offered within the district. The IEP process is used to make this determination and to place these students in programs that offer the services necessary to meet their goals and objectives. Transportation is provided for these students. These programs include:
· Blossomland Learning Center (Berrien RESA): This program serves students with moderate and severe cognitive impairments.
· Lighthouse Education Center (Berrien RESA) and Niles Southside School (Niles): These programs serve students with severe emotional impairments. Lighthouse also has classrooms for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
· Niles Southside Pre-Vocational Program (Niles): This program serves students ages 16 – 25 with mild cognitive impairments.
· Early Childhood Developmental Delay (Niles): This half day preschool program serves students from age 3 – 7.
· Specialized classrooms operated by local districts: Various districts within the county offer programs for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, mild cognitive impairments, and emotional impairments.
· Early On and Project Find: Berrien RESA operates programs to provide information and services to families. Early On focuses on children from birth to two years of age.
Referral, Diagnostic, Planning Processes:
Berrien Springs Public Schools provides strong instructional programs to meet the needs of various students. If students are struggling, teachers make adjustments and provide more intensive opportunities, including specific research based interventions. Each building has a team of professionals who consider student concerns and recommend, monitor the progress of the student and evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions. The results of regular assessments before, during and after the interventions will be shared with the parents.
However, if it is clear that the interventions are not enough and that the student continues to struggle, it may be appropriate to convene a team to discuss and evaluation for special education eligibility, following the steps below.
1. Indicate concern to the parents and discuss convening a team to discuss an evaluation. This discussion includes parents, possibly the student (depending on age), teachers, involved staff, administrators and the diagnostic team. Parents will receive a Parent Handbook and Procedural Safeguards. The meeting is called a Review of Existing Evaluation Data and Evaluation Plan. The parent has the opportunity to provide written consent to the decisions made at this meeting, which can range from determining eligibility for special education services, the continuation of interventions or an evaluation in specified area(s).
2. Michigan Special Education Rules and Regulations and the federal law for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are followed for all parts of the process from the time the concern is expressed until the IEP meeting determining whether the child is eligible for special education and what services, goal and objectives, modifications and accommodations may be warranted. This includes the guarantees that decisions for special education are not based on cultural, ethnic, or socio-economic differences of a lack of instruction. For determining the existence of a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) in Special Education, our district will use a process of analyzing a pattern of Strengths and Weaknesses. For more detailed information on this process, please consult the Berrien Regional Education Service Agency website, http://www.berrienresa.org/ed-adm_resources.htm. Forms on the RESA website are current and are the ones used by Berrien Springs Public Schools.
3. If a student transfers into the district with an IEP that indicates he/she is eligible for and receiving special education services, that IEP is honored and the services are provided as written in the IEP, with parental consent. The information is reviewed by the district and the diagnostic staff. The district may request a new IEP within 30 days to continue or revise the IEP or they may determine to implement the IEP as written, without conducting a new IEP. A Temporary Placement form is filled out with the requisite information and the parent consent, determining which process will be used.
4. If a student transfers into the district, with an initial referral in process, the district continues to process the referral as written, providing the prescribed evaluation and follow-up to an IEP.
5. Progress of each student receiving special education is monitored and reported by the special education provider at the same reporting times as general education teachers report progress. Goals and objectives are based on general education curriculum expectations.