Enhancing the Learning Environment for Students with Disabilities

--- Published on November 28th 2018 ---
News & Alerts
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(As Natomas Unified moves toward becoming its own Special Education Local Planning Area (SELPA), we want the community to know about progress we’ve made in recent years to enhance services and supports to students with disabilities. This communication focuses on improvements to learning environment and programs.)

NUSD Staff, Parents and Guardians,

Higher English and Math test scores by NUSD students with disabilities over the past two years followed launching and implementing inclusive practices in which students of all abilities learn together in classrooms at their own neighborhood schools, with support from staff and programs to help them prepare for a bright future.

In recent years, NUSD has enhanced its Special Education support system by increasing staffing – from teachers to instructional aides – and by expanding its social-emotional services. NUSD promotes differentiated instruction, from student to student, based on individual needs and learning styles. Students with disabilities have increased their English and Math scores by 9 and 6 percentage points, respectively, in California’s academic testing program, CAASPP, since 2016.

By creating our own SELPA, the future looks even brighter. Federal and state funds are allocated through a SELPA, so school district’s governing boards must either belong to a multi-district SELPA or form their own. As a single-district SELPA, we can continue placing a high priority on Special Education services while having more funding to do so.

Here are some highlights of NUSD’s enhancements since 2014 to learning environment and supports that benefit students with disabilities:

·        A full-time Psychologist and Health Assistant have been assigned to every school

·        Nearly $2.5 million has been spent on facility improvements for students with disabilities, including learning centers at four schools and renovation of the Adult Transition Program at Natomas High School

·        NUSD staffing increases have included Special Education teachers, 7.89 full-time equivalent positions (FTE);  Instructional Aides, 43 FTE; Speech and Language Pathologists, 5 FTE; and assistants to Speech and Language Pathologists, 1.38 FTE

·        A wide-ranging K-12 Continuum of Social-Emotional Support has been created to provide early detection, intervention, treatment, and academic options for students with behavioral problems or mental health needs

·        A Kindergarten-Transitional Kindergarten class for students with autism was launched at H. Allen Hight Elementary to provide intervention at a very young age

At Natomas High School, adult students with disabilities learn independent living skills, in part, by helping to operate Joey’s Food Locker, launched in 2015-16 to provide to provides groceries each month to local families in need. Students practice customer service, bagging, and other skills that can help them land paying jobs in private industry.

Natomas High also hosts an annual “Field Day,” begun in 2014-15, which attracts students with disabilities from throughout the region and pairs them with able-bodied Nighthawk “buddies” for a friendly, all-in-fun athletic competition on the school’s football field.

An accrediting team visiting Natomas High School recently complimented the school for:

1)    A robust and inclusive network of services for students with disabilities that were appropriate to students’ needs, abilities and interests with a program that is rigorous, relevant and coherent

2)    A strong Independent Living Skills program that incorporated WorkAbility program services for pre-employment skills training and work placement

We at NUSD are proud of the services we provide to students with disabilities, and we look forward to continued improvement through creation of our own SELPA next year.