School Age Special Education Services (K-12)
Special Education services for school-age students (Kindergarten through 12th grade) are guided by our three Special Education Focus Areas:
- Improving Instructional Practices
- Creating Inclusive Cultures
- Increasing Student Voice
As part of our commitment to Improving Instructional Practices and Creating Inclusive Cultures, we provide a full range of supports in every school (K-12). This means that all students can attend their neighborhood school, regardless of the special education services the student receives.
The West Linn-Wilsonville school district has no segregated self-contained classrooms in any school K-12. Students with complex or intensive needs may receive some specialized instruction and services in a separate setting within the school. But this is always done with the goal of building skills and maximizing the time spent in the general education classroom.
Whenever possible, students served by special education receive their instruction alongside their grade-level peers. We believe strongly in the power of peer interactions and peer modeling. The instructional strategies in our general education classes are based around shared meaning-making through student talk. When students talk to each other about their ideas as they wrestle with complex concepts, they are able to develop deeper conceptual understanding. Students served by special education need to have access to the same opportunities for productive struggle and meaning-making through student talk.
We are also committed to each student participating meaningfully in their IEP process. For most students, this means attending and even leading their annual IEP meetings. We believe that even Kindergarten students can benefit from being a part of their IEP meeting. As one primary school student told a group of teachers, "If I'm not at my IEP meeting, how will I know my goals? If I don't know my IEP goals, how will I meet them?"
For more information about the vision of our Special Education department as well as information about the research that supports our beliefs, visit the main Special Education page of this website.
If you have questions about specific special education services in your child's school, please contact your child's classroom teacher, SPED case manager or principal. In addition, you can contact the Special Education Instructional Coordinator for your child's school:
- Caitlin Andersen - Boeckman Creek, Trillium Creek
- Zach Deets - Meridian Creek, Wood, Rosemont Ridge
- Heidi Guadagni- Stafford, Lowrie
- Marian Wattman Oshima - Athey Creek, Willamette
- Cathy Smith - West Linn HS, Wilsonville HS, Riverside
- Jennifer Ziolko - Bolton, Boones Ferry
- Cory Coleman - Sunset, Cedaroak Park
If my student was in a self-contained classroom in another school district, where will they receive services in West Linn-Wilsonville schools?
In West Linn-Wilsonville, we provide the full continuum of services in all of our schools (K-12). That means your child can attend their neighborhood school (along with their siblings and friends from the neighborhood). We do not have segregated self-contained classrooms; instead, we start from the assumption that all students belong in the general education setting as much as possible. We also recognize that a student's individual needs may require that they receive some services in a smaller setting, outside of the general education classroom. The IEP team makes service and placement decisions based on the individual needs of the student.
My student was in a very nurturing self-contained classroom in another district. I'm concerned about my student being bullied if they are in a general education classroom.
We recognize that self-contained classrooms can be very nurturing, supportive environments, and students can build a strong sense of community with the self-contained setting. However, 30+ years of research shows that students in self-contained settings miss out on opportunities for significant academic growth by not being a part of the general education classroom. In addition, self-contained classrooms can increase the sense of alienation and promote a sense of "otherness" - leading to more bullying behavior. General education teachers and other adults in our schools work hard to build a sense of community and belonging in all classrooms. Parents of students with significant disabilities (who had previously been in segregated self-contained classrooms) have reported that their children actually experience less isolation and bullying because the other students in the class know them as unique individuals and even friends. The way to combat bullying is not through further isolation, but through creating a true sense of belonging and valuing the unique gifts and contributions of each member of the classroom community.
I'm not sure I want my child to attend their IEP meeting. Isn't it just a bunch of adults sitting around telling me how my child is not doing as well as all of the other kids?
We strive for the IEP meeting to be truly student-focused and strengths-based. The best way to do this is to have the student physically present at the center of the meeting. By asking the student about what is going well for them and having them share examples of work they are proud of, the IEP team is likely to learn important information that will help in designing goals and services. Whenever possible, it is desirable for the student to actually lead parts of the meeting. Sometimes the case manager will work with the student in advance to prepare for leading the meeting. Depending on the age and cognitive skills of the student, the team may not have the student attend the entire meeting. But our starting assumption is that when students are present and lead their IEP meetings, the goals and services will more accurately reflect the student's needs, and the resulting plan will be truly individualized and more successful. (See the Parents page of our Student Services website for more information about student participation in IEP meetings)
I understand that inclusive practices are good for students served by special education. But what about the other students in the class. Won't this slow down their learning?
It may seem counterintuitive, but it turns out that 30+ years of research have shown that students without disabilities who are in inclusive classrooms perform as well or better than their peers who are in classes segregated by ability. That is, students without disabilities do not experience negative learning outcomes when learning alongside students with significant disabilities. (For more information about this research, visit the main Special Education page of this website.) We have seen this to be true in our own district. For example, over the past 5 years, we have eliminated segregated self-contained classrooms and significantly increased the amount of time that students with disabilities spend in general education settings. At the same time, our graduation rates for students with and without disabilities have continued to climb - to some of the highest graduation rates in the state!