From the superintendent

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Dear Colleagues:

Special Education in Saint Paul Public Schools is going through an enormous transformation. We’re courageously addressing issues of academic and racial inequity as they affect how we teach and support our students who receive Special Education services. As with any significant change, our staff, students and families may experience some discord in the journey to our goal. I hope that with information, patience, and the assumption of good intentions, we can all work together toward our mission.

Special Education has understandably and historically focused on compliance with laws. Now we must enhance that focus to include academic excellence and racial equity. All our students, regardless of their abilities, must know that we believe in them and have high expectations for their performance.

Toward that end, our Learning Centers – often socially and academically isolated environments where students with special needs attended school away from their peers  – were this year effectively dissolved. Students receiving special education services started this school year in general education classrooms for at least part of the day, with co-teaching support from special education teachers, and additional support from education assistants and/or teaching assistants.

By placing all students into regular classrooms for a portion of the day, we established a strong benchmark of what was possible. To include students more tentatively would have left students behind who had the ability to succeed.

Some students were not ready for the regular classroom and needed more intensive intervention. We will monitor how these students do, help them develop their social skills, and slowly transition them back to the regular classroom if that is the best setting for them to learn. This monitoring and adjustment is the best way to calibrate the individual needs of each student.

Just as important as recognizing problems and making adjustments to the program is celebrating our successes. Between 70-80% of students who are typically separated from General Education classrooms are now in those classrooms for part of the day, and are engaged in learning for the majority of that time.

I know this hasn’t been easy, and I congratulate all the teachers involved for having the will and commitment to implement this new model and create solutions that are in the best interest of all students. Without your courageous actions, we wouldn’t know that so many of our students who receive Special Education services can also thrive and get the academic benefits of the mainstream environment. Once again, you were the most important part of finding ways to improve learning for all students in SPPS. Thank you.

I can’t end this letter without recognizing that hopeful futures are happening not only in Saint Paul Public Schools, but also nationally with an end to the federal government shutdown.

With a collective sigh of relief, our federal government employees are back at work and we’re paying our bills on time. As we recover from this stressful time, I encourage us all to work together rather than play the blame and shame game. Too many people will be hurt and too many more dollars lost if we focus on the past rather than move hopefully toward the future.

Your very proud superintendent,

Silva Signature


 

Valeria S. Silva