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Special Education Pathways

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) provides a continuum of special education programming for students receiving special education services.  Most MPS students can receive their services in their community school. For students who need a higher intensity of services in a specialized environment, MPS has citywide special education programs.  Students are identified as needing a citywide special education program through the Individual Education Program (IEP) process.  MPS believes and federal law insists that a student should receive their special education services in the least restrictive environment, so the decision for a student to be placed in a citywide special education program must be carefully considered.  The Special Education Department requires that IEP team go through a student placement process that considers the following:

  • Defined interventions related to IEP goals
  • A minimum of six weeks of progress monitoring on IEP goals and objectives
  • Evidence of IEP accommodations being implemented
  • Data that shows that an increase in service delivery minutes is not effective

Once the need for a citywide special education program has been agreed upon by the IEP team, the MPS Special Education Department determines placement if the community school cannot meet the student’s needs.  The MPS Special Education Department coordinates student placements for Citywide Special Education Programs; and considers student need, parent preference, and geographical location when determining these placements.  As a student’s needs are more intense, placements become more limited in nature.  

Citywide Special Education Programs are divided into categories based on characteristics of the students they serve.  All Citywide Special Education Programs have the following in common:

  • Low staff to student ratio:  All citywide programs have one special education teacher and two special education assistants assigned for every 8 to 10 students.  MPS staffs each of the classrooms over the state requirement of one special education teacher and one special education assistant.  Many classrooms have additional special education assistants assigned, based on the needs of the students in the program.  The assignment of additional staffing can change throughout the year and year to year, again, based on student need.  

  • Customized Environment and Equipment:   Citywide programs use customized environment and equipment to make learning accessible to students.  Examples may include sensory equipment, calming spaces, hoyer lifts, and individual work stations.

  • Specialized Curriculum:  MPS strives for every student to have access to core curriculum and this is also available to students in citywide programs, with support.  Our classrooms also have specialized alternative curriculum that is linked to Minnesota Standards and supports the needs outlined in the student’s individualized education plan.  

  • Intensive Interventions and Accommodations:  Citywide classrooms deliver intensive interventions that specifically target a student’s deficit areas, while also building on the student’s strengths.  Staff are trained to deliver the interventions in an individual or small group setting.  Accommodations are also provided, for example, assistive technology, scheduled breaks, or visuals.

  • Opportunities for Inclusion:  MPS believes that all students deserve the right to be education with their general education peers, to the greatest extent possible.  At every IEP meeting for any student in a citywide program, there will be a decision made regarding how much time the student is able to spend in general education.  

  • Related Services: In all citywide programs, related services including speech/language, physical therapy, social work services, occupational therapy, and adaptive physical education are also provided based on individual student need.