Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions Parents of Students Receiving Special Education Services

Are we making sure that children of parents who are not as involved are still getting the services they need?

Yes. Decisions will continue to be made based on the individual needs of each child. These decisions need to be data driven and discussed at the annual IEP meeting. Members of the IEP team have the right to call a team meeting at any point during the school year to discuss possible changes to the IEP. 


Do all schools have a “go to” person to whom families can ask questions?

Yes. The best place to start is your case manager.  If they don’t know the answer, they can access their school team or district program facilitator.


Do all schools have a quiet space for kids?

If a quiet, calming, or alternative space is determined to be an adaptation in a student’s IEP, the school team will work with the building administrator to locate the space.  Alternative learning spaces are a good strategy for many students, and many of our schools are currently working to create these spaces.


How are these changes going to help improve the education my child receives?

The special education department would like to build capacity in all of our schools so the majority of our special education students can receive instruction in more inclusive environments within their community or neighborhood schools.  While we understand that some of our students will need to receive intensive programming from a Citywide program, we also believe that students can benefit from time spent with peers in the classroom.

The special education department plans to provide services to each child in the least restrictive environment by bringing programming to your child instead of moving your child to the program.

Teaching tolerance requires inclusion of all children, with opportunities for both nondisabled youth and youth with disabilities to navigate childhood together, along with the support of adults who create space for children to learn and grow together. 


How are we improving special education service delivery?

Improving special education service delivery and inclusive practices will rely heavily upon strong partnerships with principals.   Special Education support services will partner with building leaders, teachers, related services providers and support staff to:

  • Facilitate professional learning,
  • Create Special Education teams that look holistically at special education services,
  • Review data specific to students with disabilities,
  • Support an on-going child-study process and
  • Create shared expectations about the use of targeted interventions and continuous progress monitoring,

It is important to the special education department that we are building the capacity of each of our schools to serve the majority of our students with special education needs. Consistency and stability are good for students. As students who have moved from program to program find stability, schools will better be able to meet the needs of each child and families will feel like they are a part of the school community. 


How are we measuring outcomes?

The Special Education Department will be looking at several data points to measure outcomes.  Some of the data points include:

  • Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments
  • Minnesota Test of Alternative Skills
  • Curriculum Based Measures
  • State Performance Indicators (i.e. graduation rates, federal settings, etc.)
  • Teaching Strategies Gold
  • Unique Learning Systems


How can I be sure my child will still get the supports needed if going to a school that doesn't have a citywide special education program?

Your child’s Individual Education Plan outlines the support your child needs. The IEP is a legal document which must be adhered to. The expectation for each IEP meeting is that teams* will discuss what supports the student needs, and how the district can best meet the student’s needs while keeping the child in the least restrictive environment.

*The core Special Education team consists of the special education teacher, administrator or designee, general education teacher, parent, and student, when appropriate.


How can parents know which schools are more effective at getting good results for youth in special education?

Every school in the state of MN has a report card located on the Minnesota Department of Education Website at Minnesota Department of Education - School Data.  


I would like to prepare my child for his new school and meet his new teacher, but with all the changes taking place, I’m not sure who to talk to.

You may contact the social worker at your new school to talk further about special education services at his or her new school. 


In the 10/06/2015 meeting the director of special education stated that 25% of the students receiving special education services are in a federal three setting. This is an increase from what was being

Data collected from the special education department indicates that both last year and this year, students receiving special education services in a federal setting III are at 25%.

Is “response time” going to be quicker? (Increasing staff at a school with higher needs than expected?)

The executive director of special education has commissioned a task force to look at this process.  The goal is to make the process more responsive and transparent to schools.


The Citywide Autism Program offers a number of social/emotional supports to students, including small-group social skills practice, and community-based social skills instruction, including weekly fiel

All children who receive special education services have a right to receive services that are individually determined by the IEP.  Some of the students being served by their community schools are currently in a social skills group and are attending field trips with their class. 

What are the changes happening with Special Education Programming in Minneapolis Public Schools?


  • Davis Center Special Education Support:  Directors of Special Education will be aligned with Associate Superintendents and will provide support to schools regarding special education programming next year.   This will offer a more streamlined system of support for Associate Superintendents and the schools in their portfolio of schools.  Directors of Special Education will work with principals to support them as Instructional Leaders for all students in their building.  District Program Facilitators will take on the role of instructional coaches. All staff will be aligned so that buildings will be supported by a single Director and District Program Facilitator, allowing for clearer communication and streamlined support. 
  • Options of Services for Students: Federal Setting I and II students who have been served in Citywide programs will have the opportunity to be served within their home or community school through resource programs, with the support of itinerant experts in the specific disability area of each individual student.  Highly Specialized Setting 3 services.  Setting 4 services will remain intact  and intensify individualized services to focus on returning students as soon as possible to a less restrictive setting. 
  • Autism Citywide Classrooms:  Three autism classrooms were closed for the 2015-2016 school year at Folwell, Jenny Lind, and Burroughs.  Staffing allocations from those programs were reallocated and converted into itinerant ASD teacher and SEA positions.  ASD itinerant teachers will participate as IEP team members, or provide both indirect and direct services to students based on IEPs, and consult with staff.  Additional SEA support has been added at Lake Harriet Lower, Northrop, Jenny Lind and Marcy Open schools to support students with autism as outlined in their Individual Education Plans.

As the rate of students being identified with Autism increases, the special education department wants to ensure that the majority of our students with autism receive special education services within their community school versus placing students with Autism into Autism Citywide Programs.   The reason for this change in practice is twofold: first, it is best practice in special education to provide more inclusive services to students within their community school. Research shows that students with Settings I-III special education needs have greater academic gains and higher graduation rates when they can attend the schools in their neighborhood.  Secondly, this inclusive approach also supports families’ who wish to have their children learning closer to home.

  • CLASS Citywide Classrooms: Three CLASS classrooms were closed for the 2015-2016 school year at Kenwood, Andersen and Pillsbury. The closure of these classrooms continues the grade level phase out process to which the district committed in 2013-14. The district began to phase out K – 5 CLASS programs to increase student participation and inclusive practices in neighborhood school communities. Research shows that students improve their basic skills when they have more exposure to high quality core curriculum and general education peer models. Staffing allocations were provided to K-8 buildings to directly support students using SEAs for Resource Intervention and Support (SEA-RIS). Professional development, coaching and curriculum were provided for SERTs and SEA-RIS staff in buildings. This support will continue for students and educational staff in MPS.
  • DCD Citywide Classrooms: Classrooms and services for students with significant disabilities including DCD-MM, DCD-SP, SMI, DB, and DD will remain consistent for the 2015-16 school year. Additional classrooms may be added in 2016-17 based on student enrollment as data projections indicate a slight increase in child count data for students with significant disabilities.
  • Behavior Citywide Classrooms: Caseloads in our behavior programs have been reduced from 1:12 to 1:8 at the Elementary and Middle School level.  At the High School level, caseloads were reduced from 1:12 to 1:10.  These changes were made to support smaller caseloads to increase the inclusion opportunities for students in general education classrooms.  There will be an inclusion specialist and support staff pilot in 3 middle schools: Anwatin, Andersen and Franklin.  This pilot will support students who receive setting II and III services by increasing their access to SPED support in the general education classroom. The goals of this pilot are to reduce suspensions and removals by increasing support, as well as to reduce the number of students moving into citywide programs.
  • Special Education Resource Teachers: Caseloads for special education resource teachers (SERTs) were reduced from 1:23 down to 1:20 students (1:17 at High Priority Schools).


What are the channels of communication available to me beyond the IEP teams and school principal?

Beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, every principal will be working with a Director of Special Education and a District Program Facilitator.  If you feel that you need additional help facilitating conversations regarding your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), you can contact the special education department at 612-668-5438.


What are the Core Beliefs of the Special Education Department?
  • “Whole” Special Education Department Philosophy (Birth to 21)
  • We have high expectations for our students and expect them to have access to rigor through core instruction
  • Special Education is a service, not a program
  • We program for students, we do not put students into programs
  • We exist to support students in homes, schools, and community (Birth to 21)


What does SEAC think the greatest risk is to implementing the new changes to the autism special education services successfully?

From SEAC co-chairs:

MPS has a long history of poor implementation and follow through of new initiatives, so we all have difficulty with trusting any change.  SEAC has concerns that this initial impetus to make these changes successful and effective will be undermined by subsequent bureaucratic or budgetary decisions and/or by new leadership that would reduce support for special education and result in problems like: 1) reducing the number of SEAs;  2) reducing the number of DPFs and/or diluting their focus on ASD by adding to their workload in other areas; 3) increasing SERT caseloads again; and/or 4) failing to maintain aggressive training efforts.  After the initial push on training staff on ASD and inclusion we are concerned it won’t continue and turnover will mean lots of untrained staff. Any or all of these potential reductions in services could result in possibly worse outcomes. In addition, SEAC has concerns that the school culture shift of embracing all students who walk in the door as an integral part of a school population, will not happen as quickly or as comprehensively as it needs to.  Change is difficult.

The reason SEAC supported many of these changes is:

1)      Parents have long requested, even begged, the district to make it more possible to send their students to the same community schools that their siblings attend with their friends and neighborhood acquaintances.  Parents with students at different schools have struggled with work schedules when they have wildly different school start and end times, transportation struggles, isolation, difficulty navigating multiple administrations, and struggles to attend conferences and meetings and concerts at different schools that all happen on the same nights.

2)      Two special education reviews conducted by outside consultants highlighted the high rate of segregated settings and high rate of Level 3 students.  We had more than a decade of complaints from parents about the lack of flexibility, individualized approach, and responsiveness of the current system.  Change had to happen!

3)      ASD service options were often presented as “all or nothing” where, if your high achieving student did not participate in social skills programming (whether or not he or she needed it), then he or she would not be granted SEA academic supports.  Disability types (ASD, served by SERT, etc.) defined what services your student got access to, like SEAS, instead of the need being determined by the IEP.  There was poor gradation of services: if your ASD student started to flounder in mainstream, he or she was then offered a significantly less rigorous coursework in a segregated setting – sometimes so much less rigorous that students were watching movies, going on field trips, and participating in sheltered workshop activities, rather than working on academics, gaining skills, and earning credits toward graduation.

4)      There were insufficient (and sometimes non-existent) outcome measures for elements of the ASD program (like the social skills program), many IEP meetings were not being conducted well, and transition services were not being implemented soon enough.

5)      Students in citywide programs were overly segregated from the rest of the school populations, citywide programs tended to be located in large, high poverty schools further limiting how involved ASD students could be in their own community, and the “separateness” of those programs made it too easy for district officials or principals to jettison those programs from their school whenever the district redrew attendance boundaries, closed schools or underwent any other changes.

6)      And because the schools didn’t “own” the programs, it was too unwieldy for families to get help or make complaints.  Principals would often tell parents to talk to the district if they had any complaints, and the district was often not familiar with what was going on at the school. In addition, this lack of a sense of ownership led some principals not to track the performance of special ed staff, so problem staff maintained their employment, even in the face of highly problematic performance.

If I had to articulate one point, it would be the lack of follow through by incoming administration. We can't expect to see meaningful change immediately. We need to stay committed to the vision, keep tweaking the supports so they work for individual students, and not let everything be dictated by past processes, and budget.

What does the data say about what Setting students receiving special education services receive those services?

Federal Setting I services are provided to 46% of our students with IEPs  in MPS. The state average is 62%, and the state target for all districts in Minnesota and that is 63%. 

Students with disabilities who are served in Federal Setting 3 spend 40% or less of their day in a general education class.  25% of special education students in MPS are served in Federal Setting 3 compared to 10% for the state average.   The state has set a target of 9% for all districts in Minnesota. 

This data shows that MPS is disproportionately serving students in setting 3 programs and that an intervention is needed to strengthen setting 1 and 2 services. 


What if a school says they can’t accommodate my child?

All of our schools in Minneapolis have the ability to provide special education services to students who receive their instruction in general education classrooms 60% or more of the time (Setting I or Setting II).  Students who require intensive special education instruction in a special education classroom 60% of the time or more (Setting III) may need to attend a school with a Citywide Special Education Classroom(s), or through collaboration with the special education department the student may be able to maintain services without being placed in a program.

Federal Setting I: Less than 20% of the school day outside of general education classroom

Federal Setting II: 20-60% of the school day outside of the general education classroom

Federal Setting III: More than 60% of the school day outside of the general education classroom

Federal Setting IV: 50% or more of the school day spent at a separate site


Who can help me decide which school location makes the best sense for my child?

The decision of appropriate setting is made at Individual Education Program meetings based on individual student needs.  The location of those services is an administrative decision.  We do want to ensure that a full continuum of special education services is discussed at IEP team meetings.  For students who receive setting 1 and 2 services the annual school lottery, student placement center for new families, or home school will be the method of student placement. 


Why Inclusive Practices in Minneapolis Public Schools?

Inclusion for students who receive Special Education services is defined as: The right of every child to participate in a flexible learning environment with equitable access to core curriculum and social community.

For students with disabilities, research indicates that the more time students spend with non-disabled peers, the better the outcomes. The positive impacts of education in an inclusive environment include higher scores in reading and math, improved school attendance, and better outcomes after they leave school. Inclusive practices benefit all students, including peers in general education. Inclusion promotes relationships and acceptance of people with individual differences. Richard Lavoie, author and consultant on Learning Disabilities, asserts there is a hidden curriculum within the social environment of a classroom or school. This curriculum creates a springboard for all children to develop beliefs about social justice, tolerance, and equity.

In the area of academic progress, Waldron, Cole, and Majd (2001) report that students without disabilities made comparable or greater gains in math and reading when taught in inclusive settings versus traditional classrooms where no students with disabilities were included (Maryland Coalition for Inclusion, 2010).


Will it be possible for my child to have an opportunity to meet his teacher in a quieter setting or smaller group?

The IEP team will determine the services that a student needs to progress in the general education.  The IEP team may recommend individual, small group or whole group instruction and/or interventions in both the general and special education classrooms.