SPECIAL NEEDS LEARNERS AND REFERRALS
Consistent with the Church document, To Teach as Jesus Did, and the Pastoral Statement of the U.S. Bishops, Persons with Disabilities, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston seeks to include students with specials needs in our schools to the extent that the needs of such students can be met within the scope of the programs and available resources. The Catholic Schools Office is aware that it is unrealistic to serve all categories of special needs students. However, Saint Theresa Catholic School and the other Catholic Schools understand that admission of special needs students must be considered and reviewed on an individual basis.
Legal References to Special Services
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that local school districts locate, identify, and evaluate all private school students suspected of having a disability. For Saint Theresa Catholic School, the local district is the Fort Bend County Independent School District (FBISD). The “Child Find” process must be conducted in consultation with private schools’ representatives to ensure equitable access for private school students. In IDEA, these children are often referred to as “parentally placed private school children with disabilities,” and the benefits available to them differ significantly from the benefits for children with disabilities enrolled in public schools.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504 educational section (frequently called “Section 504”), provides that no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from participation in any program receiving federal assistance. Catholic educators are committed to recognizing and addressing the needs of all those who seek a Catholic education. Within the compass our resources, Saint Theresa and other Catholic schools will offer services to eligible students with special needs, when possible. While private schools are not required to significantly alter their programs, lower or substantially modify their standards to accommodate a child with special needs, Saint Theresa seeks to serve the best interests of all its students. Even though private educational institutions are only required to make minor adjustments to accommodate eligible students, Saint Theresa aims to review these cases with compassion, fairness, and genuine effort to support the success of every student.
Records for Special Needs Learners
All psychological and educational evaluations or reports regarding testing of special needs students, received from local public schools, persons, or agencies, are forwarded to Saint Theresa Catholic School, upon request. These records are kept on file at the school for a period of seven (7) years after the exit of the student. These records are kept in a secure file and in an area accessible only to the Headmaster, the Assistant Principal, the Counselor, and any other staff member, as appropriate for their work with the student. Parents may view their child’s record at any time. These records may not be forwarded to any other individual or agency.
Criteria for Acceptance of Students with Special Needs
In making a determination regarding the admittance of a particular student, STCS will review the child’s ability to meet the School’s academic, behavioral, and physical qualifications. Each Catholic school determines its ability to meet the need of the student applicant. Consideration will be given to the student records that demonstrate his or her ability to:
- meet grade level requirements;
- follow school rules and regulations; and
- meet the physical requirements of attendance.
Saint Theresa’s Services for Special Needs Learners
New Students – When the Admission Office or Headmaster is notified that an incoming student may have special learning needs, the Headmaster and other appropriate school staff review current academic, social, medical, and psychological evaluations to determine if the applicant is qualified to enroll, with or without his or her disability. If the applicant is qualified for enrollment, the Headmaster and Assistant Principal will then determine if reasonable adjustments can be made to the educational program which will accommodate the student’s needs. If an admission is determined the school will begin the procedures with parents to discuss a Catholic Accommodation Plan.
Currently Enrolled Students – If a teacher or parent is concerned about a child’s academic, behavioral, or emotional progress and feels that testing may be needed, he or she will discuss concerns with the parent or family and the Headmaster, and then meet with the Assistant Principal as soon as possible. Our aim is always to work as a team to do what is best for the child. Because this is a critically important and individualized process, we will review and discuss:
- The student’s current educational status, including attendance records, grades, assessment data, and classroom observations;
- Previous educational efforts and strategies provided for the student and the results;
- Documentation of any recent vision and hearing screenings;
- Updated general health history inventory; and
- Other information provided by parents or teachers.
Parents will be expected to disclose any pertinent information that may assist Saint Theresa Catholic School in educating the student. The Headmaster and staff are responsible for recommending educational alternatives and/or referrals to the local school district and/or private agency of the parent’s choice for further evaluation. In some cases, the campus may not have the resources necessary to help the child be successful. The Headmaster or Assistant Principal will then assist the family to locate an appropriate educational program for the child.
STCS will keep documentation for all referrals on file. This documentation will be included in the student’s records. If an evaluation determines the student requires minor accommodations the school will begin the procedures with parents to discuss a Catholic Accommodation Plan. Accommodations for a child will be noted both on the report card and in the child’s permanent folder.
Student Success Expectations for Special Needs Learners
Saint Theresa Catholic School will deploy all available school resources to promote student success. We are committed to keeping the lines of communication open and informing parents about student progress in all areas. The classroom teacher and parent will first discuss any concerns about a student’s progress. School success is the outcome of a strong academic partnership between parents and faculty, and Saint Theresa strives to maintain strong collaborative ties with all our families. In order to provide the greatest educational benefit to our students, parents are expected to disclose any pertinent information from private resources (diagnoses and recommendations) that would be of specific educational value in STCS’s efforts to adequately support their children. If it is determined that the School’s resources cannot meet the needs of a student, or if parent(s) or guardian(s) fail to act on the School’s recommendations for remediation or diagnostic evaluation, the Headmaster may request withdrawal of the student or deny admission for the following year.
Accommodations for Special Needs Learners
The purpose of an accommodation of any type is to provide the appropriate instruction according to the individual student’s special needs. As a result of a diagnostic evaluation, a student meets certain criteria to qualify for accommodations to his or her schoolwork. In many instances, accommodations (changes in methods of instruction) can be made in the classroom for students with special needs or for struggling students. Students who are diagnosed with a learning difference or who are diagnosed with a special need through the public school system, private doctors, or through special agencies may be referred for special assistance with the Headmaster and Assistant Principal after the administration has verification of the student’s recommended accommodations (curricular modifications are not provided because modifications require alterations of curricular learning objectives). The number of intervention sessions per week, length of sessions, and goals will be determined by the Headmaster, Assistant Principal, classroom teacher, and tutor after all available information has been reviewed.
Standardized Assessment for Students with Special Needs
Standardized assessments are one of several means of evaluating student performance. All students participate in the Archdiocese standardized assessment program. Students with disabilities identified through IDEA may require assessment accommodations. These accommodations should be provided on a weekly basis through the classroom teacher. These testing arrangements must be planned for in advance through a meeting with the Headmaster and the Assistant Principal. Any adjustment made on the standardized assessment must be requested from the Catholic Schools Office via special request on the appropriate form.