Special Education at Rancho Vista has several essential program components that support students at our school. These include (1) rigorous, academically-oriented special day classrooms, (2) fully integrated designated instructional services, (3) a highly qualified behavior support team, (4) and a robust, research-based response to intervention (RTI) program. Although described here as specific programs, these four program components work together seamlessly to support all students with academic, behavioral, and social needs at the school.
Rigorous, Academically Oriented Special Day Classrooms
The three special day classrooms at Rancho Vista serve moderate to severe students and are led by three highly qualified special education teachers with multiple credentials and years of experience in the field. Their classroom instructional assistants have worked closely with the teachers for many years creating a cohesive and responsive team. The classroom teams look at both individual student IEP goals and grade level standards and then design specific small group activities and learning centers designed to scaffold student learning. The key to student success in the classroom is that all classroom staff truly knows each child as an individual learner and is able to incrementally scaffold their learning using the latest research-based techniques including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Discrete Trial Training (DTT). These techniques, coupled with high expectations for student learning, allow students to reach their highest potential.
All three SDC classrooms have a strong focus on inclusion. The SDC teachers work closely with the general education teachers to integrate students with special needs into general education throughout the instructional day. The school-wide focus on recognizing and appreciating individual differences supports inclusion in that students with special needs are welcomed and supported in general education classes by their peers. As students gain more academic independence in the SDC classroom, they spend increasing amounts of time in general education.
Fully Integrated Designated Instructional Services (DIS)
Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy, and Adaptive Physical Education services provide support to students with special needs throughout the instructional day. These services are embedded within classroom instruction to avoid students being “pulled out” and missing classroom learning. For example, the Adaptive P.E. works closely with the credentialed P.E. teacher during P.E. to scaffold students towards full inclusion in the general program.
DIS providers at Rancho Vista have also elected to serve general education students via a tiered assistance model. This has allowed the DIS team to broaden their impact and meet the needs of students both in special and general education. This more comprehensive DIS model is unique to Rancho Vista.
In addition to the regular range of services provided to students with special needs, the DIS team organizes an “Ability Awareness Day” (AAD) to help general education students and their parents overcome common misconceptions about students with disabilities. On AAD, students participate in various activities that give them insight into what life is like for students with special needs. The atmosphere is positive and reflective and helps students develop a better understanding of what is means to be disabled. This, in turn, promotes tolerance, friendship, kindness, and respect for students with special needs.
A Highly Qualified Behavior Support Team
Behavior and Socialization Intervention Services (BASIS) at Rancho Vista is an in-house behavior team specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for students who present with behaviors that can interfere with their learning and ability to establish meaningful social relationships. Led by a board certified Behavior Analyst, the team is comprised of over 10 experienced Behavior Interventionists who are trained to implement Behavior Support Plans, help students with academics, and facilitate social and play skills.
The BASIS team works collaboratively with the SDC teachers and other DIS staff to create solid, consistent programming for all students at Rancho Vista.
In addition to individualized behavior protocols for students, BASIS has created social skills groups that utilize differentiated instruction so that all our learners can access the lessons. These include:
- “Rockin with Mrs. R”, a socials skills group that occurs once a week at each grade level – typical peers in K-1st grade classrooms come in for facilitated play times with the K-2 SDC class.
- Four days a week, there is a “Lunch Bunch” comprised of typical 5th grade students and students with social needs from the 3-5 SDC class. On the fifth day, the BCBA Program Lead and SDC teacher meet with the general education 5th grade students in order to provide feedback, hear ideas, and organize the next week’s events.
A Research-Based Response to Intervention Program (RTI)
In order to support student learning in English-Language Arts and foster inclusion, Rancho Vista developed the “Roadrunner Academy” utilizing a tiered response to invention (RTI) framework. Four to five days weekly, students in Kindergarten through fifth grade are leveled by reading ability for a one-hour period of targeted, guided reading instruction. The “Intensive” group at each grade level, which includes students with IEPS, meets with the RSP teacher and instructional aides. This staff delivers a differentiated Fountas and Pinnell guided reading curriculum tailored to the students’ specific reading levels and gaps.
The RSP teacher and the instructional aides who support the program have all received extensive training on guided reading and working with struggling readers. This allows them to further differentiate instruction for the 60-75 students they work with daily into small groups of 3-4 students. Progress for students participating in these small reading groups has been dramatic with many of them increasing their fluency and comprehension (as measured by the AimsWeb assessment) by 30-50% just in the first trimester.
For students with special needs, the RTI Intensive group allows them to access reading at their specific instructional level with a group of typical peers. The intense, targeted, small group instruction has been effective in moving this particular student group forward towards higher levels of reading achievement. Equally important, it has created a blended learning atmosphere where they can apply and extend many of the academic and social skills they have learned in their special day classrooms.
PVPUSD Student Services (website) Southwest SELPA (website)