Skip To ContentSkip To Content

    Seattle Public Schools (SPS) provides special education services for more than 7,000 students (about 13%) of the District. Of these, about 80% spend the majority of their day in general education or advanced learning settings. Our students are also enrolled in most District programs, including Montessori and Highly Capable Cohort. We are proud that our students with disabilities are engaged in a broad range of opportunities. Nonetheless, we seek improvement. Equity in access to neighborhood schools, option schools, and all of the District’s programs is an ongoing priority for our department.



    Who Receives Special Education Services?

    Students who have both a disability and require services not provided in general education are eligible for special education. To participate, students must be referred to our department, evaluated and qualified. If you think your student needs special education services, you can initiate a referral.

    Not all students with disabilities need special education services. Those who do not need special education services may find useful supports through the SPS 504 Department and resources through the SPS Office of Student Civil Rights. Special education is also not intended as a resource for non-disabled students in need of additional academic support.

    What Is Special Education?

    Special education services consist of specially designed instruction and related services. Instruction refers to the content of what is taught (examples: reading or social skills). Related services refer to both instructional and non-instructional supports (examples: transportation or language interpretation).

    Services are not intended to be a barrier to either the general education curriculum or setting.

    The document defining a student’s services is called an Individual Education Program or IEP. The components of an IEP are standardized under Federal Law. Within that structure, the services defined are unique to each student. The IEP is based on the student’s evaluation and created collaboratively by an IEP team including the parent/guardian.

    A basic component of every IEP is to define what services will be delivered (example: specially designed math instruction). The answer will vary based on the individual student’s needs.

    Why Do We Provide Special Education?

    We provide special education services because we believe that every student in Seattle Public Schools deserves membership, support, challenge and achievement.

    The Federal Government agrees; The Individuals with Disabilities Act or IDEA ensures students access to public education. The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA also protect the civil and educational rights of students with disabilities.

    When Is Special Education Delivered?

    Students must have an IEP, based on evaluation, before services can begin. The purpose is to ensure that services are based on a comprehensive understanding of a student’s capabilities and challenges. Initiation of services requires parental consent. These, and other rules, are legal rights under IDEA, referred to as procedural safeguards.

    A basic component of every IEP is to define when (example: during math class) services (example: specially designed math instruction) are needed and for how long (example: 15 minutes). The answer will vary based on the individual student’s needs.

    Where Is Special Education Delivered?

    Students receiving services should learn in the setting that allows them to make progress academically, socially, and in other areas addressed in the IEP. Legally, this is referred to as the least restrictive environment or LRE. For many students this will be the general education setting. For some, a small group or other educational setting better supports learning. For most, the LRE will vary depending on the content of instruction.

    A basic component of every IEP is to define the school setting, or where services will be delivered (example: the general education classroom). The answer will vary based on the individual student’s needs.

    A complete list of the setting (where), intensity (how much), and instructional content (what) of an individual student’s services is called their placement. Placement does not define a particular school building or District program. The building and/ or District program a student attends is called their assignment.

    Within Seattle Public Schools (SPS) we are introducing a new delivery structure for special education called the Continuum Approach. It is designed to best align students’ individual services/placement with the skills/training of our special education staff. We use the term SPS Primary Placement to define this alignment. SPS Primary Placements include: Resource, Access, Focus, Social/Emotional, Distinct and Unique. Resource case managers are available at every school. Other Primary Placements, due to smaller numbers of students, are available regionally, but not at every school.

    How Do I Learn More?

    Use this website to learn basic concepts and information specific to Seattle Public Schools. Use the Link to Learn features for more detailed information from other organizations’ websites.