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    Placement defines the setting, intensity, and instructional content of each student’s services. Placement is a specific term used in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), so it means the same thing across the United States, within a special education context. Placement will impact your student's SPS primary service type, which can also affect your student's assignment. Having a specific placement or primary service type does not guarantee or imply attendance at a particular school.


    What defines placement?

    Placement is a fundamental part of the IEP team process. Your student's placement can be found in their Individualized Education Program (IEP), documented as setting, intensity of services, and instructional content.



    Setting describes the location where a student receives instruction. Setting does not refer to a specific school.

    Every student should learn in their least restrictive environment (LRE). The general education setting is the default LRE. However, some students have specific learning needs that make an alternative setting their LRE. A student's LRE can vary throughout their school day, across instructional content and settings.

    In a student's IEP, their setting is often summarized as the percentage of time spent in the general education setting.


    Intensity of Services

    Intensity describes how complex a student's services are.

    Intensity of services is documented in the IEP with quantitative and qualitative measures. Both are factors in describing the intensity of a student’s services.

    Quantitative measures describe information that can be measured with numbers. This can include:

    • how many areas of special education instruction and related services
    • how many minutes of instruction and related services
    • how many accommodations, etc.

    Qualitative measures describe information about qualities and are captured in narrative sections of the IEP, including:

    • present levels of academic achievement
    • functional performance, etc.


    Instructional Content

    Instruction describes what the services are.

    Instructional content is the scope of what is being taught beyond the general education curriculum. Under IDEA it is called Specially Designed Instruction (SDI).


    Primary Service Types

    The concept of a continuum of alternative placements applies to special education in all school districts in the state of Washington. The Continuum Approach is how services are delivered within Seattle Public Schools.

    A Primary Service type categorizes a student’s placement for the purpose of assignment within Seattle Public Schools. (This is sometimes called a Seattle Public Schools Primary Service type or SPS Primary Service type.) Each student's IEP team selects the Primary Service type that best aligns with the student’s IEP. A student's primary service type may change through the IEP process due to significant progress, or lack of progress.

    Having a specific Primary Service type does not guarantee assignment to a particular school. The Primary Service type defines the student's admissions pathway, a process that leads to a specific assignment for a student.

    Special Education Service Pathways

    These Primary Service type descriptions apply to students enrolled in Seattle Public Schools, grades K–12, and students receiving special education transition services (up to 21 years old). For preschool service descriptions, please see Early Learning Special Education.

    Select a Primary Service type below to learn more about it.