by David Sturdevant
Last week I began an exploration of the comprehensive nature of LA, based on the three words that appear under the school seal — INDEPENDENT, COMPREHENSIVE, GLOBAL. I talked about the school being comprehensive based on the students we serve, the communities they represent and the structure of our school. The other major factor that makes us comprehensive is found in our curriculum, programs, and initiatives.
We offer 160 courses, including 19 Advanced Placement courses, a great number of college prep courses, and many general education courses. In addition, we have a strong special education department, where teachers work with students who have a wide variety of learning challenges. Out of our day student population, 25% of our students have an Individual Educational Plan or a 504 Plan.
I want to take some time here to briefly address special education and 504, as, in the big scheme of things, they are relatively new in the education timeline.
A federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that public schools create an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for every child receiving special education services. Students ranging in age from three through high school graduation or a maximum age of 22 (whichever comes first) may be eligible for an IEP. An IEP is meant to address each child’s unique learning issues and includes specific educational goals, along with modifications for their educational experience. It is a legally binding document. The school must provide everything it promises in the IEP.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to people with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. In addition, unlike the Civil Rights Act, the ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.
A 504 plan refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that no one with a disability can be excluded from participating in federally funded programs or activities, including elementary, secondary or post-secondary schooling. Students may qualify for a 504 plan, including accommodations, if they are affected by a disability or a situation which impacts a major life function. As with an IEP, a 504 plan is a legally binding document and must be followed.
What is the difference between a modification and an accommodation for a student with an IEP or a 504 plan? A modification constitutes a change in what a student is taught or expected to learn. An accommodation is utilized in order for a student to access the same materials and meet the same expectation as his or her classmates.
In my next column, I will review other programs in place here at LA, through which we work with students to achieve their best educational outcomes. I will also provide a review of the College Board and its AP program and curricula.
As always, should you have questions about Lincoln Academy, please feel free to make an appointment to meet with me. You may contact Carole Brinkler, Assistant to the Head of School at 207-563-3596, ext.102.