DCPS provides a continuum of services for students ages three through 22 with disabilities who have been found eligible to receive special education services. There are different settings along the continuum where these services can be provided, and students learn in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible.
“Inside of general education” means that the specialized instruction and related services for students with disabilities will be served while they are with their peers without disabilities in the general classroom. DCPS believes that all students will benefit from including students with disabilities in a general education setting to the greatest extent possible.
Our goal is to help all students develop the skills they need to eventually learn in a general education classroom with their peers without disabilities. The goal of inclusion is to provide students with high-quality instruction that is aligned to grade-level expectations and gives them the opportunity to succeed in all areas. One important way inclusion happens is when a student’s special education needs are met in the general education classroom.
“Outside of general education” refers to all specialized instruction and services that are provided to a class or grouping made up entirely of students with disabilities. Students with less than 20 hours of specialized instruction outside of general education in their IEPs generally receive services in a Learning Lab, also referred to as a resource room or pull-out services. A Learning Lab is a classroom that is separate from the general education classroom where students with disabilities are given direct, specialized instruction and academic assistance. Students in this setting spend part of their time in the Learning Lab and part of their time in the general education setting with modifications and/or accommodations.
DCPS’s self-contained, districtwide classrooms provide specialized supports to students with 20 or more hours of specialized instruction outside of general education in their IEP. Our self-contained classrooms are designed to give more support to students with disabilities who have a high level of need.
Behavior and Education Support (BES)
BES program classrooms are for students who have been identified with an emotional disability or who have challenging behaviors that interfere with learning. Each classroom provides a safe and structured learning environment supported by trained staff who focus on individual student goals.
Communication and Education Support (CES)
CES program classrooms are for students who have been identified with autism spectrum disorder or other types of learning needs. The CES classrooms are based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and use research-based practices to provide students with highly structured environments. Teachers and staff in these classrooms support the academic, behavioral, communication, and social-emotional needs of students to help them develop independent life skills.
Early Learning Support (ELS)
The ELS program offers early intervention for students PK3 through 2nd grade who have a developmental delay or other delays in cognition, communication, social/emotional, and/or motor and adaptive skills. Each classroom uses research-based interventions and structured lessons to prepare students for a less restrictive environment.
Independence and Learning Support (ILS)
ILS program classrooms are for students who have been identified as having a cognitive or intellectual disability. Each program teaches literacy and life skills to prepare students for employment and long-term independence. Community business partnerships and transition planning are key pieces of the ILS program.
Medical and Education Support (MES)
MES program classrooms are for students who have been identified with complex medical needs and intellectual or cognitive delays. Each classroom provides a safe and structured learning environment with an emphasis on sensory experience and related service integration. These classrooms serve students PK3 through 2nd grade who are diagnosed with chronic and complex medical conditions and cognitive delays.
Sensory Support Programs
Sensory Support programs serve students who are deaf/hard of hearing or who are blind/visually impaired. These programs aim to help students develop the skills they need to learn with their hearing and sighted peers and to live independently.
Specific Learning Support (SLS)
SLS program classrooms are for students who have been identified with a specific learning disability or cognitive impairment. Each classroom provides a safe and structured learning environment with an emphasis on individualized instruction. SLS program classrooms serve students in 3rd – 12th grade who are identified as having a specific learning disability or complex learning needs and have not responded to interventions in the general education classroom.
For more information on special education programs and services in DCPS, please refer to the DCPS Special Education Family Programs and Resources Guide.