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Educational Programs in Public Schools

First published in Princess Magazine July 8, 2023

If you are a parent in the United States, you probably know how confusing it can be to understand all the different programs and rules in public schools. It can all be very overwhelming! There are several programs in schools that can help your child with everything from supporting those who excel academically to those who struggle in school and need a little extra help.

Public schools offer programs like Gifted and Talented (GT), Section 504, Special Education (SPED), and English Language Learners (ELL) to ensure that every student has a chance to thrive. If you have a child that seems to be struggling from either classwork being too challenging or not challenging enough these programs can likely help.

Gifted and Talented (GT) Programs

Gifted and talented programs are designed to identify and nurture students who demonstrate exceptional academic abilities or potential. These programs offer accelerated classwork, engaging activities, and unique teaching practices to challenge and engage intellectually advanced children. The aim of this program is to challenge and inspire gifted students to reach their full potential and pursue their passions while fostering a true love for learning. To qualify for GT, students can be recommended for evaluation to determine if they are eligible. Let your child’s teacher know if you are interested in having them evaluated for the gifted and talented, or GT, program.

English Language Learner (ELL) Programs

English Language Learner or ELL programs cater to students who are acquiring English as an additional language. These programs provide targeted instruction, cultural support, and academic assistance to help students learn and practice English so that they can integrate the language into a general education classroom. ELL programs employ strategies such as classes specifically for ELL students only, language immersion, support in the classroom and on tests (i.e. simple instructions, repeated review, reduce longer reading passages, etc.) and bilingual education to ensure that those learning English can fully participate in all aspects of the curriculum. Any student that is identified as ELL, will take an annual series of tests to measure and determine their growth in English. Students can often be identified as needing ELL based on the home language survey from the parent at the time of enrollment if the home language is other than English. To find out if your child is receiving ELL services or if you would like them to be contact your child’s assistant principal.

Section 504

Section 504 is a federal law that ensures that students with diagnosed mental or physical disabilities have plans that are uniquely designed for those who need reasonable supports to participate fully in school. These supports do not only have to be academic but can also extend to sports, clubs, and field trips to ensure that children can participate fully. Section 504 supports can also be used on state testing, SATs, and ACTs. 504 plans provide supports such as additional time for assignments or tests, speech to text, text to speech, timers, visual schedules, and more to ensure students can overcome barriers and demonstrate their true potential.

To receive 504 support, students must have a diagnosed mental or physical disability and then be evaluated to determine if that disability substantially limits a major life activity. Send an email to your child’s principal if you feel that you would like to request a Section 504 evaluation to support your child.

Special Education Programs

Special education programs are designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities through specialized instruction, individualized support, and related services to address various learning challenges. Special education teachers work closely with students, parents, and other professionals to create Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that outline specific goals, accommodations, and services tailored to each student’s needs, fostering a positive and inclusive classroom experience. Students qualify for special education once an evaluation process is started at the request of the parent, or school, and the parent consents to it.

If you think your child may benefit from special education support, send an email to your child’s principal requesting a special education evaluation.

In the United States, there are specialized educational programs designed for students with varying abilities. These programs aim to establish a just and equitable learning environment where every student can thrive. By identifying and nurturing each student’s unique strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations, these initiatives foster academic achievement and personal growth for all students.

If you are interested in any of these programs, reach out to your school to ask about them, how to get your child enrolled or evaluated for them.

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