Special education students in Davenport will spend more time in regular classrooms learning the same material as their peers, if school board members approve a proposed special education plan.

Davenport School District administrators presented board members Monday night with a plan that will move the district away from teaching special needs students in seclusion. Instead, general education teachers will work with special education teachers to educate them in a regular classroom setting.

In addition to integrating students into regular classroom, Davenport's plan also defines the number of students assigned to each special education teacher, based on the amount of support students need, their individualized goals and whether a student needs a teacher's aide, specially designed instruction or assistive technology, as well as the amount of collaboration and planning needed between general and special education teachers.

Recently required by the Iowa Department of Education, the district's proposed special education service delivery plan defines how schools meet the educational needs of students. It's part of broader changes the state is making to special education, Davenport administrators said.

The district plans to seek input from residents, parents and staff before the board votes on it and submits it to the state. Davenport is one of about 100 Iowa districts that failed to meet a Sept. 15 deadline for submitting the plan to the state and were given an extension, Elaine Watkins-Miller, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Education, said.

Additionally, the state requires districts to create a board-approved advisory council of parents, teachers and administrators to help create the plans. Davenport board members approved the district's advisory council last week, although officials had been crafting the plan before the group's creation.

Board members expressed concern during their Sept. 28 meeting about the district not informing parents and others earlier about the changes and the proposed plan.

"In rolling this out, it's going to be a second-order change for a lot of people," board member Ken Krumwiede said. "What are you thinking as far as how that is going to happen with regular education teachers and special education teachers? What kind of support are we going to provide?"

The special education proposal helps position the district to meet state requirements that 75 percent of special education students spend at least 80 percent of the school day in a general education classroom by the end of 2010-11.

Betty Long, director of exceptional education and federal programs, said the delivery plan will expose special education students to the same curriculum as their peers, spark conversations to find the best way to meet students' needs and better prepare them for standardized achievement tests.

It is unclear how it would affect teachers, who can request their caseload of students be reviewed if they feel they have too many at one time.

"Now kids are exposed to (the curriculum)," Long said. "They are hearing it. They are conversing about it. Before, that wasn't an opportunity for them on a regular basis. There is research that shows that does make a difference."

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