Micheltorena is unique in that it is home to five Special Education classes for students with learning disabilities and Autism, which accommodate students from preschool through the sixth grade. We also have a Resource Specialist Program (RSP) that serves students from kindergarten to sixth grade who have been identified as having mild disabilities and/or learning difficulties, but who are primarily included in the general education classes. Approximately 25% of our student are identified as Special Needs students, and come from neighboring elementary schools and other parts of Los Angeles.
Micheltorena not only strives to support students with learning disabilities and Autism, but works to include them with their general education peers as much as possible, following research-based protocols and best teaching practices. Our school is notable in that our Special Education and general education teachers work closely together to provide the most individualized education program possible for every student. This set-up is a “blended” model, with a student moving in and out of different classes, based on his or her needs. Some students may have as many as four teachers, while others have two or three teachers. We even offer a self-paced reading program as an alternative to the core program for students who are struggling with reading skills, but if those same students excel in math, they will be included in a more accelerated math class. Since our Special Education teachers collaborate with general education teachers on a daily basis, nearly all students have the opportunity to have small group learning experiences, for at least a part of each school day, again, based on individual needs and benefiting all.
Special Education teachers are also trained in teaching gifted children. Last year, a 4th grade class of mixed gifted and special needs students participated in a “teaming” program where they learned social studies and science, art, and P.E. together; these class situations focus on academics, but students also gain empathy and larger life-skills by learning how to work with others who may not be their academic equals.
Finally, we have many support personnel connected to our Special Education Department, such as a Psychologist, Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Adaptive Physical Education Teacher, and Deaf-and-Hard-of-Hearing Specialist, as well as teachers who have advanced education and/or experience with students who have Autism. All of these service personnel are also available to assess and consult in regards to students in our general education student population, which helps Micheltorena excel in terms of supporting any students who are having learning or behavioral challenges, whether they have been identified for Special Education services or not.