Special Needs Policy

    IB Career-Related and Diploma Programme 
    Special Needs Policy

    School Profile
    Suncoast Community High School is a magnet school of choice located in an urban fringe community of Palm Beach County, Florida. Since 1989, Suncoast has maintained four magnet programs; Computer Science (CS), Innovative Interactive Technology (IIT), International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB), and Math, Science, and Engineering (MSE). In 2010, a new Suncoast campus was built to create a tri-campus International Baccalaureate continuum near a Primary Years Programme (PYP) elementary school and a Middle Years Programme (MYP) middle school. The new campus is fully accessible to special needs students with physical disabilities. Currently, over 66% of the 11 th and 12 th grade student
    population consists of Diploma candidates. Approximately, 18 students in grades 11 and 12 are enrolled in the IB Career-Related (CP) Programme. The IB learner profile is regarded as the hallmark for the implicit curriculum of Suncoast Community High School.

    The School District of Palm Beach County deems Suncoast Community High School as a magnet school of choice. All incoming 9 th grade students, designated to enroll in the Diploma Programme, must have a GPA of 3.0. This GPA requirement is the only pre-requisite. All students in grades 9 and 10 participate in the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP). During the MYP years, students and teachers are acclimated to the IB assessment ideology which includes subjectarea rubrics, external moderation of subjects, and oral presentations. Therefore, students begin foundational studies for the Suncoast Diploma Programme in the event they wish to transfer or add the Diploma Programme to their program of study in grade 11.

    Suncoast Community High School Inclusion Philosophy 
    The mission of Suncoast Community High School is to provide a challenging, innovative program to a diverse student population, empowering each individual to successfully compete in and contribute to the global society, while maintaining a safe school environment. In alignment with the IB philosophy on inclusion, Suncoast embraces the concept of diversity in recognizing the ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, and learning style differences of our students. Special needs students are challenged to follow their academic strengths and build up their weaknesses through full participation in the Diploma Programme. In addition, the state of Florida adopted a teaching growth model/evaluation system that compels teachers to create new strategies to address unique student needs. Suncoast faculty strives to integrate international
    mindedness and the learner profile attributes within student lessons while using differentiation strategies to address unique student needs. Teachers model learner profile attributes and approaches to teaching and learning strategies that encourage students to demonstrate strong academic behaviors in the classroom as well as service learning. Teachers are required to monitor student academic progress throughout lessons in the classroom.

    Suncoast students are seen as individuals with goals and aspirations meted out through the variety of academic programs that exist in the school. Thus, professional development opportunities and the IB philosophy of inclusion is shared with all faculty members to ensure that teaching and learning practices are implemented to serve a diverse student population. In addition, special needs students receive the specific accommodations prescribed for their needs during state, national, and international exams. The Diploma Coordinator, school testing coordinators, invigilators, and proctors are made aware of the specific accommodations for special needs students to ensure fidelity of implementation.

    The Suncoast Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Department includes an ESE Coordinator, two support facilitators, and a school administrator to monitor educational services for a school-wide special needs population of 9% in an overall population of 1560 students. However, the Diploma Programme, specifically, boasts a special needs population of 5% within 450 students. In accordance with state and federal guidelines, special needs students may be entitled to receive specific accommodations in the classroom and/or during assessments as deemed appropriate for their needs. Federal law requires that, upon parental request and with medical documentation, a meeting is held with parents, student, ESE staff, administration, and teacher(s), school psychologist, speech/language pathologist, sign language interpreter and deaf/hard of hearing teacher (as needed) to discuss and record specific accommodations outlined for the student. The accommodations are recorded on a 504 plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP), depending on the student’s need.

    To date, special needs students at Suncoast may use assistive technologies, word processors for essay exams, scribes, readers, frequent breaks or additional time for assignments and assessments as prescribed on 504 plans or IEPs. Students’ teachers are given copies of 504 plans or IEPs to implement the accommodations outlined for classroom participation and/or assessment. Special needs students are protected under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and have a right to receive education in the least
    restrictive environment. The student is continually monitored by the ESE staff and the ESE administrator during their matriculation at Suncoast, and the IEP is updated annually. The Suncoast Exceptional Student Education Department works closely with veteran and new teachers in developing an understanding of how accommodations are aligned with each student’s needs.

    School Development and Resources
    Suncoast students are met by the Counseling Services Department for seminars that encourage strong academic habits and time management strategies. The school also conducts career and college preparation workshops, MYP Personal Project preparation, and IOP preparation for IB English and World Language students. Additional seminars that assist students in skill building for IB assessments, learning style strategies, and language development are needed.

    Suncoast teachers attend district workshops and receive on-campus professional development in the areas of international –mindedness, learner profile, global contexts in unit planning, and differentiation for classroom implementation. Suncoast administration strives for fidelity of implementation with these ideals as teachers progress through the state adopted teacher growth model/evaluation system.

    Suncoast has access to school district personnel that specialize in Exceptional Student Education practices, procedural safeguards, test evaluations, parent conferences, and legal advisement. The school receives weekly/monthly visitations from an assigned district speech/language pathologist and a school psychologist. The staff of the Suncoast ESE department consists of support facilitators that attend specific classes with assigned special needs students to provide support according to the students’ needs.

    The school district allocates funds to the school to hire and train special needs support staff based upon the number of enrolled students diagnosed with disabilities. Therefore, the ESE department has limited funding for support facilitation services. The Suncoast ESE department is also limited by the number of students in the general student population that can be evaluated for disabilities due to shortage of school psychologists in the district. The ESE department does not screen or evaluate students for disabilities. Students are evaluated at the district level by school psychologists, by parent or by Child Study Team request. Thus, faculty, administrators, school counselors, and teachers with special needs students work together to follow and monitor the 504 and IEP plans devised to maximize positive student outcomes.

    The Suncoast Special Needs policy is shared with faculty, parents, students and the school district on the school website, during parent meetings and open house events to articulate the school’s stance on providing inclusive educational services. These stakeholders are made aware of the inclusion policy at Suncoast to ensure that all students take full advantage of the academic programs offered at the school. Special needs students at Suncoast, including CP and Diploma students, participate in accelerated coursework through various academic programs offered on campus. The school district’s enrollment policy for magnet schools of choice encourages applications from students with special needs and does not permit test scores, teacher recommendations or student conduct records to eliminate eligible
    students from the applicant pool.

    The Suncoast ESE department maintains parent communication through emails, phone conferences, parent meetings, and quarterly reports to parents. The Suncoast ESE Coordinator facilitates parent meetings in which the school psychologist interprets psychological evaluations and the speech/language pathologist interprets language evaluations of students. In 504 and IEP meetings, accommodations for special needs students are discussed, with teachers present to support student success in the classroom. The Diploma Coordinator applies to the IB, on behalf of the student, for accommodations in the classroom and/or for external examination periods.

    When students are in transition from middle to high school, a transition IEP meeting is conducted prior to arrival at high school to allow a district transition specialist to provide parents with information about success in high school. In transition to college, a transition specialist is available to provide information to parents of special needs students about career and college preparation. Students are invited to use their IEP or 504 plans to apply at the student disabilities office of their choice colleges for accommodations.

    Suncoast administration respects student confidentiality through the transmission of information about special needs students to faculty. The Suncoast ESE coordinator maintains student records in a secure location and discloses records to parents, upon written request, to teachers or to district ESE personnel. Pertinent information about special needs students is disseminated to administrators, faculty, or test proctors with confidentiality as sealed documents or marked “confidential.”

    Special needs students, depending on their disability, require skills in organization, executive decision-making, information processing, cognitive processing, and language processing to function in the high school classroom. In addition to support facilitation in the classroom, students also receive individualized assistance during the daily 40-minute lunch period from Suncoast ESE support facilitators in the aforementioned areas. Speech and language impaired students receive support services during elective class periods from the speech/language pathologist. Special needs of students at Suncoast include anxiety, Asperger’s syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Attention Deficit Disorder, chronic illness, emotional/behavior disorder, hearing impaired, Other Health Impaired (OHI), and speech impaired.

    Policy Review
    The Special Needs policy will be reviewed every two years to ensure that the IB philosophy of inclusion is safeguarded and communicated to faculty, staff, administration, school counselors, students, parents, and stakeholders. The Suncoast ESE department will be the predominant voice in the policy to address how the learning needs of special needs students should be monitored and addressed in the classroom. The responsibility of meeting the needs of special needs students rests on the shoulders of the entire school population with parental support.

    Supporting Documents
    Candidates with assessment access requirements, July 2014
    Guidelines for developing a school assessment policy in the Diploma Programme, 2010
    Learning Diversity in the International Baccalaureate Programmes: Special Educational Needs within the International
    Baccalaureate Programmes, August, 2010
    Meeting Student Learning Diversity in the Classroom, May 2013
    Programme Standards and Practices, 2014

    (November, 2014; May 2019)

    (Updated November 16, 2011; November 5, 2012; November 2014; February 2015; May 2019)