Data shows there are more students who need more support at Aspen School District. A trend? Not necessarily.
Severity of need is up, but could be due to a number of factors
Over the past couple of years, the number of students who need extra behavioral, academic or life skills support at Aspen School District has increased by just a handful or two to ring in at right around 200 kids, according to data student services co-directors Tara Valentino and Lauren Scheetz presented to the Board of Education on Nov. 9.
There are also more students who need more support: the severity rating more than doubled between the 2019-20 school year and the 2021-22 year.
Is it a sign of a trend? Not necessarily, Valentino and Scheetz said Friday in an interview.
“I’ve been here for a long time. … Trend lines made me a little uncomfortable, but I have seen an increase in needs,” Valentino said. “So I can’t say that it will continue, however, I just know that, being here since 2010, that severity rating has increased.”
It might not keep going up at the same rate either, Scheetz said.
Aspen now has a district-wide coordinator for Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, a program that screens students early on to identify their needs and offer interventions before students may need an individualized education program.
The district also will have a board-certified behavior analyst joining in December to support social, emotional and behavioral needs. Ongoing partnerships with community organizations help support programming, too. In terms of overall staffing, the department could use four more paraprofessionals to offer in-classroom support and two more special education teachers but the situation isn’t dire, Valentino and Scheetz both said.
Besides, a couple of data points showing increased need aren’t so much indicative of trends over time than a couple of weird years.
That’s the case at Aspen Elementary School and Aspen High School, which both saw incoming classes that had more students with more significant needs transitioning into kindergarten and freshman year, respectively; that isn’t typical, but it seems to be an anomaly, Valentino and Scheetz said.
Same goes for the number of students with individualized education programs who transferred into the district recently; some of those students came in through open enrollment for families who live outside the district but some just moved to the district from outside the area.
And an increased need for speech and language development support among kindergartners this year — more than in the past, Valentino told the board Nov. 9 — might be partly influenced by pandemic factors like remote learning and mask-wearing, but Valentino and Scheetz aren’t drawing conclusions yet.
“There’s definitely more factors than we probably even realize,” Valentino said.
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