Special Education Department

Overview of Special Education: 

Purpose of Special Education:

(1) Show progress in the general education curriculum as shown by evaluative measures.
(2) Provide accessibility to the general education curriculum and environment to students.
(3) Provide meaningful participation by the student in the general education setting.

Who is in the Special Education Department at Merit?


Jessica Sitton – Special Education Director (Oversees department) Rm. 220 ext.232 jessica.sitton@meritacademy.org 

Maria Ruf – Special Education Teacher (Caseload 11th & 12th) Rm 220 ext.230 maria.ruf@meritacademy.org 

Caralee Earl – Special Education Teacher (Caseload 9th-10th) Rm 220 ext.230 caralee.earl@meritacademy.org 

Jennifer Andreski – Special Education Teacher (Caseload 7th-9th) Rm 215  Jennifer.andreski@meritacademy.org 

Galen Downing – School Psychologist Tuesdays, Thursdays and some Fridays Rm 221 galen.downing@meritacademy.org or galen.downing@gmail.com 

Julie Russel – Speech/Language Therapist Wednesdays Rm 221 julie.russel@meritacademy.org 

Lindsey Miller – Paraeducator/Secretary lindsey.miller@meritacademy.org 

Jackie Child – Paraeducator Jackie.child@meritacademy.org 

Kasen Graff – Paraeducator W days and T day afternoons Kasen.graff@meritacademy.org 

Ellie Hickenlooper – Paraeducator ellie.hickenlooper@meritacademy.org

Abigail Olsen – Paraeducator abigail.olsen@meritacademy.org



1. Aspire –  Go to classes. Click on one of your classes. On the left you will see a tab that says “IEP Notes”, click on “IEP Notes” will see a list of students and a summary of their IEP including services, accommodations, case manager, strengths and weaknesses. 

2. Another way to see IEP Summaries: Go to classes. Click on one of your classes. Click on student’s name with IEP (requires you knowing who has an IEP). Find and click on IEP Notes on the right hand column.


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Differentiated Instruction:

(Jessica’s view, not according to research!)


UDL Resources –UDL overview http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines_theorypractice, UDL interactive chart with a variety of specific ways to design learning in your classroom http://udlguidelines.cast.org/?utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=none&utm_source=udlcenter&utm_content=site-banner 

Differentiated Instruction – (Happens during and after instruction) Teacher responses to learners’ needs through content, process, product and learning environment according to learners’ readiness, interest and learning profile using a variety of instructional strategies.

Differentiated Instruction Resources: Karen Hess Cognitive Rigor Matrix (variety of response opportunities specific to content areas) https://www.karin-hess.com/cognitive-rigor-and-dok, Free online module on differentiated instruction with resources https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/di/


Instructional Accommodations: Accommodations are practices or procedures that are aimed at providing equal access to the content being taught. Access gives a student the opportunity to participate meaningfully in instruction. The accommodation does not change what the student is expected to learn, but provides for adaptation in presentation, response, timing and/or setting.

Assessment Accommodations: Assessment accommodations should align with instructional accommodations. “Accommodations for assessments are changes in the test administration that do not alter the validity of score interpretation, reliability, or security of the test. These accommodations may be available to students with special needs (e.g., IEP, 504, or EL plans), but not to general education students” (Utah Participation and Accommodations Policy, 2017-2018, p. 7).

Modifications: A strategy that is implemented that sets a different expectation for students to achieve, but still encourages inclusion.



CHILD FIND – the responsibility of a public education entity to find students with needs and provide free and appropriate public education (FAPE)

Response to Intervention (RTI) – A process of providing interventions to a student with a need to find appropriate instructional and behavioral supports to access the general education curriculum and show adequate progress towards mastery.

How we do this – 

  1. Identify a student with a need, what the expectation or standard is
  2. Work with the student to find an intervention to reach the desired expectation or standard https://www.specialeducationguide.com/pre-k-12/response-to-intervention/effective-rti-strategies-for-teachers/ or http://www.rtinetwork.org/high-school
  3. Work with student and other teachers if applicable to use identified intervention
  4. Document mastery criteria for reaching desired expectation or standard, record data on how student is doing (with other teachers if applicable) over an extended period of time (minimum of 2 weeks)
  5. If sufficient progress is noted, continue intervention to allow student access in your classroom, share results with student’s other teachers
  6. If concern continues, Contact Jessica Sitton for Student Success Data Google Form (Jessica will make an individualized form for that student where data can be collected across all teachers)
  7. Inform parents of your academic or social/behavioral concern and what you are doing to help. If appropriate, have a meeting with parent or conference on phone about insights to help student succeed.
  8. If concern continues after multiple interventions, contact Jessica Sitton about referring for special education services.