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Special Education In Seattle

Steve Scher
12/20/2011 at 10:00 a.m.

Federal law requires that public schools teach every student, regardless of that student's disabilities. That can be complicated, labor–intensive and expensive. How is Seattle Public Schools doing when it comes to special education? Special education students are placed in mainstream classrooms now. Is that working for teachers and students? How is the district dealing with the rise in students identified as being on the autism spectrum? We talk with special education teachers and parents about the district's successes and challenges in special education. We want to hear your stories and questions, too. Call us at 1.800.289.KUOW (5869).


Kathie Newell has taught special education in Seattle Public Schools for more than three decades. She teaches children on the autism spectrum at Thurgood Marshall Elementary. She's a member of the Technical Assistance Team, which offers support to teachers with special education students in their classrooms. Kathie is also a product of Seattle Public Schools: she went to Wedgwood, Eckstein and Nathan Hale.

Shelly Hurley is a special education teacher at Graham Hill Elementary in Seattle's Seward Park neighborhood. She works in the school's inclusion program. She's been teaching at Graham Hill for six years and specializes in students with autism.

Patty Finnegan is a special education teacher at West Seattle High School. She's been an educator for 24 years. She's taught special education and science in several states, and worked in state administration and teacher education programs.

Susan Sturms is the president of the Seattle Special Education PTSA. She has a son on the autism spectrum who attended Seattle Public Schools until this year. Susan also spent a year teaching math at Chief Sealth High School in Seattle.

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