Launch Exceptional Learner Services: Special Education Services

As Launch saw an increase in demand for our virtual SPED services, we increased the size of our team to keep up. “In addition to myself, we have five full-time teachers for our Special Education classes this year,” says Special
By Savannah Waszczuk

As Launch saw an increase in demand for our virtual SPED services, we increased the size of our team to keep up. “In addition to myself, we have five full-time teachers for our Special Education classes this year,” says Special Education Liaison Amy Bollinger. “We expanded to offer classes to middle students as well.”

Launch’s Special Education classes are designed to serve both full-time virtual and per-course students with mild to moderate disabilities that require accommodations, modifications and specially designed instruction in English Language Arts and Math. And while this naturally alters the course’s content, it also changes the delivery method. “Both our Strategies classes and our direct instruction classes are live,” Amy says. “Those students are having face-to-face contact with their teachers three hours a week. They’re working on modified grade-level curriculum and IEP goals, and they’re doing it with constant live support. I think that’s part of what is helping set Launch apart online.”

And what exactly does Amy mean by “sets us apart?” She’s discussing the feedback that Launch has received from both liaisons and partner school districts regarding our Special Education offerings. “I recently had a school district in Kansas City tell me they were working to move all of their virtual Special Education services to Launch,” Amy says. Her reasons included the amount of live Special Education offerings, the amount of one-on-one teacher support and the amount of communication provided to parents. “She also liked the fact that we provide data monitoring for IEP goals,” Amy says.

The positive feedback Amy refers to doesn’t stop with school districts. “We’ve been receiving great feedback from students and parents as well,” Amy says. “I’ve had multiple parents tell me that this is the most successful their student has been—even compared to seated—because we’re really able to individualize our instruction,” Amy says. “The students are getting more one-on-one time. And for a lot of these students, that makes all of the difference.”

A Special Education Success Story

Launch’s Special Education teachers provide junior Alysa Valentine-Pankratz with the attention and support she needs to be successful in her online courses.

As Jessica Hall describes the former education experiences of her daughter, Alysa Valentine-Pankratz, she emphasizes the fact that it was far from easy. “She’s with me now, and this will be her permanent home,” Jessica says. “But she’s had a challenging past. From the time before she was even 8 years old her environmental situations at both home and school were very unfortunate.”

At the beginning of her junior year, it became mandatory for Alysa to move to a virtual setting. She soon found herself enrolled in a full-time schedule with Launch through the Exeter school district. “She started online in late September of this year, so she was very behind,” Jessica says. “But she’s received a lot of tutoring from Launch teachers, the Exeter principal Ms. Fly & various Exeter teachers, as well as a great family friend, Raylin Gomen, and at home. These resources have been a tremendous support system for Alysa and she is now mostly caught up. It is rewarding to see her excitement in the little wins as she feels empowered knowing she can accomplish hard things and graduate on time.”

Jessica says the one-on-one attention and support Alysa has received from her Launch teachers has made all the difference. “She has an IEP in place, and we’re preparing to modify it even more,” Jessica says. “But at this point, Launch is working with her to meet her needs, and it’s been really great for her. Her teachers pay attention, and they’re a constant support system. Alysa sees that and feels that, and it’s obvious. It’s what has made all the difference.” And Alyssa agrees. “I never liked school before,” she says. “But my Launch teachers take time to work with me, and they helped me get caught up. Now I get on for every live class, and I actually like it.”

An Assignment at a Glance

In a traditional eighth grade ELA course, the curriculum requires students learn about alliterations and why authors use them. In Launch’s SPED version of this course, students go into a deep dive: they kick off the lesson with an ice breaker where each student chooses a new name using an alliteration. Next they watch a video, then read a Dr. Suess book aloud and collect alliterations as they go. A quick formative check using a jamboard preps students for the assignment.