Camino Nuevo Charter Academy Wins GOAL Award for Dynamic Blended Inclusion Model

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August 16, 2016 Dr. Ellerbee, the Deputy Superintendent of Student Support and Special Services for the state of California, began the Grazer Outstanding Achievement in Learning ("GOAL") Award presentation by noting that at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, a group of schools serving 3,500 students in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles, it is significant that the special education program drives the entire operation of the school. He noted that this emphasis on serving students with disabilities was a key factor in their Kayne Siart campus winning the 2016 GOAL award, presented yearly to schools with exemplary special education practices by the Advisory Committee on Special Education ("ACSE"). Dr. Ellerbee then introduced three of the individuals responsible for Camino's success: CEO, Ana Ponce; Chief Academic Officer, Heather McManus; and Special Education teacher, Adalid Sanchez.

Ms. McManus began the presentation by describing the process of instituting full inclusion at Camino when she served as Kayne Siart's principal seven years ago. She noted that she and other staff felt "a moral imperative to serve all students in a full inclusion model." She described "Year 0" of the program, where they researched co-teaching practices, ran budgets, discussed full inclusion with parents, and then began preparing students for what full inclusion would entail. They started small, launching full inclusion in one fourth grade class and they intended to expand just one new grade per year. Halfway through that first year, however, Camino teachers came into her office and said that they wanted full inclusion in all of the grades as soon as possible. The following year, Camino expanded its full inclusion model, now known as "Dynamic Blended Inclusion," to all grade levels at the school.

Camino's model is called "Dynamic Blended Inclusion," or "DBI," because, as Ms. McManus notes, "one-size-fits-all does not make sense." At Camino the planning for each school year begins with special education first, when staff plan schedules, teacher assignments, and caseloads around their students with disabilities before addressing other school planning. She noted that DBI, "relies on knowing the students, and knowing what support they each need to succeed" and that by planning with their "Special Education Matrix" they are able to deliver the support their students need. Mr. Sanchez, who started at Camino as a para-educator and has since earned his special education teaching credential, noted that the success of DBI hinges on successful co-teaching, which requires the teachers to know and trust each other. He went on to describe one of the students who had been in a Special Day Class (SDC) prior to 4th grade and has since been successfully mainstreamed using the DBI model at Kayne Siart for the past five years.

More information on Camino's special education model can be found in this case study, published by the National Charter School Resource Center. Camino Nuevo's Kayne Siart campus has recently been named a 2016 California Gold Ribbon School, and you can vote to see Ms. McManus present a session at this year's South by Southwest Education Conference in March 2017. For more information on ACSE or the GOAL award please contact Brigette Dutra, bdutra@ccsa.org.