You just had a meeting with the case manager at your child’s school. You have been told that instead of the general student population, perhaps a Diverse Learner Cluster program might be a better fit for your child. Here are common questions and answers about the CPS cluster program that may help you decide if a cluster is right for your child.
Question: My child seems happy at his current school, is there really any advantage to moving him to a cluster program at another school?
Answer: There are numerous advantages for children to be placed in a cluster program. First, children in the cluster programs get much needed individual attention. There are laws that govern how many special ed children are in a special ed class. I think it’s only 12 or 13. There is a specially trained educator/teacher in the classroom along with several aides. So you may think that your neighborhood school is a great school, but a cluster program might be the better option for your child.
Second, with cluster programs, the school administration/principals are much more sensitive/knowledgeable to the needs of diverse learners. My family has personally experienced 4 different principals that had no idea how to manage the Diverse Learner population. I had one principal that felt my son’s dedicated aide should really be shared by the entire class. (I guess I was selfish). Another principal felt he had a better handle on my son’s epilepsy than my son’s epileptologist. Yet another one thought the Diverse Learners should be taught in a hot, unventilated, little closet. I’ve heard so many horror stories about general education principals not understanding diverse learners. However, in the cluster programs, the principals of these schools “get it”. They have teams in place to provide services. They receive extra funding. They are well oiled machines. So, your Diverse Learner, and by extension, your family, will be much more supported.
Question: I like the idea of the cluster program, but I still want my child to interact with children in general education, is this possible?
Answer: Absolutley. The cluster programs interact with general education on a daily basis. Diverse Learners are mixed with their general education peers in non academic activities when it is appropriate to do so. Non academic meaning classes such as music, art, drama, dance, foreign language, library, recess, etc. So if your child is in the 3rd grade cluster program, he will be able to regularly interact with the general ed 3rd graders. Again, if it’s appropriate.
Question: How do I choose which cluster program my child should attend?
Answer: Parents don’t choose a cluster program, CPS chooses. I find this process problematic and I would like to see more transparency here. It’s not easy for a parent to locate which schools offer cluster programs. So the basic process is your case manager requests to CPS downtown that your child be placed in a cluster program. “Downtown” looks at where you live, where there is room available in a cluster and what school can best manage your child’s needs. After you get your assignment, you would then go tour the school and meet the special education teacher. If you like what you see, you can transfer your child. If you have an issue that you don’t think it’s a good fit, you can request another placement.
Question: Once we are assigned our new school, will we have to move to be in that district?
Answer: Only if you want to. Your case manager will let you know if your child will be provided transportation to and from school. Our family does live a little far from my son’s cluster school and the hard part is going back to the school for evening events. First world problem. :)
Good luck with your cluster decision.
Clusters matter because Diverse Learners Matter!
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