Who does SESI serve?

SESI serves all types of students with special needs (both special education and alternative education populations)—and, in the process, their parents and families—through our educational programming partnerships with school districts nationwide. We offer highly effective and efficient alternative schooling options for students who need to be placed outside of public school classrooms due to a variety of disabilities, deficits, or disadvantages. We primarily work with public school systems, large and small, and sometimes with private education organizations, when applicable, to best meet the needs of these students in nontraditional settings.

What levels of special needs do we service?

We enroll special education and alternative education students, whether their challenges are primarily learning-based, behavioral, social, emotional, or developmental. Although we address the full range of disabilities, from mild to moderate to severe, we specialize in the ~1% of students out a total 6.5 million in the U.S. who have been classified with intense special needs. Our populations fall into four basic categories, with overlap for students facing multiple challenges:

Learning Disabilities (LD):

  • SLD (Specific Learning Disability)
  • LD (Language Disorder)
  • NLD (Nonverbal Learning Disability)
  • Deaf / Hard of Hearing
  • SLI (Specific Language Impairment / Speech-Language Impairment)
  • ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)
  • OHI (Other Health Impairment)
  • MD (Multiple Disabilities)

Emotional Disabilities (ED):

  • SED (Serious/Severe Emotional Disturbance)
  • ED (Emotional Disturbance)
  • BD (Behavioral Disturbance)
  • ID (Intellectual Disability)
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)
  • OHI (Other Health Impairment)
  • MD (Multiple Disabilities)

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD):

  • Autism / Autistic Disorder
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • PDD-NOS (Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified)
  • CDD (Childhood Disintegrative Disorder)
  • Rett Syndrome

At-Risk Students (Alternative Education Populations):

  • Disruptive/Disciplinary Issues
  • Dropout Risk & Dropout Recovery
  • Significant Learning and/or Behavioral Problems
  • Overage Students
  • Underachieving & Undercredited Students
  • Students Returning from Outside Placement

How do students get placed at a SESI school?

Students are referred to us by their sending school districts. Occasionally, a parent will learn about us independently and then express a preference for one of our schools or programs, but virtually all of our enrollment comes directly from school district personnel, who trust our experience, expertise, and effectiveness in attending to the students they must transfer out of the public classroom.

Who pays for tuition?

Public school districts cover all costs, per standard government-funded education budgets. As a rule, then, SESI tuition is free to all students and their families. Very rarely, however, limited costs and other forms of payment may apply—e.g., private pay, scholarships, insurance copayments—to either program tuition or to individualized therapies delivered at some of our most specialized schools, like our dedicated autism centers, depending on state laws. (Further information provided upon request.)

What’s the dynamic of the relationship between SESI and school districts?

It’s a partnership. School districts know that our foremost goal is to return students to their sending schools whenever possible and as soon as possible, so we work hand in hand with our district partners in the best interests of every child we jointly serve.

How do we communicate with the public school system?

Before, during, and after referrals, we stay in constant contact with our sending school districts via all possible channels: phone calls, e-mails, regular mail, texts, face-to-face meetings, personal visits, social networking posts, attendance at networking events.

We maintain a perpetual back-and-forth as we update districts on student progress, discuss and analyze student performance, make IEP (Individualized Education Program) adjustments as needed, and, ultimately, enact a transition plan for each student’s next step.

How do we communicate with parents?

We’re regularly in touch with parents, keeping them abreast of their child’s status and progress in all ways available to us—over the phone, in person, during routinely scheduled staff-parent meetings. Parental participation is one of SESI’s foundational pillars, so we make targeted efforts to keep parents both informed (by distributing all relevant literature online and in print) and involved (by inviting them to all school functions, such as open houses, school tours, PTA meetings, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, school plays and concerts, annual fairs, etc.). Our door is always open to parents so we can jointly identify student-specific areas of focus and make sure to fulfill what they most want and need from us.

What support do we offer parents?

We understand that raising challenging children can be very challenging for families in the home environment. We therefore host a variety of events custom-designed to assist parents in understanding and coping with their child’s special needs: PTA meetings, trainings, seminars, parent-assisted socialization programs, college/career fairs, and numerous support groups that offer a safe forum for parents to share their frustrations, voice their concerns, and benefit from the experience of others in similar situations.

How do we integrate students back to their sending schools?

We have a range of transition plans in place—full reintegration, partial reintegration, and gradual reintegration—contingent upon individual student parameters, like age, disability level, grade-level gains, and social skills attainment. In some of our program models, like our IDC (In-District Classroom) program, students never actually leave their home school at all but instead spend most of the day with their same-age peers in regular classrooms and activities (e.g., elective courses, lunch, recess, gym) and only part of the day in SESI-dedicated classrooms on campus to address their specific deficits. Keeping our focus on maximum inclusion and integration at all times, we facilitate student participation at their home school whenever possible, like attending their school’s prom or playing on their school’s sports teams.

Can students earn a high school diploma at a SESI school?

Yes. All SESI schools are accredited and state approved, so students follow the same curriculum of their home schools in the public school system and earn credits toward graduation.

How are they prepared for life after school?

One of the hallmarks of SESI programming is our comprehensive Transition Services, all aimed at equipping young adults with the abilities and aptitudes they’ll require in the real world, in real-life work and postsecondary school settings. To best prepare them for responsible, productive, and rewarding young adulthoods following graduation, we concentrate on the following areas:

Life Skills:

  • Life Skills Instruction (hygiene, banking, grocery shopping, cooking, navigating mass transportation, paying bills, finding housing, making appointments, etc.)
  • ADL (Activities of Daily Living) Exercises
  • Use of Social Services & Related Public Services/Resources
  • Social Skills Training (cooperation, conflict resolution, personal responsibility/accountability, etc.)

College Preparation:

  • Standardized Test Preparation & Tutoring
  • Annual College & Career Fairs
  • Assistance with College Admissions & Financial Aid Applications
  • Help Securing Postgraduation Scholarships
  • College Tours & Orientations
  • College Transition Programs (e.g., Project Access)

Occupational Readiness:

  • Vocational Interest Surveys
  • Work Readiness Courses
  • Résumé & Portfolio Creation
  • Mock Job Interviews & Interview Skills
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Computer Skills (Microsoft Office Suite software, Adobe programs, etc.)
  • Industry-Specific Training Programs (e.g., IT, Digital Networking, Culinary Arts, Gardening & Landscaping, Graphic Design)
  • Vocational Tracks (e.g., Cosmetology, Barbering, Child Care, Construction Trades)
  • Simulated Workplace Experience (at in-school restaurants, design & copy centers, engraving workshops)
  • On-Campus Jobs (positions in school stores, banks, post offices, gardens)
  • Off-Campus Job Placements
  • WorkAbility Grants
  • Community-Based Mentorships & Internships

What about technology—how does SESI stay current in the classroom?

All of our schools are outfitted with either PCs or Macs to ensure that students are exposed to and familiar with modern-day hardware equipment and interfaces. Our classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboards and access to iPads, which take advantage of up-to-date teaching modalities, computerized tutorials, app-assisted learning modules, and touch-screen lessons that provide immediate feedback to users.

Our primary technological learning programs are: Odysseyware®, Voyager, PEG Writing®, IXL™ Math, Newsela, and Lexia® Reading.

These computerized instructional platforms are supplemented by an expansive number and array of leading-edge cognitive training software programs, pariticularly in the core areas of reading and math, such as Fast ForWord®, BrainTrain, SkillsTutor™, Apex Learning®, Read 180®, and Saxon Math™. Additionally, our participation in such online programs as ReadingA–Z.com affords students the ability to download thousands of books and to engage in educational computerized games.

On the administrative end, we employ a variety of diagnostics—chief among them Renaissance Learning STAR™ Assessments, Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests™, and KeyMath3™ assessment tools—to cull and analyze performance data that can then be shared and compared across other regions in our company and other school systems throughout the country.

What other types of specialty services are offered at SESI schools?

We offer all of the supportive services you’d expect to see in an alternative education setting:

  • Speech-Language Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Adaptive Physical Education
  • Assistive Technology
  • ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Therapy for Autism
  • Social Work Services
  • Counseling (Individual, Group & Family)
  • Life Skills & Social Skills Training
  • Psychological Assessment
  • Psychiatric Consultation & Evaluation

Apart from SESI’s core academic and behavior management programs, what else does the curriculum offer?

Our curriculums are incredibly diverse, providing our students with an abundance of fun activities and stimulating pursuits to round out their core subject area studies. Program offerings include virtually everything you’d find at a public school, accented with highlights specifically geared to our student body. Our ever-growing menu of intracurricular and extracurricular options includes:

Classes & Coursework:

  • Physical Education (P.E. classes, dance and movement therapy, Sensory Room activities, swimming, Scottsdale’s BAVX [Balance/Auditory/Vision/eXercises] program)
  • Social Studies, Geography, History, Science
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Music Curriculum (instrument lessons, choir, songwriting, rhythm exercises, school band, InDiGo music studio in Beltsville, MD)
  • Sand Therapy & Play Therapy
  • Computer Labs
  • Auto Shop
  • Woodworking
  • Culinary Arts (cooking classes, demonstrations, catering jobs)
  • Gardening & Landscaping
  • Foreign Language Electives
  • Guest Speakers & Visiting Lecturers

Student Clubs & Groups:

  • Sports Teams & Leagues (flag football, basketball, softball, kickball, track and field)
  • Student Government & Student Leadership Associations
  • Yearbook & Newspaper Staffs
  • Drama Club
  • Chess Club
  • Girls’ Groups (themed sessions on topics like bodily changes, safe dating practices, and bullying, and group activities like quilting, crafting, choir, and volleyball)
  • Student Support Groups

Community-Based Learning:

  • Field Trips (zoos, aquariums, museums, water parks)
  • Off-Campus Activities (horseback riding, bowling, miniature golf)
  • Occupational Exposure (visits to local businesses—like jewelry-making shops, factories, bakeries—to introduce students to possible career paths, potential employers, and available local professionals, organizations, and resources)
  • Community-Guided Tours & Excursions (fire station visits, historic tours, boat rides, yacht trips, sailing lessons, trade demonstrations)
  • Community Involvement Initiatives (community gardens, recycling, wildlife and water-life preservation projects)
  • Charity & Altruistic Events (food, toy, and clothes drives, walks and runs, school fund-raising efforts for memorial scholarships and disaster-relief donations)
  • Volunteer Work (food banks, EMT training, American Red Cross)
  • Mentoring Programs (one-on-one relationship building with community members)

Special Events & Programs

  • Cultural Appreciation Events (like Black History Month celebrations and Baltimore’s annual “Winterfest,” where each classroom chooses a country to “visit” each year and then the whole school takes attendees on a world tour)
  • Seasonal Activities (Halloween hayrides, winter ice-skating, spring planting, holiday celebrations)
  • Pet Therapy & Dog Training Programs
  • School Concerts & Shows (school plays, talent shows, musical concerts)
  • Arts Shows & Science Fairs
  • Spelling Bees
  • Poetry Slams
  • Dress-up Days
  • Spirit Week
  • School Dances & Prom

What qualifies SESI to operate schools and programs for special needs students?

SESI has been an industry leader for close to 30 years, expertly delivering state-approved, innovative, and groundbreaking specialized education services to students facing learning/language, social, emotional, and developmental challenges. We are held to the same rigorous standards as all other schools in any school district, and all of our programming and curriculums adhere to local, state, and federal regulations. All of our classroom teachers hold teaching certificates from the state in which they are teaching, many of whom also have advanced training and special education credentials whenever applicable, and our devoted and talented TAs are highly trained in specialized methodologies to enhance instruction. Our facilities dedicated to autism are staffed with ASD specialists and follow all mandated policies and procedures. Moreover, we provide any and all IEP-prescribed supplementary services right on campus, delivered by either on-staff or on-call therapists, counselors, and social workers who are all qualified and certified in their areas of expertise.

How is the teaching approach different at a SESI school than at a public school?

Our signature educational model that we replicate at all of our schools consists of multiple components that have proven most effective with our specific student populations. Over time, as teaching methodologies, learning tools, and technologies advance, we fine-tune this model to keep pace with industry benchmarks and best practices, but we stay true to our core set of program directives:

Individualization: personalizing all academic and behavioral interventions to meet each child’s individual needs

Small Class Sizes: 8 students per classroom on average (sometimes significantly lower), with a maximum of 12 students

High Staff-to-Student Ratios: an industry-high proportion of number of educators working with number of students, as high as 1:2 in some schools

Rotational System of Instruction: keeping students attentive and actively engaged in their studies by alternating between teacher-led lessons, small-group reinforcement sessions, technology-based workstations, and independent seatwork

Rewards-Based Incentive Program: motivating students to display positive behaviors by employing a system of tokens, colorized levels of attainment, and on- and off-campus privileges

Safe & Structured Learning Environment: creating and sustaining an extremely consistent, nurturing, and affirmative student-centered atmosphere in which our students thrive

Unlimited Support: giving our students the extra attention they need throughout the school day to bolster self-confidence, attain goals, and achieve success

What makes SESI’s teaching staff stand out?

What most characterizes our incredible corps of teachers is our encouragement of teacher-student bonds. Unlike in public schools, where the teacher-to-student ratios simply do not allow consistent one-on-one interaction, our educators are able to devote the necessary time and attention to each student’s individual development. Our teachers are all highly skilled in individualization techniques and receive ongoing training to keep them current and informed, but even more than that, they strive each and every day to really get to know their students and find a way to deeply and meaningfully connect with them. We cannot overestimate just how loving, patient, caring, compassionate, and devoted our teachers are. Our incredibly low turnover rate among our faculty is a testament to just how dedicated they are, how energized they are by the challenges they’re able to overcome and the progress they witness in their charges.

What is the key to SESI’s success?

The passion our team brings to our work. Every single member of the SESI family—from the CEO to the part-time maintenance worker—is committed to our shared vision and mission of improving the future prospects for challenged and challenging youth. Everyone knows that everyone else is there only to help, support, encourage, advocate, champion … and this creates an extraordinarily positive climate in which to work and learn. This company was started by educators who wanted to create safe, clearly defined spaces in which to comprehensively and holistically teach and nurture disabled youth, and over our years of expansion and growth, we have not lost any of the authenticity, altruism, and passion that comprise our roots.

Our positive culture, our impactful educational model, our flexible programming, our skilled and compassionate teachers, our focus on individualized instruction—all of these elements combine to create something much greater and more powerful in the aggregate. It’s our shared passion for why we’re here, what we do, and, most importantly, who we’re doing it for.