Exceptional Student Education (ESE)
- Small class size with individualized attention.
- Developmentally appropriate goals and activities.
- Active parent participation.
- Individual speech, physical, and occupational therapies.
- Hearing and vision services.
- Assistive technology.
The two main criteria for enrollment at Achievement Academy is age of child and need for special services. Age is easy-we are a PreK program-all students are under the age of 6. Identifying the need for special services is a little different. Identification is done through testing and age determines the agency responsible for the testing.
Perhaps your child isn’t talking, isn’t playing purposefully with toys, has difficulty playing with friends or you just feel your child needs a professional to assess him or her, please contact Early Steps or Child Find. The earlier that needs and risk factors are identified, the earlier help, intervention and support can be provided.
If your child is under the age of three testing is done through the Early Steps program. For children over the age of three, testing is done through Child Find, a program of the Polk County School district.
Both of these programs often have full schedules and getting an appointment for testing doesn’t happen quickly.
Here’s a link with Polk County Schools that provides contact information for Early Steps and Child Find:
Once the assessment is completed, the results will be shared with you by the testing agency. If your child indicates a need for special services, you have some choices available. If your child is under the age of three and Early Steps completed the assessment, they may recommend services such as early intervention and/or therapy. If your child is over age three, then the school district will meet with you and you may choose to enroll your child in one of the district’s PreK ESE classrooms.
Another choice for you and your child is Achievement Academy.
We’re a little different at Achievement Academy. We can bring in children under the age of three into our classrooms. Most of the students in our classrooms range in age from two to five years of age. We provide a full-time program that follows Polk County School’s traditional calendar. Our school day for students is from 9am to 2pm, five days per week.
Therapy and other identified needed services are provided during the school day. Our three campuses are located in Lakeland, Bartow and Winter Haven. We have a total of 14 classrooms serving 157 students. Our capacity is 157 students and we stay at capacity throughout the year.
Most of our classrooms have 11 students; some have 12 students and one classroom has ten. We try to group children developmentally when we consider classroom placement. This supports peer interaction and student development in an environment that is appropriate. Teachers are able to plan developmentally appropriate activities for the overall class while still providing direct, individual instruction to each student.
All classrooms are taught by certified teachers and have one or two paraprofessionals assisting in the class. We receive breakfast and lunch from the local elementary schools but can accommodate most special diets.
A school day for an Achievement Academy student is very similar to any typical preschool—individual/small group play, circle time, playground, books, computers/tablets, arts and crafts, naptime, etc. But embedded within all of that activity are deliberate opportunities for the classroom to work on student goals as well as receive and participate in their individualized therapy.
We believe that parent participation is important. We have a Resource Parent who plans monthly breakfast meetings for parents at each of the campuses. She arranges for speakers on topics of interest for our parents. She organizes family activities throughout the year and shares a monthly newsletter.
In the spring of each year we schedule informational meetings for prospective families on our waiting list. We encourage you to attend one of them so you can have your questions answered and have a tour of our Lakeland school.
More than likely this is all very new to you—not only is your child very young but you may have been recently told that he or she has some delays. That’s a lot to take in and you’re now faced with decisions. But we’re here to help. If, after reading all of this, you want further information, feel free to contact our ESE Facilitator, Jill Bartley at (863) 683-6504.
Once you decide to pursue enrollment at Achievement Academy, download and complete our student application and MAIL the completed application to us. We use the postmark date to place your child on our waiting list.
When we receive your application we will send you a letter acknowledging that we have your application. We will need copies of the testing results that indicate your child may be eligible for special services. You may submit testing results and current FSP or current IEP (if your child has one) with your application if they are available; if not available, please submit documentation to us as soon as possible.
It is IMPORTANT to submit all requested documentation as soon as possible; incomplete information may delay entry into our school. To verify we’ve received your documentation or to check on your child’s status please call Jill Bartley at (863) 683-6504 or email at email@example.com.
Our total capacity for Achievement Academy is 157 students. We have 111 students at our Lakeland campus and 23 students each in Bartow and Winter Haven. We stay at capacity year round. We have a year-end celebration that usually has 45-50 students graduating from our program. Those are slots that become available for the upcoming school year which are then offered to our waiting list children. We may have slots that become available during the school year due to student withdrawal and at that time we will notify the next child on the waiting list for that classroom opening.
With our three sites, Achievement Academy has always tried to meet the large geographic area of Polk County. Families may elect to have their child attend any of our campuses, regardless of address. School bus transportation may not be available and parents may be responsible for transportation.
Per the contract with Polk County schools, Achievement Academy does give “enrollment preference to eligible siblings of students enrolled in the school, to the child of any employee of the school, to the child of a member of the governing board of the school or to any other student authorized by Florida law.” Recent statute does provide for preferential treatment for controlled open enrollment to the following:
1. Dependent children of active military personnel who move resulted from military orders.
2. Children who have been relocated due to a foster care placement in a different school zone.
3. Children who move due to a court-ordered change in custody due to separation or divorce, or the serious illness or death of a custodial parent.
4. Students residing in the school district.
Eligibility for PreK ESE must be satisfied before priority placement takes effect.
Upon enrollment and annually thereafter, developmental testing is completed by teachers on all students. This testing helps in identifying the student’s strengths and weaknesses. In partnership with parents and other team members, individual student goals are developed. This typically takes place at annual team meetings which are often referred to as “staffings”. Also by tracking and comparing the annual assessment results we can show individual student growth as well as how our school is doing overall.
For children under the age of three the plan that is developed at this staffing is called a Family Support Plan (FSP) and for children over the age of three an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is created. During the meetings, we’ll discuss your child with you. We want to know your desires and goals for your child. We want to know his or her strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. We’ll share with you any assessment or progress information we may have. We’ll ask for your input and opinion and together we will develop annual goals.
Also contained within that plan are services that are identified as needed to accomplish the goals. For some children that may include speech therapy, physical or occupational therapy, vision or hearing services, etc.
Teachers and therapists will then begin working on those goals with your child. Teachers provide direct, specialized instruction daily within their classrooms and therapists provide one-on-one therapy in their therapy rooms to students who indicate a need for direct therapy. Data is collected on each goal and is shared in face-to-face progress report meetings with you quarterly
But it is the team effort of Achievement Academy that makes this program so unique and valuable. Every person who works at Achievement Academy is a valued team member and is here to support the needs and goals of every child at this school. Teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists, ESE facilitators, resource parent, support staff and administration all work together to insure that every child here is receiving what they need to grow, develop and progress to their potential.
Schools and districts benefit from accreditation through objective peer review, attainment of high standards, and engagement in continuous improvement. Achievement Academy has been continuously accredited by AdvancED (formerly Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-SACS) since 2002.
A Charter School application is available for downloading/printing. This application must be mailed to our Lakeland office.