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Centers Descriptions


Special Education Program Centers

Please click on any of the above tabs to read more about the special education programs that we offer for our students.  The focus of all programming is to increase student independence and to teach students the necessary skills to access the general education curriculum.  Programs are designed to meet individual student needs and to enable students to make effective progress in the least restrictive environment.

BEST Program

BEST Program (Becoming Exceptional Social Thinkers) 

Student Needs: Students receiving support through the BEST Program demonstrate significant social skills weaknesses, executive functioning challenges, and/or behavioral and communication difficulties that necessitate highly specialized and intensive interventions. 

Overview: Newburyport Public Schools provides comprehensive, evidence-based, individualized instruction to students on the autistic spectrum.  Educational programming incorporates the science and practice of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).  ABA is defined as “the science in which procedure derived from the principles of behavior are systematically applied to improve socially significant behavior to a meaningful degree and to demonstrate experimentally that the procedures employed were responsible for the improvement in behavior.” -Baer, Wolf, and Risely (1968).

Goals/Mission: The goal of the BEST program is for students to increase their independence and skill in all areas as applicable, including academics, social skills, executive functioning, communication, motor skills, behavioral regulation, and daily living skills.  Skills are taught and practiced in a variety of settings to support generalization.


Staffing: The centers are staffed with special educators, Board Certified Behavior Analysts, instructional assistants (IAs), and related services personnel such as speech/language pathologists and occupational therapists.  The Team considers what staffing level is appropriate for the student to make effective progress towards his/her individual IEP goals and objectives. 

Curriculum and Services:  Newburyport strives to provide meaningful opportunities for inclusion that are tailored to students’ areas of need and strengths.  Inclusion may take place during lunch, recess, specials, and/or academic time, depending on the student.  Some students are included for most of their day, while others are included for shorter periods of time, with a goal of increasing time in the general education setting.  These opportunities provide students with time to practice social and communication skills. 

Students may participate in social pragmatics groups, taught by a BCBA, Speech-Language Pathologist, and/or Special Education teacher.  Related services may be provided in the general education setting or in a separate space, in small group or individually, based on student needs. Specialists may use assessments such as the VB-MAPP (Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program) and/or the ABLLS (Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills) to guide instruction.  Some students may require individualized discrete trial training.  Staff who provide discrete trial training are trained in the methodology of discrete trial training, as well as data collection. 

Consultation and Support:  Communication and consultation takes place among members of the student’s team on a regular basis.  Related service providers and outside specialists are available for consultation.  This may include consultation from a doctorate-level BCBA; Orientation & Mobility Specialist; Vision Consultant; Teacher of the Deaf; and from an individual specializing in Assistive Technology or Alternative and Augmentative Communication.  

Post Grad Program

Post-Graduate Program 

Student Needs:  Students serviced by the Post-Graduate program are ages 18-22 and have completed four years of high school but have not received a diploma.  Students continue in the program until they turn 22 or receive a diploma, whichever comes first.  The program is designed for students with a range of disabilities in at least one of the following areas: 1) intellectual impairments; 2) multiple handicaps; 3) significant social and/or communication delays.  All students in the program require intensive services to address Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and pre-vocational/vocational training. 

Overview:  The Post-Graduate’s program focus is individualized, based on the student’s vision and their post-secondary goals.  The program provides students with functional academics, vocational training, and instruction in ADLs.  The program is highly flexible and works closely with agencies to ensure a smooth transition to services at age 22.  The program seeks to connect students with their same-age peers through community opportunities, including partnerships with local colleges such as Northern Essex Community College.

Goals/Mission:  Through focusing on each student’s vision, the program aims to teach students self-advocacy and self-determination skills while preparing them for life after age 22.

Description:  The program addresses students’ educational, leisure, vocational, and independent living skills.  Examples are provided below. 

  • ADLs: meal preparation, cleaning, hygiene, fitness
  • Functional Academics: time and money management, functional reading in the community
  • Pre-Vocational: Resume-writing, job application completion, interviewing skills, appropriate dress and behavior, travel training, community safety
  • Vocational: Students have internships and/or paid employment with a variety of community partners.  On-site, individualized support is provided.
  • Social skills: Social activities in the community; support, consultation and services from a Speech Language Pathologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst are available.

Staffing:  The program is supported by a special education teacher and Instructional Assistants who act as job coaches when in the community.  Various specialists (Occupational Therapist, Speech-Language Pathologist) are part of the program. 

Consultation and Support:  The program has partnered with a number of agencies, businesses and organization in the greater Newburyport area, such as:

  • Newburyport Public Library
  • Newburyport City Hall
  • Spencer Pierce Little Farm
  • Merrohawke Nature Center
  • Northeast Independent Living Program
  • Essex County Sheriff’s Department
  • ARC of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport
  • YWCA of Newburyport
  • Northern Essex Community College 

IDC Program

 IDC Program (Individual Development Center) 

Student Needs: Students receiving support through the IDC Program often have a broad spectrum of learning, communication, and health needs, and require a higher level of individualization and support.  Students in the IDC Program may have cognitive disabilities, physical challenges, complex medical conditions or multiple disabilities.

Overview: The IDC Program provides an integrated array of services as determined by individual student needs, including speech and language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, vision services, deaf and hard of hearing services, audiology, assistive technology and augmentative communication as well as ongoing consultation of other specialists. Students participating in this program have opportunities for the development of functional and adaptive skills, total communication skill development, and augmentative communication as well as supported inclusive experiences in the general education setting.  Some students may require support, consultation, and program design from a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.  Discrete trial and natural environment teaching is part of student’s programming when appropriate. 

Goals/Mission: The primary goals of the IDC programs are to develop student skills that will: (1) maximize independence, (2) support learning and academic success, and (3) promote the overall well-being of each student.


Staffing: The centers are staffed with special educators, Board Certified Behavior Analysts, instructional assistants (IAs), and related services personnel such as speech/language pathologists and occupational therapists.  The Team considers what staffing level is appropriate for the student to make effective progress towards his/her individual IEP goals and objectives.  Staff are skilled at significantly modifying content for students, when necessary. 

Curriculum and Services:  The IDC uses the Common Core Curriculum, which may be accommodated or modified to meet each student’s individual learning profile and needs. The skills taught in the IDC integrate academic, vocational, life skills, and social skills development within school-based and community-based settings, providing all students with individualized opportunities to build a network of relationships, as well as to develop and apply new skills within typical settings and contexts. 

The IDC is designed to provide specially-designed instruction to target goals and objectives in the specific qualifying areas as described in each student’s Individual Education Program (IEP). Specially-designed instruction that addresses the development of skills in the area of functional academics, adaptive, behavior, social skills, pre-vocational and independent living as well as developing a communication system that the student can utilize in becoming as self-sufficient as possible.  As necessary, the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis are incorporated. 

Some students may require individualized discrete trial training, social skills groups, and/or related services such as Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, or Speech & Language Therapy. 

Integration opportunities exist within the students’ schools and community.  Functional Academics and Life Skills are reinforced through community outings and, for older students, pre-vocational and community service opportunities.  

Consultation and Support:  Communication and consultation takes place among members of the student’s team on a regular basis.  Related service providers and outside specialists are available for consultation.  This may include consultation from a doctorate-level BCBA; Orientation & Mobility Specialist; Vision Consultant; Teacher of the Deaf; and from an individual specializing in Assistive Technology or Alternative and Augmentative Communication.  The Team also consults with community and state agencies that are involved with the student.  

Newburyport Academy

Newburyport Academy (High School)

The Newburyport Academy represents the district’s commitment to providing therapeutic educational services for students with school phobia, anxiety and other mental health issues associated with adolescents who have been unable to make satisfactory adjustments in their home, their school, or their social relationships. This program provides a therapeutic milieu for young people who are experiencing emotional and learning challenges that affect the quality of their lives.

Newburyport Academy provides an opportunity for personal growth, the development of meaningful relationships and a high school diploma. The program is designed specifically to offer students a safe nurturing environment which facilitates their ongoing progress to graduation as well as their re-entry into the high school after a hospitalization or extended time away from the classroom.

Goals of the Academy:

  • Successful re-entry into school after a hospitalization or absence
  • Identification of positive goals
  • Increased positive connections to peers/community
  • Improved social and communication skills
  • Increased academic success
  • Increased attendance
  • Earning a high school diploma

Newburyport Academy strives to provide emotional and social support for each student based on their individual needs. The creation of a seamless interface between academic and therapeutic components is the foundation of our model. This resulting therapeutic environment addresses each student’s unique individual needs as well as their social and interpersonal responsibilities and obligations. Self-respect, accountability for one’s decisions and actions, the capacity to develop trusting relationships, and the successful navigation of academic demands are the goals of the program.

The program staff provides a safe and supportive environment, where students can feel comfortable discussing mental health issues and social challenges. Students are strongly encouraged to meet on a daily basis with the program counselor to develop and refine coping skills. The program counselor also facilitates meetings with the staff, student and their family to maintain regular communication to keep them involved with the student’s progress. Contacts are maintained with any outside service providers and community supports involved with a student.

Students are connected to their coursework and teachers by attending classes when appropriate, through intensive academic support from the special educator and IA; and through on-line and distance learning opportunities.  The program maintains a flexible but structured schedule.  

Center for Behavioral Supports

Center for Behavioral Supports (Elementary-Middle)

Student Needs:  Students who require support from the CBS may have a variety of diagnoses, but are all unable to access the curriculum based on their social/emotional needs and/or struggles with self-regulation and communication.   Students are cognitively and behaviorally capable of accessing the curriculum and making effective progress within the support and structure of the program. 

Overview: CBS is a school based program for students who struggle with emotional and behavioral regulation.  This program provides comprehensive, evidence-based services for students with a history of emotional disabilities that impact their learning.  The center offers a continuum of services from full inclusion to direct instruction in a separate setting; adaptations of the educational environment; positive behavior intervention plans; instruction in relaxation techniques; counseling and consultation with classroom teachers to support inclusion. The program engages and collaborates with families to support the whole child and their success at home, in the community, and in school.             

Goals/Mission: The program aims to help students to feel safe, respected, supported and challenged, and for student to build skills to succeed in academic and social and behavioral realms within the public school setting, and in their communities and homes.


Staffing:  Special education teachers, Instructional Assistants, and school counseling staff provide services.  The program relies on the support and expertise of our team of related service providers within the building and school district (e.g. SLP, OT).  School Counselors and/or Psychologists are available for consultation, group work, and individual work.  Board Certified Behavior Analysts are available for consultation, evaluation, and creation of individualized behavior plans. 

Curriculum and Services:   The program is designed to create an environment where each student’s individual strengths and weaknesses are supported in a way that leads to academic and emotional growth.      Crisis intervention, monitoring, and coordination with outside agencies is part of the program.  Program staff develop and support a therapeutic alliance with each student and their family.  Students’ skill deficits are addressed with social/emotional curriculum and therapeutic interactions.  Students work to develop the ability to identify their emotions, connect their emotions to behaviors, and learn and practice healthier choices for the future.  The therapeutic program tracks behaviors and student progress through the use of level systems, point sheets with individual targets, and daily communication logs with key team members.  Academic curriculum is based on grade level district curriculum driven by the Common Core Standards and specially designed to be accessible to all students as determined by the academic goals and benchmark objectives in their Individual Education Plans (IEPs).   Academics are structured but flexible, scaffolded and differentiated in their nature.


Language/Learning Center

 LLC Program (Language/Learning Center)

Student Needs: Students receiving support through the LLC is designed for students with Language-based Specific Learning Disabilities with average or above cognitive ability who are performing significantly below grade level.  Often, these students have a specific learning disability in one or more areas that materially impacts their ability to make progress in the general education setting. 

Overview: The LLC provides highly structured programming that allows content areas to be taught in small groups using thematic instruction, scaffolding and embedded language skill instruction. The program continuity across settings, specially designed instruction, ample time for preview, review, and practice.  Content and skills are taught simultaneously.  Small group ELA, Writing, Reading, and Math are available, as well as academic support.  Concepts, materials, and vocabulary presented Science and Social Studies are previewed and reviewed.  Small group instruction in ELA and/or Reading may also involve co-delivery by a Speech-Language Pathologist, to further address comprehension and expressive language skills. 

Goals/Mission: The primary goals of the LLC program are to improve student’s specific skills in reading, written expression, and/or mathematics, while promoting students’ self-advocacy and teaching them strategies to compensate for their areas of learning disability. 


Staffing: The centers are staffed with special educators, instructional assistants (IAs), reading tutors, and related services personnel such as speech/language pathologists, who are available to consult to the program.  The School Counselor and/or Psychologist consults and provides services to address self-advocacy and social skills, as needed.   Assistive Technology consultation is available to support students’ communication needs. 

Curriculum and Services:    Reading methodologies address all components of reading and are multi-sensory, structured and systematic.   The LLC employs research-based programs that are specially designed to target each student’s areas of specific skill deficit.  The program is highly structured and addresses executive functioning and organization as needed.  Lessons are spiraled to reinforce previously learned concepts.  Information is presented orally and visually and broken down into manageable chunks.  Written language expression addresses fluency, organization, content, and mechanics.