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STARS: Successful Transitions Achieved through Responsive Support. STARS is an alternative special education program designated as one of the district’s specialized settings and is located on six comprehensive campuses. The central feature that distinguishes STARS from the support and services provided at most comprehensive sites, is the unique separate classroom environment and how that setting is the center for all support and services the student receives. The rationale guiding the STARS classes is to provide dynamic responsive supports and services within an environment that allows the student to achieve their academic potential toward earning a diploma. As students demonstrate academic and social/emotional growth in the separate classroom, the Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI) is adjusted to meet the student's changing needs. Conceptually, and in the spirit of Least Restrictive Environment, the primary goal of STARS is eventual placement back at the student's school of residence. Even with the goal of returning students to the school of residence, students may remain in STARS, if appropriate, and graduate with a diploma utilizing the support of STARS.


STARS serves approximately 145 students on six comprehensive school sites located within the boundaries of San Diego Unified School District. Currently, three classrooms are located at Wegeforth, two classrooms at Sequoia Elementary, three classrooms at Creative and Performing Media Arts School, three classrooms at Farb Middle School, four classrooms at Mission Bay High School, and three classrooms Canyon Hills High School. Students are placed in STARS classrooms based on the neighborhood boundaries where they reside.

All students in STARS are eligible to receive counseling services. There are three dedicated counselors allocated specifically to address the unique needs of students in STARS. In conjunction with counseling services, students receive related services per their IEP to support and address all areas of needs to enhance their educational performance and achievement.

There is no compelling evidence that placement in a separate class, rather than effective instruction is the critical factor in student academic and/or social achievement. It is the application of strategies, supports, and interventions, per the student’s IEP that are effective in improving academic and/or social outcomes for students. 

When teams are considering placement in STARS, evaluating the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and early collaboration with the school site's Integrated Team and Area Program Manager should be initiated.


The essential components of STARS are as follows:

Special Education (SAI) service is considered in the general education classroom with support from staff.

  1. Provides students that qualify under IDEA with mild to moderate disabilities in Kindergarten through 12th grade with integrated services and supports for academics, language processing, sensory, and social-emotional regulation.
  2. Separate classroom environment support and SAI hours per day is driven by the IEP based on students' individual needs.
  3. Related services are provided per each student's IEP. Students participating in STARS receive their related services from providers assigned to the school site.

Integration and consolidation of services and supports is an essential component of STARS. Specifically the coordinated efforts of the education specialist, general education teachers, counselors, MHRS providers, related service providers and paraprofessionals.


STARS utilizes instructional strategies, as needed, in a separate classroom as well as in a general education classroom within a whole or small group setting. The low staff to student ratio allows for the implementation of explicit instructional strategies targeted at accessing grade level common core standards, as well as the development of social and emotional skills.

These strategies include, but are not limited to:

  1. Instruction that meets grade level common core standards in either a general education or a separate classroom setting, as well academic interventions.
  2. Providing a low staff to student ratio. Students that participate in STARS do not receive or require intensive 1:1/individualized support.
  3. Allocating a school counselor to each school site.
  4. Utilizing accommodations, methodologies, and strategies as appropriate.
  5. Implementing a co-teaching model to support instruction, as well as provide planning and curriculum supports to teachers.


Program Manager: Kimberly Shapazian, [email protected] 619-725-7395

Instructional Coordinator: Alyssa Walton, [email protected], 619-725-7395