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Successful Transitions Achieved Through Responsive Support (STARS)

STARS stands for: 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 five comprehensive campuses. The central feature that distinguishes the STARS Program 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 that the student receives. The rationale guiding the STARS Program is to provide responsive support and services, within an environment, that allows the student to achieve their academic potential (i.e., earning a diploma). The foundation for that support rests in the separate setting. As students demonstrate academic/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 the STARS Program 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 and graduate with a diploma utilizing the support of the program.

Summary save

All students in the STARS Program are eligible to receive counseling services. The program provides a dedicated counselor to each school site specifically allocated to address the needs of STARS students. In conjunction with counseling services, more than half of STARS students receive Mental Health Related Service. Counseling and MHRS collaboratively provide an added support that addresses psychosocial and emotional development which seems to significantly impact the educational performance of the students in the program.

The STARS Program supports approximately 120 students on five comprehensive school sites centrally located within the San Diego Unified School District. Currently, three classrooms are located at Wegeforth, two classrooms at Creative and Performing Media Arts School, three classrooms at Taft, and four classrooms at each of the two high schools, Mission Bay and Serra High. There are approximately fifteen special education teachers, five general education teachers, three counselors and eighteen classified staff assigned to support the STARS Program across five comprehensive campuses.

In summary, there is no compelling evidence that placement rather than instruction is the critical factor in student academic and/or social achievement. It is the application of wrap around interventions that are effective in improving academic and/or social outcomes for students. These wrap around interventions, on occasion, require a consolidation of resources that includes time, effort, collaboration, and teacher support. This collective input of resources is the defining characteristic of the STARS Program.

When considering placement in the STARS Program, evaluating the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and early collaboration with the school site's Special Education Central Office Resource Teacher and Program Manager should be initiated.

Key Components

The essential components of the STARS Program are as follows:

  1. Supports mildly to moderately affected students with an IEP in 1st thru 12th grade who require additional services and support with academics, language processing, sensory/social/emotion regulation and adaptive behavior.

  2. STARS support is constructed around a core separate classroom environment (Initially, a significant portion of SAI hours are located in a separate class)

  3. Special Education (SAI) service is a consideration in the general education classroom with support from STARS staff

  4. Related services are provided per each student's IEP. STARS students receive their related services from providers assigned to the school site.

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


The STARS Program utilizes a more intensive application of instructional strategies, as needed, in a separate classroom as well as in a general education classroom and/or in a whole or small group setting. When designated on an IEP, related services are provided on an individualized basis. The low staff to student ratio allows for the implementation of consistently applied intensive instructional strategies targeted at accessing common core standards as well as the development of social and emotional skills.

These strategies include, but are not limited to:

  1. Providing a focus on the basic skill areas, as well as instruction that meets common core standards in either a general education or a separate classroom setting.

  2. Providing a low staff to student ratio that, on occasion, can accommodate individualized support although students in the STARS Program do not typically require or receive intensive, ongoing 1:1/individualized support.

  3. Providing a dedicated counselor to each STARS site

  4. Accommodating curriculum when necessary

  5. Utilizing an additional general education teacher to support instruction in the general education classroom, as well as to provide curriculum support to STARS special education teachers.

Incorporating technology in the academic instruction such as iPads, tablets, and the use of a Promethean board as needed.

Contact Information

Program Manager: Kimberly Shapazian, kshapazian@sandi.net 619-725-7395