Special Education

TC is a continuum school, meaning we have three levels of special education services in our building. This array, all in the same location, allows students to learn in the least restrictive environment that is appropriate for them. Special education programs vary from Resource and Access, where students spend the majority of time in a general education classroom and receive services in accordance with their IEPs, to the Distinct program, structured for a majority of time spent in small-group instruction, with daily opportunities for shared experiences with classmates in their general education classrooms. The inclusion that this multi-level program presents has long been considered a strength of TC. 

Thornton Creek has provided special education services for over twenty years, and special education families are a valued part of the school community. At the heart of the special education program at Thornton Creek is the desire to celebrate the strengths of our students and support their individual needs. All students, regardless of the special education program that they are assigned to, have access to their general education peers and curriculum.


Each distinct class has a staff-to-student ratio of 1 teacher and 2 instructional assistants to every 7 students. There are two distinct classes: K-2 and 3-5.

Students in these classes work on a variety of skills in addition to academic ones—increasing independence, social skills and communication. They benefit from a high staff-to-student ratio and a small class size. Students in these classes also participate in their general education classroom for portions of the day.


The Access program – started at Thornton Creek in the 2015-16 school year – serves students with mild-to-moderate academic, social and motor-skill challenges. The program has a ratio of 1 teacher and 3 instructional assistants to every 10 students. Students are in the general education classroom for the majority of the day, both with and without support from the special education staff.


The resource room is for general education students with mild-to-moderate learning and social challenges. They receive specially-designed instruction and modifications to help them meet grade-level expectations and individual goals. Most specially-designed instruction is provided in the special education setting, but it is also provided in the general education classroom according to IEP requirements. Resource services are provided with a ratio of 1 teacher to every 22 students with no instructional assistant support.

Seattle Preschool Program Plus (SPP+)

The Seattle Preschool Program Plus (SPP Plus) is a preschool program offering inclusive education opportunities for students with and without disabilities.  Students attend preschool on the same daily schedule as grades K-5 and follow the Seattle Public Schools calendar. Students engage in a full time, research-based curriculum where specially designed instruction is integrated into the classroom structure by both the special education and general education teachers in an early childhood learning environment. SPP Plus is not the same as Developmental Preschool. Learn about the differences on the SPS webpage.

Other Services

In addition to the services described above, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech language pathologists assist students who qualify.

Parent Support Groups

Special Education Committee (a Site Council committee)

The Special Education Committee is made up of Thornton Creek families and staff and meets on a bi-monthly basis. These meetings offer the opportunity for families to connect within a warm, supportive environment. The committee advocates at the school and district level on behalf of families of students with disabilities; promotes inclusion of students with disabilities in all school activities (e.g., sensory friendly accommodations); and plans parent education events relating to special education (e.g., anxiety, IEP planning, middle school transition).

Thornton Creek PTA Special Education

The Special Education Committee of the PTA supports families with students receiving special education services at Thornton Creek and informs the school community about disability advocacy and awareness opportunities in Seattle. We facilitate communication and collaboration between the Site Council Special Education Committee and the Thornton Creek PTA.

Contact information: specialed@tc-pta.org