The Larkin Center School in Elgin has been named a School of Excellence by the National Association of Special Education Teachers, the highest honor a school of its kind can receive from the professional association.
According to the association's website, the award recognizes private special education schools that "have met rigorous professional criteria and have demonstrated truly exceptional dedication, commitment and achievement in the field of special education."
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Principal Richard Howard said this is the first time he knows of that the Larkin Center School has applied for the award.
"We really feel honored to have received it and we hope to continue to live up to the standards and exceed them," Howard said.
The Larkin Center has been operating for 116 years with one component of its services being a day school for students at risk of dropping out of their public schools. All the students, in grades kindergarten through 12, are eligible for special education and have a range of behavioral and emotional challenges, learning disabilities or autism spectrum needs.
To serve such a diverse group of kids, Howard said, the Larkin Center School teaches to a child's strengths as much as possible, whatever they are. A variety of instructional approaches also offer small groups or individual instruction.
All the students at the Larkin Center School were referred from their own districts, which come from across the region including Elgin Area School District U-46 and schools in Rockford, DeKalb and Aurora. The school typically serves about 70 students, Howard said.
There were 64 schools from across the United States honored with the School of Excellence recognition this year, a slightly larger number than last year.
"We're happy that we're getting noticed for doing the work we are," Howard said.
To be eligible for the award, schools must be licensed, employ certified and licensed special education professionals, keep class sizes small, offer support services like counseling and physical therapy, have a well-rounded curriculum, and be open at least 10 months per year, among other criteria.