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"The fact is that we like this school.
It's not easy but it's fun."

Urban Skills Center has been educating students with learning and behavior disabilities for over 30 years, and has served hundreds of families and over 20 San Diego area school districts. That’s a lot of questions and answers. As unique as each student and family is, there tend to be questions that get asked fairly often, at least often enough that we have compiled some of those that have been asked most frequently and have provided an answer. Just click on the question. You may want to know more. If so, please contact us.

What is a nonpublic school (NPS)?

Nonpublic schools are private, nonsectarian schools that are certified by the State Department of Education. Such schools must meet all of the requirements specified in California regulations for public schools, including having credentialed teachers. State Department of Education certification permits Urban Skills Center to provide special education and Designated Instruction and Services (DIS) according to student IEPs on contract with public school districts.

Urban Skills Center specializes in educating students who could not obtain an education appropriate to their needs in the public schools. Because of our on-going training in evidence-based teaching and therapy methods, we are specialists in providing an appropriate transition education for students whose disabilities include learning, communication, and behavior problems.

What is the Urban Skills Center’s curriculum and what are the goals for its students?

Urban Skills Center’s curriculum is expansive because the school strives to help young adults achieve their maximum potential as members of the community by developing vocational and independent living skills in addition to providing the coursework necessary to obtain a high school diploma. In order to assist our students to make the transition to adult life, we have created a school environment that simulates employment and independent living. It’s an environment that fosters personal growth and responsibility.

What is Urban Skills Center’s staff ratio and is 1:1 programming offered?

Urban Skills Center is staffed at a ratio of one staff member for each three to four students. One-to-one programming is not offered at Urban Skills Center; however, some students receive one-to-one tutoring depending on how much assistance they require for the courses they are taking. Such tutoring is given on the assumption that it will not be required for an extended period of time.

What DIS services are provided at Urban Skills Center?

Depending on their needs as identified in their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), students can receive Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and counseling. Behavior Intervention Planning is also provided as needed and is a regular component of the Urban Skills Center’s program.

Does Urban Skills Center provide social skills training?

Urban Skills Center’s staff includes a counselor who can provide social skills training; however, it is common for social skills instruction to pervade the entire school program, both on and off campus, so it is generally not provided as a “pull-out” program. The general objective of social skills training is positive social interaction, including conversation skills, problem solving, and being polite and friendly. The school also offers men’s and women’s groups to provide instruction on grooming, dating, intimacy, and so on.

What level of education and training does Urban Skills Center’s staff receive?

Urban Skills Center’s teachers must be California credentialed special educators and its Designated Instruction and Service personnel must be licensed, credentialed, or otherwise approved by the state of California to provide services. All of the Urban Skills Center staff under go regular training in teaching skills, and all staff members currently employed at Urban Skills Center have extensive experience teaching students with disabilities academic skills, independent living skills, vocational skills, and the skills necessary for friendly social interaction.

What types of student attend Urban Skills Center?

Urban Skills Center enrolls male and female students who are 18 to 22 years of age and have not yet obtained their high school diploma because of learning and behavior disabilities. Although, at present, all of our students have qualified for special education and services and all have Individual Education Plans, this is not a requirement for the program. We currently educate students whose disability is associated with learning disabilities, autism, Asperger Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD and ADHD), medical disorders, and behavior and emotional disabilities.

Urban Skills Center students range in talent from those quite capable of obtaining a high school diploma to those who will require supported living and supported employment opportunities.

What are Urban Skills Center’s criteria for accepting a student

Urban Skills center enrolls students age 18 and over, who, in the judgment of the school’s staff, are likely to benefit from the program. The school enrolls students who need to finish the academic requirements for diploma, students who lack skills for independent living or supported independent, and students who are ready to transition to mainstream opportunities.

Urban Skills Center does not accept students who have history of dangerous behaviors that remain uncorrected, including willful belligerence, sexual assault, physical assault, weapons use, fire setting, and animal cruelty. We also do not enroll students who are not likely to benefit from the program because of chronic absence, and we do not serve students who will need long-term one-to-one assistance because of the severity of their learning disability.

How does Urban Skills Center differ from a public school transition program?

Public school transition programs tend to be interested in getting students a job with the notion that whatever training the student requires will be done on the job. This is just fine for students who already have strong employability skills and who have no interest in obtaining a high school diploma.

Many students reach age 18 and they do not have strong employability skills and, among these, there are many who can attain a high school diploma if they are provided appropriate instruction and support. At Urban Skills Center, core employability skills are first taught in the classroom, then simulated jobs are provided on campus. Students move to actual job sites only after they have met competencies in the classroom and at the school site. This strategy results in students being more prepared once they transition to a job. Moreover, while undergoing job training, Urban Skills Center students can acquire the high school credits their school district requires for a diploma.

Can a student continue to do academics while attending Urban Skills Center?

The short answer is: yes. Diploma bound students can complete all of the requirements of each of our contracting school districts. Moreover, students who are not able to meet the requirements for a diploma are permitted to study functional academics in such areas as cooking, purchasing, banking, budgeting, mobility, leisure choices, and so on. In addition, Urban Skills Center students are taught important social skills relevant to job success, maintain quality friendships, and encouraging supervisors and teachers to assist them whenever they require it.
Urban Skills Center also teaches its students to advocate for themselves, to clearly identify what they can do and, just as clearly, to specify what accommodations might they need to be successful.

Will you get a job for each student?

Getting a job is quite different than keeping a job. Moreover, it is reasonable to suppose that Urban Skills Center graduates will have several jobs during their lifetime, so getting a second job or a third job is likely to be different than getting the first job. Urban Skills Center teaches its students how to get a job and it teaches them the skills that employers look for to determine whether the employee is performing satisfactorily.

Along the way, Urban Skills Center provides a variety of vocational experiences (we call them “apprenticeships”) beginning with tasks on the school site, on other TIEE school sites, and in community volunteer settings. Some students, who have obtained more independent skill levels, transition into Workability opportunities provided by their own school district. Some of our students have been hired in competitive employment positions as they have demonstrated the skills to be successful.

What are typical outcomes of your students post-graduation?

“Typical” or “average” fails to communicate the great diversity of our graduates’ successes. Some of our graduates have obtained their high school diplomas and have gone on the junior college, where they have achieved further success. Some of our graduates have gotten married and are raising their own children quite competently. Some of our graduates are gainfully employed in competitive jobs, which they have held successfully for several years. Some of our graduates were offered competitive jobs while they were still in school because they showed such great promise. Some of our graduates are doing just fine in supported employment or in supported living situations when no one thought that would be possible. Some of our graduates continue to live with their parents, but we find that that is occurring less and less frequently because Urban Skills Center graduates have the skills necessary for a level of living, working, and leisure that no longer requires their parents.
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