Educational Support

"Placement" Options and School Types

General Education Schools 

The district must provide special education services in the least restrictive environment (LRE) appropriate for the child.  This means that, to the greatest extent possible, supports and services should be provided in the general education setting so students with disabilities can interact with non-disabled peers. In addition to general education classrooms, most schools offer special education resource rooms and/or classrooms. 

Special Education Centers

These are public schools designed specifically for the needs of students with disabilities. If a student’s IEP team, including the parents, decides that the student’s needs cannot be met in the general education school the student may attend a Special Education Center.

Special Education Centers in Pittsburgh/Mount Oliver Intermediate Unit (IU2)

Resource Contact Information

Pittsburgh-Mt. Oliver Intermediate Unit 2

Special Education Centers in Allegheny Intermediate Unit (IU3)

(Serves children in Allegheny County outside of the city of Pittsburgh)

Resource Contact Information

Mon Valley School
Sunrise School
Pathfinder School

Approved Private Schools (APS) for Special Education

Approved Private Schools (APS) are non-public schools that are certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to provide special education services in a segregated environment. 

If a student’s needs cannot be met in a general education school, or in a public special education center, the IEP team may consider an approved private school. The student’s school district pays tuition and provides transportation. It is important to remember that even if your child attends an approved private school, the local school district remains responsible for providing a free and appropriate education for your child. If your child has educational needs that are not met by the APS, the school district must provide those services or find a placement that will.

Approved Private Schools in Allegheny County

Resource Contact Information

The Day School at The Children’s Institute
(preschool-age 21)
The Watson Institute Friendship Academy (formerly Craig Academy)
(kindergarten-age 21)
The Education Center at The Watson Institute
(ages 3-21)
DePaul School for Hearing and Speech
(age 18 months - 8th grade/15 years)
Easter Seal Society of Western PA
ACLD Tillotson School
(kindergarten-age 21)
Pace School
(kindergarten-age 15)
The Pressley Ridge Schools
(kindergarten-age 21)
Therapeutic Learning Center at Family Links
(kindergarten-grade 3)
The Wesley Institute, Inc.
Wesley Highland Services
Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children
(preschool-age 21)
Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf
(preschool-age 21)
Complete list of Pennsylvania Department of Education “Approved Private Schools"

Other School Options

Charter Schools and Cyber Charter Schools

Charter schools are public schools that operate under a legal agreement (the “Charter”) between the charter school and the sponsoring local school board (or state board in the case of "Cyber" charter schools).  The "charter" establishes the school's mission, programs, methods of assessment, finances, and measures of success. While free from many state regulations, students in charter schools take state tests required of other public schools students to assess students’ progress.

Charter schools cannot be used as a special education “placement.” Rather, students (along with their parents) choose to attend a charter school in place of their district-assigned school. School districts pay tuition for each student that attends a charter school.

Charter schools may not discriminate against students with disabilities in their admissions process. As public schools, charters must provide appropriate special education services to all eligible students.  Each charter school operates as the Local Education Agency (LEA) for its students and is responsible for providing a “free and appropriate education” (FAPE) for students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment (LRE).

For information about charter schools, visit Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools

Charter Schools In Allegheny County

Resource Contact Information

Environmental Charter School at Frick Park, Regent Square -
(kindergarten–grade 8)
Manchester Academic Charter School, North Side
(kindergarten-grade 8)
Mt. Lebanon Montessori School and Academy, Mt. Lebanon
(ages toddlers-12)
Urban Pathways Charter School, Downtown
(kindergarten-grade 12)
Propel East, Turtle Creek
(kindergarten-grade 8)
Propel Homestead, Homestead
(kindergarten-grade 8)
Propel Montour, Kennedy Township
(kindergarten-grade 8)
Propel Andrew Street High School, Munhall
(grades 9-12)
Spectrum Charter School, Monroeville
(for students in grades 13-21 with autism diagnosis)
Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School, East Liberty
(kindergarten-grade 5)

Private and Parochial Schools

Private or parochial schools are non-public schools. Students pay tuition and are subject to admission criteria. Students' local public school districts are usually responsible for providing transportation.

Generally, the protections and rights of IDEA and other special education laws do not apply to private and parochial schools unless the school also accepts federal funds (such as Title I funds for reading instruction).

If a private or parochial school receives federal funds:

  • it must comply with Americans with Disabilities Act in accommodating students with disabilities.
  • it must arrange for itinerant (visiting) special education services for any enrolled student who would be eligible for special education services in a public school. The services can take place on site or at the student's local public school. The student's public school district pays for the services.

For more information about special education rights in private or parochial schools, see Education Law Center, Getting Help for Children with Disabilities in Private Schools (publication)

Private Schools & Programs with Special Education Focus

In addition to the "Approved Private Schools (APS) for Special Education" category listed above (i.e. non-public schools that are certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to provide special education services in a segregated environment), Allegheny County is home to other private schools and programs with a special education focus.

Resource Contact Information

Auberle Education Center-Homestead
Education, development, career and vocational training for students with behavioral and emotional needs
Abraxas Pittsburgh School
Provides services and training to students with moderate to severe mental and/or physical disabilities.
The Bradley Center-Pittsburgh
Behavioral healthcare, child welfare and educational provider for abused, neglected and dependent children.
Holy Family Institute ?Schools
Serves Behaviorally-challenged children and youth
St. Anthony School Programs
Supports inclusive education for children ages 5-21 with primary diagnosis of autism, Down syndrome or developmental delay. Offered in eight Diocese of Pittsburgh schools.
Wesley Spectrum Integrated Services (School-based Partial Track)
Private school that combines special education and school-based partial hospital services for children recovering from mental health crisis

Home Schooling

Parents in Pennsylvania are permitted to teach their children at home through Act 169.

For more information:

Pennsylvania Department of Education

Education Law Center, Home Schooling in Pennsylvania fact sheet