Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Middle School Touring List for Special Ed

We are about to embark on our touring of middle schools for our special ed son, Ben, but we are running into a problem. Which SFUSD public middle school can Ben actually attend? Ben is an "inclusion" kid. Inclusion is only offered at a limited number of schools. For the definitive list of inclusion middle schools for next year, we are apparently going to have to wait for the 2011-12 brochure to come out. (I tried calling the folks at SFUSD's special ed department several times to see if they could tell me more, but they have not yet gotten back to me. Perhaps if they see this post, they might want to chime in.) Now, if we had known how much of a problem that designation would be, we would never have agreed to it. Plenty of kids under the "RSP" designation receive the exact same services that Ben gets at his school. RSP kids can go to virtually any public middle or K through 8. But Ben's old elementary was adamant about it, and, as in the song Hotel California, when it comes to SFUSD special ed programs, you can check out, but you can never leave. Ok, that's not entirely true as some have apparently gotten out, but when we tried to get out at last year's IEP, Ben's teacher and the professionals all warned us that the district generally would not let a kid out of the program without evidence of significant improvement and that, if Ben got out, he might not receive the same services and might never be able to get back in and . . . Well, we backed down. Now, as some commenters on my previous post have noted, it is not entirely clear that SFUSD's limitation on inclusion kids' school placement passes muster under federal and state laws. And a recent outside report on special ed for the district flatly states that special ed kids should be placed in the most appropriate school, regardless of SFUSD's arbitrary "program" designations. But, for now, we are going to wait until SFUSD has its act together and tells us where it believes Ben can go. While we are waiting, we thought we'd check out some charter school alternatives. There are two middle school charters in the city we thought we'd check out. First on our list is Gateway. Gateway has had a high school for some time now that is generally respected. It appears to take special ed kids. It is opening a middle school starting next year. Second up is Edison, which has a new management that appears interested in taking on some special ed kids as well. It is no secret that Edison has been saddled with a for-profit management that did not serve the school well, but those folks are now gone and there appears to be interest there in moving on. Now a commenter on my recent post noted that charters often will take only some special ed kids, and we are aware of that issue. What we like about all these places is that they generally have a smaller number of kids in class and a smaller number of kids in a grade than the public middle schools. And that matters a great deal to us.

18 comments:

  1. You are fighting the good fight.

    I would definitely check out Gateway. And Edison too [I know nothing about it other than there is new management].

    That said, do not give up on getting Ben into any school that you think will and can provide the services he needs. As mentioned before, Aptos is going through some changes in special ed, hopefully for the better--but does not have inclusion. Find the school you think Ben needs--and then work the system to make it work. You will have to yell and scream though.

    Worth contacting Rachel Norton or posting some of these questions on her blog, as she cares deeply about these issues. Worth contacting schools directly and also finding current parents whose kids are special needs. I know of several at Aptos, but I'm not sure what their designation is.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your child, by law, should attend the school he would attend if he did not have a disability label.

    Pick the school you want him to go to, and the services he needs to learn there should follow him to whatever school you choose.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The "inclusion" middles schools will be the same ones listed on last year's SPED enrollment guide, on teh SFUSD website. So you don't need to wait to look.

    If you don't want to limit yourself to the designated "inclusion" middle schools, have an IEP meetiong and change the designation to RSP. (Resource Specialist)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with 7:21. Maintain the same sped and related services but change the placement to RSP.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't understand, if SFUSD won't let your kid attend a school and be in the same classroom with typical students, isn't that discrimination?

    ReplyDelete
  6. As I noted on your thread of last week, you may well want to check out CACS.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Your child, by law, should attend the school he would attend if he did not have a disability label.

    Pick the school you want him to go to, and the services he needs to learn there should follow him to
    whatever school you choose."

    But under both old and new assignment systems, the school my child "would" go to (i.e., gets assigned to by the district) and the school I "want" him to go to (i.e., my choice(s)) are not necessarily the same. That rule is clear-cut where kids are assigned to schools strictly based on where they live, but that's not the case in SF. So what happens?

    ReplyDelete
  8. If you child is severely autistic, and not capable of doing grade-level work, I would NOT suggest CACS.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Where do you want your kid to go? Have an IEP meeting and make it happen. Placement decisions are supposed to be made in IEP meetings, not down at EPC.
    and how is this thread any different from the one a week ago?

    ReplyDelete
  10. I appreciate the comments about Creative Arts and will check into that place as well. I do want to respond to other commenters here. The reason I agreed to tell my story was that I wanted all parents to see what happens when even well-educated parents have to contend with SF's special ed system. I will leave the editorializing out here, but I feel that what has happened to us is not atypical for what happens to lots of families dealing with special ed in SF.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Just toured Hoover today. Big and crowded, yes, but there is a lot to like. Solid music program. The principal made extra time to talk with the touring parents whose children had IEPs and I really liked what he had to say. I worry about the academic stress but not sure I'm ready to do the smaller, hip & groovy, but no classical music thing (James Lick) either. I liked aspects of both. I know very happy families at both schools. More nerdy kids at Hoover maybe? Cool clubs at both. I'm worried about putting too much academic stress on my kid but I'm also worried about taking a really low-key approach and then having to dig out of an academic hole in a few years - that's really hard for a kids with learning issues.

    Looking forward to your posts on the schools as you see them!

    ReplyDelete
  12. The music program at Hoover is AMAZING. If you have a budding musician, whatever his or her other challenges, Hoover could be a great place because there is a a whole social scene around band that could form an immediate and friendly peer group.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for the comments about Hoover. One thing to think about is the practical ability of a special ed to access things like the music program. My understanding is that, to the extent that your child may need a time period during the day to work on "study skills" (easy way of saying a period to meet with special ed teachers to get better organized), that may be the period when your child would otherwise be doing music. So if these extra programs are important to your special ed kid, a good question to ask at these schools is whether, as a practical matter, they will really be able to pursue them.

    ReplyDelete
  14. (1:25 here again) great point - i asked the principal about this and he said if music is important to your child, they will work support around it so that your child won't miss being in the music program - i really appreciated this "we'll work with you and make the right thing happen for your child" attitude - it felt very welcoming and wasn't what i expected from such a large and in-demand school.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I would also check out the private schools that serve kids with learning disabilities. Laurel Schools serves K-8 and Sterne serves 6-12. There are also some schools outside the city. It's good to know what your options are if things fall apart down the road.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Options are for people with MONEY.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am a special educator in the district. The district does not even have a clear policy/definition of what "inclusion" is. Some content specialists claim that inclusion is only for students who are in the general education environment for the social benefits only. These would be students that have incredibly high academic or cognitive needs. Others in the district say that Inclusion needn't be that different from RSP at all.

    Other things you should know: Gateway doesn't have an SDC program, so the struggling RSP students are kindly and gently encouraged to switch schools if they can't hack the college prep curriculum. This is how and why Gateway can boast an incredibly high college admission rate.

    I agree ... get a lawyer.

    ReplyDelete